Beginning Monday, 48 of the top ranked junior surfers in the world will descend upon Seaside Reef in Encinitas, where the Sambazon World Junior Championships hosted by Best Western will take place.
The event returns after two years away, bringing together some of the top ranked junior surfers 20 years old and younger. The waiting period for the World Surf League event is Jan. 9th - 15th but early indications are the event could have good waves throughout.
At stake for the men's and women's winner is a spot in the 2023 Challenger Series
Here is a list of the surfers that will be competing for the title of world's best junior.
Tide-Lee Ireland (South Africa)
Luke Thompson (South Africa)
Kian Martin (Sweden)
Tenshi Iwami (Japan)
Marlon Harrison (Australia)
Lennox Chell (Australia)
Bitor Garitaonandia (Basque Country)
Noa Dupouy (France)
Eli Hanneman (Hawaii)
Jackson Bunch (Hawaii)
Caua Costa (Brazil)
Ryan Kainalo (Brazil)
Alan Cleland (Mexico)
Tommy Coleman (USA)
Jett Schilling (USA)
Adur Amatriain (Basque Country)
Kauli Vaast (France)
Kade Matson (USA)
Oscar Berry (Australia)
Brodi Sale (Hawaii)
Joel Vaughan (Australia)
Taro Watanabe (USA)
Jarvis Earle (Australia)
Levi Slawson (USA)
Gemma Hanafey (Basque Country)
Louise Lepront (Basque Country)
Anon Matsuoka (Japan)
Nanaho Tsuzuki (Japan)
Ellie Harrison (Australia)
Sierra Kerr (Australia)
Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (Basque Country)
Aelan Vaast (France)
Puamakamae DeSoto (Hawaii)
Ewelei'ula Wong (Hawaii)
Sol Aguirre (Peru)
Laura Raupp (Brazil)
Sawyer Lindblad (USA)
Rubiana Brownell (Costa Rica)
Alyssa Spencer (USA)
Sara Wakita (Japan)
Zahli Kelly (Australia)
Luana Silva (Brazil)
Kirra Pinkerton (USA)
Erin Brooks (Canada)
Daniella Rosas (Peru)
Rachel Presti (Germany)
Francisca Veselko (Portugal)
Ella McCaffray (USA)
Representing California will be local stars Sawyer Lindblad, Alyssa Sencer, Ella McCaffray, Jett Schilling, Kade Matson, Levi Slawson and Taro Watanabe.
The field also includes;
Australian/Oceana Tour's Jarvis Earle and Marlon Harrison (ranked 1-2) and Ellie Harrison (ranked 2nd)
Asia Tour's Kian Martin (2nd) , Nanaho Tsuzuki (2nd) and Anon Matsouka (3rd)
Europe Tour's Francisca Veselko (2nd)
Hawaii Tour's Eli Hanneman (1st), Jackson Bunch (3rd), Puamakamea DeSoto (2nd), Eweleiula Wong (3rd), Erin Brooks (4th)
South America Tour's Sol Aguirre (3rd), Ryan Kainalo (4th)
International Tour's Kirra Pinkerton (2nd)
Soon we will find out if the winners will be well known to the surfing community or a dark horse that has not yet had their name in the headlines in international circles.
Here are 15 surfers worth keeping an eye on ;
The top ranked surfer on the Australian Tour is coming off two big performances. In his last outing, he finished second in the QS Rip Curl URBN Surf and before that won the Taiwan Open of Surfing.
"I’m really excited for the event. It's my first time competing in the WSL World Juniors. It looks like the waves are going to be fun"
"The best part of surfing in the World Juniors, is coming up against some of the best junior surfers from around the world in a CT style format "
"I would love to get a good result in this event as there is so many talented surfers in it. And it's a good opportunity to earn a spot in the Challenger Series for 2023."
Martin is coming off his best year since he began in 2016. After some good results in prior years, he broke through with two junior tour wins in 2022.
He won the Minamiboso Junior Pro in Japan and followed that up with a win in the Vans Bali Pro Junior. Sandwiched between those was a 3rd place result in the Nias Pro QS event in Indonesia.
"I’ve been dreaming about this for many years now and I’m finally getting my opportunity. I’ve never been so excited. This one’s a really special one to me so I will give it my all, "
" The level of surfing is so high now, everyone that is there is going be hard to beat. I’ve been putting so much work into this so I’m ready to take on anyone."
