Surfing’s Top Talent Shines on Opening Day of Action in Surf City El Salvador

May 30th, 2021

Defending ISA World Surfing Games Champ Italo Ferreira (BRA) starts off title defense strong with highest heat total

Past ISA Junior World Champ Alyssa Spencer (USA) obtains highest women heat total

Provisionally qualified Olympians put on strong performances; Hopefuls stake their claims

Ukraine makes ISA debut, intent on spreading and growing surfing

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The 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games – Surfing’s final Olympic qualifier – kicked off the competition in spectacular fashion on Sunday at the waves of La Bocana and El Sunzal.

With the men ripping the peaks of La Bocana and the women riding the right point break of El Sunzal, a world-class level of surfing was put on display as the surfers chase their chances at the 12 open slots of Tokyo 2020 (5 for men, 7 for women).

The defending individual Champions, Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich, both started their campaigns off strong. Ferreira surfed with fluidity and style on his way to the highest heat total of the day among all surfers with 16.43 points.

Mulanovich, on the other hand, advanced through her Main Event Round 1 heat in first with 13.16 points.

The top performer on the women’s side of the event was up-and-coming star and 2017 ISA World Junior Champion Alyssa Spencer (USA), who obtained a 16-point heat total.

The future is bright for USA’s Alyssa Spencer. She claimed the highest women’s heat total of the day. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Future Olympians perform, hopefuls set sight on qualification 

The surfers who have already earned provisional qualification for Tokyo 2020 didn’t take their feet off the gas, showing why they have earned a slot onto the greatest stage in sport.

Athletes with slots to Tokyo 2020 such as Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Gabriel Medina, Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy, Peru’s Daniella Rosas and Lucca Mesinas, Morocco’s Ramzi Boukhiam, and Portugal’s Frederico Morais, to name a few, all passed first place in their heats.

Provisionally qualified Olympian Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) stoked to be representing her nation in El Salvador. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans
Brazil’s Gabriel Medina taking advantage of the ramps at La Bocana. Photo: ISA / Pablo Franco

The Olympic hopefuls, yet to earn their slots, also showed their hunger, inspiration, and desire to earn their tickets to Tokyo 2020.

Costa Rica’s Noe Mar McGonagle asserted himself as a top Olympic hopeful, earning a 16.4 heat total, the second highest of Sunday. Japan’s Mahina Maeda also has her sights set on a slot, earning a solid 12.93 heat total.

Another strong contender with a belief that he can qualify for Tokyo is Indonesia’s Rio Waida. After coming up just short of qualification at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, Waida has realized that he belongs among the best in the world.

“In Miyazaki I learned I can do this,” said Waida. “I can qualify. The top surfers were in the 2019 event and I made it to ninth place. Once I knew that I belong, I just focused on training to prepare for this moment.

“My goal is nothing less than to qualify for the Olympics. It would also be great to make the final and beat the best in the world. That’s my dream.”

Morocco’s Ramzi Boukhiam already has a provisional slot for Tokyo 2020, and today he showed why he deserved a spot on the Olympic stage with carves like this. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

From scholarship to success

One of the feel-good stories of the opening day of competition was an inspirational performance from Ecuador’s 16-year-old Genesis Borja.

Borja, who was named an ISA Scholarship ambassador last year, was awarded financial aid to assist her education and surfing. Unable to attend classes online during the pandemic, Borja purchased a computer with her award so she could continue her remote education. She also was able to upgrade her surfing equipment, which is already paying dividends, as she placed first in her Round 1 heat this morning to advance into the second round of the Main Event.

Ukraine’s global surfing debut

Three Ukrainian surfers made history by becoming the first of their country to ever compete in an ISA World Championship. Anastasiia Temirbek, Iaroslav Dombrovskyi, and Vasyl Kordysh all competed in Round 1 and represented their country with pride.

Ukraine, which recently joined the ISA as the 109th and newest Member Nation, has ambitious goals to grow the sport in the country.

“It’s a big honor for us to be here representing our country for the first time in this absolutely amazing event,” said Kordysh. “We’re beyond stoked.

“It’s amazing to feel all this Olympic spirit, especially for the surfing community in Ukraine. Our participation here will immediately effect the development of Surfing in our country. It will encourage more young generations to pick up and experience the sport. This is why we are here, to show them how we can move forward and progress.”

ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:

“What an incredible start to the event. We saw the women and men both shredding across these two amazing peaks today. Today the men took center stage on the webcast, which is at La Bocana, but tomorrow the ladies will get their shot to show their surfing to the world. This is a record amount of women competing in the event and I can’t wait for the global audience to see the talent they possess.

“You can feel the inspiration and desire in the air. With 12 slots for Tokyo 2020 up for grabs, these athletes are giving it their all — from their preparation all the way to each maneuver they perform.

“It is an honor to receive these 51 nations from all corners of the globe. We are the united nations of surfing, bring together the world in peace, through surfing.”

The 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games runs from May 29 – June 6. Follow the event with live broadcasts, news, videos, photos, schedules, results, and more on

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