Canada’s best junior surfers jetted off to Europe this week to test their might at the 2016 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal.
The event kicks-off on September 17 with about 300 contenders from 38 countries listed on the official roster.
The Canadian junior surf team consists of six Tofino-based members—Kalum Temple Bruhwiler, Fred Sanford, Reed Platenius, Seth Stere, Mathea Olin and Sanoa Olin—and four Canadian passport holders living abroad—Sean Foerster, Jordan Gibson, Max Self and Jackson De Gruchy.
Team selection was based on results from the Canadian National Championships held in May.
Shannon Brown, elite coach and professional surfer, will accompany the Canadian squad as head coach.
“This year is going to be the most competitive team that Canada has ever sent to the world juniors. This current crop of kids out of Tofino is really amazing bunch. To combine that with the kids from other countries, they are all amazing surfers as well,” said Brown, who coached last years’ junior delegation to Oceanside, California as well as the 2008 squad that went to France.
“In years past there have been one or two pretty hot shot kids and then we kind of fill whatever spaces we could. You’d end up with some kids who weren’t as competitive, but this is a big crew of kids that actually have pretty honed competitive skills,” he said.
At last years’ contest, reigning National women’s champion Mathea Olin placed 15th in the under-18 division.
“She did amazing, which is huge. At the time, she was only 12,” said Brown.
Mathea, now a teenager, and her little sister Sanoa,11, will compete in both the under-16 division and the under-18 division in Portugal.
Brown noted that the Tofino kids shouldn’t feel too out of place surfing foreign waters.
“The break that we’re going to seems pretty similar to some of the waves around here. Kind of shifty, peaky beach break kind of stuff. It kind of reminds me a little of North Chesterman’s. Maybe a longer version of North Chesterman. Maybe a combination of North and Cox,” he said.
Each member of the team is travelling with two to three surfboards and their three- millimetre thick wetsuit.
“The water will be a little bit warmer than what we’re dealing with here. There shouldn’t be any need for booties although these kids might prefer to have their booties seeing at they are a little more used to having that extra stickiness on their feet.”
Leading up to the junior worlds, the team had some outside training from Dr. Jeremy Sheppard, the director of performance services with the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. Dr. Sheppard recently returned to Vancouver Island after running the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre.
“I was really pleased to integrate some of the work I do into the Canadian Surfing Association’s junior team preparation,” Dr. Sheppard told the Westerly via email.
“I really enjoyed getting to know the kids and working with coach Shannon Brown. I was so impressed with the warm and authentic appreciation I also received from local parents and families. Its been a very satisfying experience to reconnect with this community after such a long stint overseas.”
Dr. Sheppard taught the young athletes rituals relating to how to prepare mentally for a heat and how to wind down after a heat.
Brown was thrilled to have someone with Sheppard’s experience get involved.
“What he brings to the table for us is priceless,” Brown said. “I’m pretty confident that everyone is going to perform to their best. I feel like everyone has prepared themselves and they’re ready to go.”
The VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship takes place from September 17-25. Anyone interested in watching the event live can visit: isaworlds.com.