Kiama has once again come to the attention of the international surfing community, with the World Junior Surfing Championships being held here for the second and final year.
Unlike last year’s clean sweep to the Aussies, this year’s titles were won by Finn McGill from Hawaii and Vahine Fierro from Tahiti. Defending champion Macy Callaghan was the only Australian to reach the semi-finals.
With small surf for much of the time, the competition culminated in a gruelling Finals day, with 28 heats surfed over 12 hours due to a forecast of declining swell.
McGill joins a long list of legendary World Junior Champions that includes Tom Carroll, Mark Occhilupo, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson. And Vahine, who didn’t lose a single heat the entire event and is the first Tahitian to win a world title, joins the like of our own Sally Fitzgibbon and Tyler Wright.
Destination NSW is hopeful of keeping the junior titles in the state, but the World Surf League is keen to share the event around.
With surfing making its debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Games, the well-serviced NSW south coast seaside towns and communities offer accommodation close to beaches and local coaches would provide natural training conditions in the countdown to Tokyo 2020.
The elite young surfers, representing countries as diverse as France, United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, United States, South Africa, Tahiti, Brazil, and Peru, described the event in Kiama as one of the best organised and most important surfing competitions of their lives.
According to Ellie Turner, one of the UK’s leading teenage surfers, “many of us have travelled long distances, but it’s been worth the journey to get here and be part of this Kiama event. The accommodation, food, transport and warm welcome have made this an excellent experience to remember and to build on.”
“The young competitors as well as the competition organisers are tourism influencers using not only word of mouth when they return home but also Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the like to tell the story of their time in Kiama and maybe entice others to visit,” said Kiama Council General Manager Michael Forsyth.
“The people in Kiama are very nice and respectful, and full of good vibes,” said Jhonny Guerrero of Peru, who survived a driveby shooting and overcame an impoverished background to compete on the world circuit.
“We have all become ambassadors and friends of Kiama and Australia.”