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Big Islanders help Hawaii place 2nd in ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

October 23, 2017 - 6:47pm

KAILUA-KONA — A pair of Big Islanders traveled to Japan in late September and helped lead Team Hawaii to a second place finish in the 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. Finishing behind only Team USA, 16-year-old Ocean Donaldson-Sargis and 14-year-old Brodi Sale picked up valuable points for the Aloha State, with the decisive heat coming on the final day of competition.

Known as the largest junior surfing contest in the world, the ISA Championship drew surfers from 42 different countries for an eight-day event. By the final day, Hawaii trailed the United States by only 263 points. The U.S. narrowly held off Hawaii for the gold, finishing with six individual medals as well.

Led by Brisa Hennessy, Hawaii finished with the silver medal and five individual medals. Hennessy enters the world of elite, world class surfers by winning her second individual title, a feat also accomplished by current WSL stars Titiana Weston-Webb (Hawaii), Tyler Wright (Australia) and Stephanie Gilmore (Australia).

Japan followed Hawaii in third place and Australia wrapped up the top four spots.

“It was amazing to see that many countries coming together,” Donaldson-Sargis said. “The parade marching through town, the contest itself, the camaraderie within teams, cheering on teammates — the feeling is hard to describe.”

Donaldson-Sargis and Sale both went through a series of tryouts to make the team. Coaches would set up at the beach and the young athletes would be put through a series of activities. That, combined with surf competition results at the state and national level, as well as a check to see if each surfer had the right “Aloha” attitude, guided the selection committee.

The Big Islanders, along with the rest of Team Hawaii, left for Japan’s Hyuga City for the Sept. 23 competition start date and when they arrived, they were surprised to find that the waves were better than expected at the surf site — Okuragahama Beach, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.

“I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it was,” Sale said. “Most of the time the waves were around one to two feet, but there were a couple of days where they were three feet. It was never not rideable.”

The length of the competition was also unique to most of the surfers attending, going much longer than most were used to.

“For me, it was six days total competing,” Sale said. “It was a tiring, long event, with days lasting as long as 12 hours.”

“It was hard, but fun,” Donaldson-Sargis added.

But the event was not just about the competition. It was also about getting to know other cultures and spending time in a new, unique place. For Donaldson-Sargis, this was his favorite part of the trip.

“Everyone brought sand from their beach and put it into a big container and that was really cool,” Donaldson-Sargis said. “It was an honor to represent Hawaii in the global setting.”

For both local surfers, this was their first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. The country made a big impression on both.

“It was cool meeting all the people and eating the new food. The food was very different,” Sale said.

“It was an experience,” Donaldson-Sargis added. “I had never really thought about going to Japan before, but I am 100 percent going back. It was really nice, warm and beautiful.”

As for having to settle for second in the competition, that wasn’t really on the minds of Sale and Donaldson-Sargis after their return.

“It is hard to get that close to winning and finish second but to get that far is amazing,” Donaldson-Sargis said.

“It was cool to get that close to our goal and it came down to the final day,” Sale added. “Everyone chipped in on points and it was a lot of fun.”

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