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Australian Junior Surfing Team triumphs amid controversy

In a thrilling showdown at the ISA world junior surfing championships, Australia’s surfers showcased their talent and resilience, despite a shocking display of unsportsmanlike behaviour

Australian surfer Dane Henry during the under-18 boys grand final at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: Jersson Barboza
Australian surfer Dane Henry during the under-18 boys grand final at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: Jersson Barboza

READING LEVEL: GREEN

Australia have been crowned* world junior surfing champions despite a shocking act of unsportsmanship* that almost derailed* their title bid.

Australia’s Irukandjis* won the ISA* world junior championships in El Salvador, sealing the overall title for the first time in more than a decade in a dominant showing that included gold medals for Dane Henry and Ziggy Aloha Mackenzie.

Australian surfer Ziggy Mackenzie celebrating after taking out the under-16 girls gold medal at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: ISA/Pablo Franco
Australian surfer Ziggy Mackenzie celebrating after taking out the under-16 girls gold medal at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: ISA/Pablo Franco

But it was the effort of U18 competitor Willow Hardy that took the spotlight, after she came under attack from a rival in the U18 women’s repechage*.

Sitting in fourth place in the four-woman heat and needing a score of 2.4 to advance with less than a minute remaining, Hardy took off on a wave, only to suffer interference* from Portugal’s Erica Máximo White.

Máximo, who was disqualified and later issued a tearful apology on social media, first dropped in on Hardy before attempting to push the Aussie off her board, yelling abuse at her and trying to grab her leash.

Showing incredible poise* under pressure, Hardy somehow stayed upright, with Máximo’s attempt to help her Portuguese teammate remain in the top two and advance from the heat, proving futile as Hardy notched the score needed to advance.

Irukandjis coach Pete Duncan lodged* a successful protest, resulting in Máximo’s disqualification.

Australian surfer Dane Henry in the under-18 boys division at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: Jersson Barboza
Australian surfer Dane Henry in the under-18 boys division at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Surf City, El Salvador. Picture: Jersson Barboza

“While there is a tactical* element to competitive surfing, there is no place for unsporting conduct,” Duncan said.

“We are incredibly proud of the way Willow remained composed* in what was an uncomfortable and potentially* dangerous situation.”

Máximo later apologised via Instagram, expressing regret to Hardy, the Australian Team, and the ISA.

“Yesterday we had a situation I recognise was not my brightest moment,” she said.

“I committed an interference on the Australian surfer’s wave and in an unsportsmanship manner.

“That was not my goal. I just wanted to help my team but I recognise my mistake and I am here to apologise, especially to the Australian surfer, the Australian team and the ISA.

“These situations can’t happen.

“I realised the repercussions* of this incident and assure you all that something like this will never happen again.”

Henry became the first Aussie to win the U18 division* in 15 years, the team captain calling the event the “best experience of my life”, while Mackenzie said she was blown away to win the U16 girls title.

The Australian junior surfing team, the Irukandjis, stand on the podium after winning gold at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships. Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez
The Australian junior surfing team, the Irukandjis, stand on the podium after winning gold at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships. Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez

Surfing Australia national high performance director* Kate Wilcomes said the Irukandjis’ victory represented where Australian surfing was at and the level of dominance* it wanted to continue to deliver.

“This team and the support staff have not only worked hard, but they have also built and embraced the Irukandji’s fighting spirit*,” she said. “We are all so proud of each and every one of these athletes and how they have represented Australia.”

WATCH THE VIDEO 

Aussie attacked in act of unsportsmanship

POLL

GLOSSARY

  • crowned: given a title or declared as a winner
  • unsportsmanship: behaving in a way that is not fair or respectful in a sport
  • derailed: to cause something to go off course from its intended path, especially in a sudden or unexpected manner
  • Irukandjis: the name of the Australian junior surfing team. The Irukandji jellyfish is extremely venomous and rare
  • ISA: International Surfing Association
  • repechage: a round in a competition for those who have previously been defeated
  • interference: when someone disrupts or affects something in a negative way
  • poise: graceful and controlled composure, especially under pressure
  • potentially: possibly or with the chance of happening
  • lodged: formally submitted or presented
  • tactical: relating to actions carefully planned to achieve a specific end
  • composed: calm and in control of one’s emotions
  • repercussions: the consequences or effects of an action
  • division: a separate section or category within a larger group
  • director: a person who manages or oversees something
  • dominance: the state of being in control or having power over others
  • fighting spirit: a strong determination to overcome challenges or obstacles

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Who were the champions of the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships?
  2. What unsportsmanlike act almost derailed Australia’s title bid?
  3. Describe the situation involving Willow Hardy and Erica Máximo White during the competition.
  4. How did Willow Hardy handle the pressure she faced during the competition?
  5. What was the significance of Henry’s and Mackenzie’s achievements in the competition?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What helped Willow?
What qualities do you think helped Willow to stay calm, focused and upright while Maximo was trying to push her off her board? Write them down. Then, use these ideas to create a poster that will inspire other kids to develop these qualities.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Health and Physical Education, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Do you know what the rules for competitive surfing are? Brainstorm as many ideas as you can. Then use your research skills to find out and check your answer.
Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education

VCOP ACTIVITY
Imaginative dialogue
Imagine you were there during the event being discussed in the article, or for the interview.

Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.

Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.