" Winning the world junior championships would be a life changing event for me. I’ve been visualizing this for many years now and I’m happy I got the chance to qualify and chase my dreams. It will also be my last junior event so my goal is to finish it off with a bang. "
The 15-year-old Brooks put forth the performance of her career taking the gold medal in the ISA World Junior Championships in El Salvador last June.
"Winning the ISA World Juniors this year was definitely a career highlight for me but making the finals of the Rip Curl Padang Padang Cup against an all male field was pretty special too. It’s been a great year"
"I am super excited to have the chance to compete in the WSL World Junior Championships. All the competitors are so talented and everyone has a shot to win the contest. That is what makes this contest so exciting to watch and fun to compete in.
"Surfing is hard because even the best surfers lose more than they win. Winning this contest would be incredible but the most important thing to me is that I do my best with every opportunity I get, continue to learn and improve, and have as much fun as possible throughout the event. "
Thompson mad a return to competition this year after being off since 2019. His best finish was a third-place results in the O'Neill SMTH Shapes Ballito Pro Junior in July. Back in 2019, he had two wins, four seconds and a third on the Junior Tour.
'I want to win this event for a lot of reasons. The main one being it opens up a lot of worldwide opportunities for me. "
"My biggest career accomplishment would have to be getting the Wildcard spot into the JBay Open CT and getting the chance to surf against my heroes at the best wave in the world."
"I’m feeling excited about going into this event and I believe that the work I have put in over the year will add up to a good result. I’m also excited to be competing against a lot of good friends of mine that I’ve met over the years through surfing."
Currently 4th on the South American challenger series rankings, the 16-year-old had a huge year in 2022 with 2 junior tour wins and a 2nd and three 3rd place finishes in QS events .
"Well, I’m just 16 yrs old but I’m going to win, we never know what is going to happen but I’m super confident to try and get the win. "
" I became Brazilian champion in 2022 in the under 16 and 18 divisions, and won junior events in South Africa and Peru, that’s why I feel ready to compete against the best juniors.
"This will be fun. The best part is the experience is competing. I’m young and every day is a new day. I want to be world champion. "
Tommy has been out of action since September, but earlier in the year won the Ron Jon Quicksilver Pro Junior. Also he finished third in the same QS event. He had multiple top three finishes in both Junior and QS events from 2017-2019.
"I’m super excited. I'm not really putting too much pressure on myself because I’m just getting back off an ankle injury. Just very excited to be back in the water."
"It’s really awesome to surf this because you get to surf against some of the best juniors in the world."
" I’m definitely hoping to do well but the main goal is just to not put too much pressure on myself and just have fun. Like I said, I’m just coming off an ankle injury, so I just want to try and preform and have a good time."
Surfing her first Junior Tour events in three years, she had a pair of third place finishes in as many tries in 2022. She also had a 5th place finish in the QS SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay
" I’m super excited for the event. Seaside is such a fun wave and with the solid forecast we have to look forward to, I feel really confident in my chances to do well. " "I haven’t been able to reach the competitive success I know I’m capable of yet in my career. So, for me, I see my career highlights more as my overall surfing performance rather than just contest results. "
" Getting to surf heats (especially in really good waves) against some of the most talented young surfers from around the world is why we do what we do. It’s the goal and what we work for, so I’m really excited to get that opportunity in this event. Of course getting a good result in this contest would mean extra to me. But I’ve learned to treat each event the same way and just enjoy the journey of it, focus on myself, and give it my all. "
Pinkrton is coming of a solid year that saw her win the ISA World Games for team USA. She also won this event back in 2018 when it was held in Taiwan. She is looking to start 2023 off with another big win.
"I’m feeling really excited to have an event so close to home, at a place I grew up doing contests at. I’m looking to do really well seeing that the forecast is showing waves the whole waiting period"
"Winning this event in 2018 raised my bar of surfing to another level along with my confidence. There are a lot of girls to look out for, but looking at the forecast, Sawyer Lindblad is really powerful in waves of substance. But any girl who grew up in California, that has surfed at Seaside, knows it can go anyone's way. "
"I would definitely say I’m looking to win this event. I’ve won it before and to win it twice would be a cherry on top. I’d also be getting a confident start looking into the rest of the year." Gemma Hanafey
Gemma will be surfing in just her third WSL event. Her previous tries netted her a 9th place finish in the Oneill Ballito Junior pro and a 13th place result in the Sea Harvest Nahoon Open.
