High Flying Performances Decide Finals Day on Day 8 of 2024 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

May 11th, 2024

Australia’s rankings lead grows exponentially, while Hawaii moves into distant second ahead of France, Spain and Japan

Blitzing backhand attack delivers second 17-point-plus heat total for Eden Walla (USA)

Dylan Donegan (ESP), Tya Zebrowski (FRA) and Dane Henry (AUS) top respective divisions

Surf City El Salvador – May 11, 2024

Finals Day was determined on the eighth day of the 2024 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, with next level surfing from the world’s best juniors providing non-stop action. Building, three-to-four foot peaks made the primary podium of La Bocana look like a skate park, while the right point break of El Sunzal continued to provide long, attackable walls for the second podium.

32 of the initial record-breaking 441 athletes remain, as Main Event Semifinals and Repechage Rounds 6, 7 and 8 were completed across all four divisions, Boy’s and Girl’s U/16 and U/18, setting up for a big finish tomorrow.

Australia’s lead in the team rankings grew significantly by day’s end and they now sit almost 2500 points ahead of Hawaii in second place. Hawaii sits 300 points ahead of France, who only have 16 points separating them from Spain and Japan in fourth and fifth.

Dane Henry, Team Australia / Photo: Pablo Jimenez

The Boy’s U/18 Round 5 kicked off Main Event action for the day, hitting the water as the wind started blowing straight into the La Bocana rights, essentially activating video-game mode for Dane Henry (AUS). A lofty air reverse earned the Australian an 8.77, before a near-make of one of his famous backflips almost saw the 17-year-old picking up another giant score. His two wave total of 16.20 arrived as his third excellent heat total of the event.

The beginning of Henry’s heat saw 2023 Boy’s U/16 gold medalist Hans Odriozola (ESP) and South Africa’s Simon Winter tangled on a La Bocana peak, which landed them each with a non-priority interference, ultimately sending both surfers to repechage, where Winter hung on to still advance to Finals Day, but Odriozola was eliminated.

The extremely stacked Boy’s U/18 Repechage 8 Heat that took Odriozola out also ended Jackson Dorian’s (HAW) campaign, after teammate Rylan Beavers (HAW) picked up a last-minute score to advance behind Eden Hasson (AUS), who earned a total of three big repechage heat wins today.

Eden Walla, Team USA / Photo: Pablo Jimenez

USA’s Eden Walla guaranteed a perfect record in WJSC Finals Day appearances after a searing performance saw the 14-year-old post her second 17-point-plus heat total of the event. The 2023 U/16 bronze medalist opened with an 8.17 and built to a 9.17 for a 17.34 two wave total, the highest of the day. Walla easily comboed her competitors, including 2022 copper medalist Tya Zebrowski (FRA) who advanced in second. Exceptional wave selection saw Walla pick up two long La Bocana lefts that offered multiple sections for her strong backhand to attack.

“It’s the best feeling when you start with an 8,” Walla said. “Because then you just know you’ve got to keep building and your next one’s going to be higher if you build. I surf a lot of waves like this at home so I feel really comfortable in it and it’s like the left at Lowers (Trestles) on a south wind day when no one’s out and me and my brother are just trading off waves. I’m just really excited to keep pushing and hopefully go for gold.”

Zebrowski remained the sole surfer, out of an initial 38, to make the Main Event Final in both U/16 and U/18 divisions as she moved forward with her goal of winning dual gold medals. Zoe Zietz (NED) started out in the same position, but by day’s end was knocked out of Girl’s U/16 and now has all her hopes set on U/18.

Dylan Donegan, Team Spain / Photo: Sean Evans

Multiple excellent scores and the win in all five heats surfed so far saw Dylan Donegan (ESP) moving into the Boy’s U/16 Main Event Final. Opening with an 8.00 ride for a series of solid forehand hits on La Bocana’s right, the Spaniard backed it up with a 7.83 to deliver a 15.83 heat total.

“It feels so good when you’re paddling back out and you hear that you got an excellent score,” Donegan said. “It’s one of the best feelings in competitive surfing I think, at least for me, and it just gets me super stoked and psyched for the next one. It’s really, really epic (to be in the Main Event Final). I dreamed of it before coming. That’s what I train for and that’s what I’m here for.”

Skai Suitt (HAW) and Lucas Senkbeil (MEX) were also both able to open the day with 8.00 rides as they moved through repechage. Unfortunately Suitt was eliminated in her following heat, while Senkbeil continued to set the standard for Boy’s U/16 repechage for the fifth day in a row.

A critical full rotation on a heavy end section earned Leonardo Apreda a 9.33 and an early heat win before he was taken out in Repechage Round 7, while Annette Etxabarri (ESP) posted a 9.17 for a critical three-turn combo on the opening section of El Sunzal to earn her first of three heat wins today.

An 8.23 from Hawaii’s Malia Lima wasn’t quite enough to see her through a tight U/18 Girl’s Repechage Round 6 heat that also saw event standout Catalina Zariquiey (PER) eliminated from that division, though she continues in Girl’s U/16 repechage. Willow Hardy (AUS) continued a strong rebound to take the win in that heat and move through two more, including an exciting final heat of the day that saw Extabarri top her own previous numbers to own the two highest Girl’s U/18 heat totals of the day.

Competition will resume tomorrow at 7:00am CST with Boy’s U/16 Repechage Round 9 at La Bocana.

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