For the first time in almost three decades, the world's best junior surfers have descended on Japan as part of the 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.
The competition will grace the waters of Okuragahama Beach in Hyuga, Japan – also home to a QS 1,000 event. For a large cross-section of some of your favourite surfing protagonists, the junior champs acted as a springboard for their career, setting them on the path to surfing's higher echelons.
Look at the list of past ISA junior champions; Gabriel Medina (2010), Tatiana Weston-Webb (2014, 2013), Filipe Toledo (2011), Tyler Wright (2010, 2009), Alejo Muniz (2008), Laura Enever (2008), Sally Fitzgibbons (2007), Julian Wilson (2006), Owen Wright (2006), Stephanie Gilmore (2005, 2004), Matt Wilkinson ( 2004), Jordy Smith (2003) and Leonardo Fioravanti (2015) – the ISA has helped to fan the flame of the some of the world's top talent.
And let's not forget, this time last year, surfing was officially named as an Olympic sport to be included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. The venue has been set as Shidashita Beach, some 40 odd miles from outside the land of the rising sun's capital.
It's fitting then that the ISA junior champs event returns to Japan this year, the first it has been able to since surfing was announced as part of the Olympics. It's more than likely the surfers competing in this year's junior competition will be lining up to represent their country during the Olympics. This comp's a precursor, of sorts, and bears similarities to the Olympic format; each competitor represents their country and is crowned a champion, with bronze, silver and gold medals awarded.
The last time an ISA event took place in Japan was in 1990, on the shores of Miyazaki and Nijima, featuring the likes of Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Taylor Knox.
“Bringing the world’s best junior surfers to Japan for the first time in over 25-years is an exciting development for our sport globally,” says ISA president Fernando Aguerre. “It’s also an important affirmation of the growth and popularity of Surfing in Japan following the decision to include Surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Japan has also shown great promise from a competitive point of view, producing many top surfers that are performing well at an international level. The outstanding Team Copper Medal performance by their junior surfers at the ISA Worlds in 2016 is a testimony to their dynamic progress.
“I am looking forward to seeing who will rise above the rest and claim their stake as the best junior surfers in the world. These very well could be the same athletes standing atop the podium in three years at the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
The schedule is as follows:
September 23: Opening Ceremony, Hyuga, Japan
September 23: Start of competition following Opening Ceremony at Okuragahama Beach
September 24 – October 1: Competition
October 1: Closing Ceremony, Okuragahama Beach
Go HERE for more details and to watch live.
Cover shot: recognise a 16-year-old Gabby Medina?