"Im so excited and nervous at the same time. The girl's surfing standard has shot up in the last couple years so it is quite nerve wracking, but I’ve got nothing to lose so I'm giving it my all."
"My biggest career highlight was definitely the ISA world Junior Games held in El Salvador in 2022. It was one of my best experiences and had an amazing team with me."
"For me I’m here to surf the best I can and to try and get as far as possible. This tournament is such a great opportunity and getting a good result would be amazing. But if it doesn’t go my way, all I want to be able to say is that I surfed my hardest and learned a lot."
Bitor Had a busy 2022 surfing in 12 events. He had a first-place finish in the Junior Pro Morocco Mall and a 2nd place result in the Animal Pro QS in England.
"I feel excited for this event. It feels like a dream to have the chance to fly to California and battle with the best in the world. I am stoked to have such opportunities."
"Last year was a really good one for me. I became the European Junior Champion as well as the Spanish Open Champion.
It is really nice to compete with the best in the world. I think you can really learn a lot by looking at what other competitors do and have that you can add to your game. "
"I want to enjoy this experience and give it my all. As long as I enjoy and stay happy, I will feel like the world champ. That’s how important this event feels for me. "
Sawyer is the top ranked surfer on the Ladies QS tour and her results from the 2022 season are impressive. Between the QS and Júnior Tours, she has 9 top three finishes including wins in the Jacks Surfboards Pro and Nissan Super Girls Pro Surf.
"I'm really excited for this event and can't wait to compete in an event that is so close to my home."
"The best part of surfing against this kind of competition is being pushed and forcing myself to surf my absolute hardest with zero mistakes."
"It's always been one of my goals to become a world junior champion so it'll mean a lot to me if I can win."
To date, Rachel's biggest win was the 2019 ISA World Junior Championships, and she hopes to add this world title to her collection.
"Going into this event, I feel I have no pressure. It is being held at a wave that I love and know well. I get to see my friends. And best of all, I have nothing to lose. I fully believe I can win this, and I’m very excited to give it everything I got.
"I love competing in events where the level of talent is extremely high. I think it pushes us and brings out the best in everyone.
"To be honest, the last few months of competing in 2022 was rough on me. I plan to put no pressure on myself in this event. Of course, I want to win. Everyone does. But with that said, I’m also ok with losing. I tend to put so much pressure on myself, that when I lose, my heart shatters into a million pieces. This year I have a new mindset. That it’s ok to lose. There is only one winner after all. So, I'm simply going to do my best, with winning being the goal in mind, and see where that takes me."
The 16-year-old from Brazil has already won two WSL events. She won the first QS she entered in, the Layback Pro Praia Mole in 2021 then won the Saquarema Surf Festival Pro Junior and the Punta Rocas Junior Pro.
"This is a great chance to compete against the best juniors in the world. The chance to be a world champion in one contest against the best surfers is going to be really fun."
"Im really excited because this is my first time with the best juniors, it should be great."
Iwami returned to the Junior Tour after many years away from it and won his first event in 2022 by taking the Asia Open Pro Junior. In 2020, the then 15-year-old won the E-Pro Japan, being the youngest competitor in the event.
"I'm super excited to be able to compete against many of the competitors. I feel very confident and will do my best to win.
" I believe all the competitors will be very tough to beat. But maybe Jett (Schilling), Levi (Slawson), and Eli (Hannaman) will be the toughest."
" Doing well in this competition will be very important for myself and my surfing career. I always feel I have a chance of doing good in every event. I train hard to be consistent and ready. I am very excited to get to surf with the world's best juniors, it will be a lot of fun. "
Currently ranked 3rd on the Hawaiian Tour, Jackson has made the most of limited events this year. He surfed just two junior tour events and has a 1st and 2nd, winning the Papara Pro Junior Tahiti. He also surfed two QS events and had a second place finish in the Priority Destinations Pro
" My biggest career highlight would probably be winning the ISA u-16 World Championship in 2019 at Huntinbgton Beach."
" The thing I like about competition against this level of athletes is that it really makes you focus and tune in to your surfing. You need to be in rhythm and be on point. "
" It is always important for me to do well in this type of contest with this type of field. I want to show what I can do and have a good run. "
So, there you have it. The thoughts of just some of the juniors that will be bringing their talents to California. You can watch the competition period of January 9-15 on www.worldsurfleague.com or their You Tube channel.