By Andrea Swayne
Team USA made history Sunday, winning the gold medal at the International Surfing Association World Junior Surfing Championship for the first time.
The team fought through seven days of competition—Oct. 12 through 18 at Oceanside Pier—and more than 300 of the best surfers from 35 other countries, to become ISA world champions.
With five surfers still in the competition—along with the strong finishes in repechage rounds by their teammates—team USA was in a great position going into the finals. The deal was sealed in the second final of the day, Boys U16, with an individual gold medal performance by Stevie Pittman (North Carolina), whose points contribution put them out of reach by their closest contenders, France, Hawaii, Australia and Japan.
Team USA’s final point total was 7,536 out of a possible 10,240. Runner-up France had 6,565, followed by Hawaii in third place (6,385), Australia in fourth (5,516) and in fifth, Japan, with 5,140 points.
The team included two surfers from San Clemente—Colt Ward and Kei Kobayashi in Boys U18—as well as Jake Marshall (Encinitas) and Nolan Rapoza (Long Beach) also Boys U18; Luke Gordon (South Carolina), John Mel (Santa Cruz), Ryland Rubens (Pacific Beach) and Pittman in Boys U16; Tia Blanco (Oceanside) and Frankie Harrer (Malibu) in Girls U18; and in Girls U16, Alyssa Spencer (Encinitas) and Tiare Thompson (La Jolla).
The five athletes in the main event final were Blanco (silver), Harrer (bronze), Marshall (bronze), Mel (copper) and Pittman (gold).
Team alternates, Malia Osterkamp (San Clemente), Nick Marshall (Encinitas) and Luke Marks (Florida) joined Jake Marshall and Kobayashi to win a copper medal in the Aloha Cup—a special 50-minute event where four boys and one girl from each country surf three waves apiece. All three waves count and all five surfers’ scores contribute to a team score.
This first-time team gold for the U.S. could prove to be a historic triumph for another reason—team members could very well be among the first surfers ever to compete for our country in the 2020 Olympics.
Last month the 2020 Tokyo Olympics organizing committee officially requested the addition of surfing, an addition the International Olympic Committee is expected to approve in Aug. 2016.
Stay tuned for more …