ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, Brazil 2023

ISA World Junior Surfing Championships 2023  

Praia Da Macumba, Rio De Janeiro 24th of November to the 3rd of December 

This was the first time the SSF have sent a full team of juniors to compete on the world stage. The following surfers were selected for their performances over the past year. In the under 16 girl’s category, we had Callie Cruickshank (13) and Lola Mitchell (14) both from Broch Surf Club and Olivia MacKay (16) from North Shore Surf Club. The same girls also competed in the under girls 18 category. 

In the under 16 boy’s category, we had Sebastian Ballantyne (12) from Broch Surf Club, Fraser Brown (15) from Lossiemouth Surf Club and Ansel Parkin (14) from Belhaven Surf Club. The under 18 boy’s entrants were Charlie Pugh (15) from Belhaven Surf Club, Finn Clark (17) from Edinburgh and Borders Surf Club and Craig MacLachlan (18) from North Shore Surf Club. 

It is a young team, and they were ably assisted by a capable but not so young support crew consisting of Russell Cruickshank as team manager; Craig Sutherland as coach; Mal Anderson on filming and social media; and the incredibly useful duo of Marcelle Lockhart and Kirsty Parkin as general support / first aid / suncream police. 

After a marathon of planning, we left a murky Aberdeen at 3am on 19th November, bound for Rio de Janeiro. The Atlantico Sul Hotel was ideally situated on the point between the comp beach (Praia Macumba) and the beach we trained at mostly (Praia do Recreio). We had 4 days to train before the competition started – this allowed us to get used to the rashes associated with not wearing wetsuits; coping with the heat and sun; and getting techniques and comp strategies dialled in. Fitness and stretching were also worked on courtesy of programmes sent by Brendon Ferrier of Napier University and the hotel rooftop pool was used for some breath holding; underwater swimming; and carrying the parasol stand as far as they could underwater (when the lifeguard wasn’t watching). After a solid routine including 5am surfs, exercises, video analysis, the kids were in shape ready for the comp to begin.  

The team getting ready for their first surf in Brazil on Day 1 at the team hotel.

We donned our kilts for the parade, and it was great to mix with teams from all over the world. Shout out to our friends from Principe and Sao Tome, a tiny island nation off West Africa. These kids struggle to get money to eat, let alone surf, so it was incredible that they got the funding to go. Their French coach sung Flower of Scotland better than we did – National anthem practice is required for next time. We all enjoyed the speeches, especially one from the incredibly enthusiastic and unique ISA president, Fernando Aguerre, with his cowboy hat and feelgood ISA song. Catchy! 

Parade & Opening Day Ceremony.

Day 1 of the competition had the under 16 round 1 in the water. The waves were bumpy and tricky with an outside sandbank that often wouldn’t connect with the shorebreak. It’s tough to get big scores at this level against tough competition and especially so with the conditions. The girls and boys all surfed well but didn’t advance. However, they would get another chance in the repechage round. 

Day 2 had cleaner waves for the under 18s but was another tough day without anybody managing to progress. Wave selection was probably the biggest factor to work on, so it was back to the hotel to go over the day’s events and look for ways to improve for the repechage rounds to come.  

What a difference a day makes. Day 3 saw the U18 girl’s repechage 1 clash with the u16 boy’s repechage 1. Much better heat strategy and wave selection enabled the team to raise their level of surfing. Callie got a 3rd (as one of the youngest competitors); and Lola clinched a 2nd place to go through to repechage 2 of the under 18s. Fraser, Ansel and Sebastian all stepped up too and picked better waves and can be proud of their surfing.  

Day 4 was a busy day featuring repechage of boys U18; repechage of the u16 girls; and repechage 2 of the U18 girls. In U18 boy’s repechage 1, Charlie surfed well with only a 3.33 needed to advance but he has a few years left to climb up the places. Finn surfed a great heat and had a decent total but needed a hefty 7.57 to progress. Craig hit form and smashed his heat with an 11.1 total giving him 1st place and a spot in repechage 2, which he went on to dominate with an 8.1 total taking him back into the main round. 

Callie selected some great waves in the U16 girl’s repechage 1 to surf into 2nd spot. Olivia surfed some good waves, but an interference call went against her meaning she lost her second scoring ride (but fortunately this did not affect the outcome). Lola was also much more selective this time round, earning 2nd place and advancing to repechage 2. Callie narrowly missed advancing through to repechage 2, as did Lola. However, Lola had a better heat in her U18 girl’s repechage 2, gaining 3rd place, but not enough to get through. Craig was the only competitor left but all the surfers gave much better accounts of themselves and were not far off advancing further in many cases.  

Day 5 was our last day in the competition with Craig coming up against two of the top Americans. He chose to battle with the Panamanian competitor which cost them both priority interferences which meant they lost their second scoring rides. He finished with a 3.2 and required a single wave score of 6.4 which was a tough ask in a wave-starved heat.  

The Scotland team were pleased with 27th place finish out of 46 countries – very respectable given that all our athletes live and surf at home in Scotland. We were the 2nd highest placing British team after England. Our low seeding meant we faced the top seeds this year, but our mid-table finish will give us better draws for next time! And with our young kids continuing to mature and gain experience, we should be able to push a bit further into competition next time.  

We managed to find time one day to visit the sights of Rio (under protest from some of the kids who wanted to surf the tiny waves). The tour took in the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain, and we skirted past some famous football grounds and favelas. The day-trip catch phrase was “they’ll thank us when they’re older” We might have to wait a while for that to happen, I think. 

Day Trip to see the sights in Rio.

Throughout the competition we got many teams, as well as ex-world tour stars Flavio Padaratz, Shane Dorian and Barton Lynch to pose in the Wee Jimmy hat. We befriended the event crew who stayed in our hotel and got some great commentary, even when we weren’t in heats. All of this helped to put Scotland on the world surfing map. We continued to support our friends, old and new, who progressed in the competition with incredible performances – you’ve got it next time, Lukas Skinner! Well done to team Brazil for taking the overall win. The support from their home nation was incredible – these are some of the most passionate surf fans on the planet and they could not have been more welcoming. Life can be tough for them, so they have to fight for everything. It made all of us realise how lucky we are, despite surfing in the cold most of the year. It was an unforgettable experience and undoubtedly worth going. I am convinced we got the biggest cheer at the prize giving as the team were such great ambassadors for Scottish surfing. The team spirit was incredible, and it was the biggest plus. Well done, everyone!

Finally a big thank you to everyone that helped make this trip possible, to all the individuals that gave to the teams crowdfunder and to all the Businesses that donated & gave grants to help support the Junior surf team, you helped make a dream trip come true for all the young surfers involved.

Scottish Junior Team supported by –

  • Malcolm Group
  • RWE Camster Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund
  • Baillie Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund
  • Stena Drilling
  • Lost Shore Surf Resort
  • North Highland Initiative
  • GMG Energy
  • Gray & Adams
  • Pentland Floating Offshore Windfarm
  • North Berwick Rotary Club
  • Thurso Rotary Club
  • Broch Rotary Club
  • Zenith
  • North Berwick Trust
  • Tern Alpha Charity Fund

Gallery Scottish Junior Team

Words by Craig Sutherland, Scottish Junior Team Head Coach.