May 19 - 25, 2024: Issue 626


The Irukandji's Win Eighth Team World Championship And Two Individual Gold Medals At The 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

Team Australia; The Irukandji's - The Australian Junior Surfing Team stand on the podium after winning gold at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships.  Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez

In an outstanding display of skill, determination, and sportsmanship, the Australian junior surfing team, known as 'The Irukandji's', have claimed the overall gold at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship as well as two individual gold medals for Dane Henry (U18 men's) and Ziggy Aloha Mackenzie (U16 women's). In one of the most commanding victories in ISA competition, today's (May 13 2024 Australian time) result makes the Irukandjis the winningest team in ISA World Junior history, ending an 11-year wait since their last triumph in 2013.

Individual gold medals for Dane Henry and Ziggy Mackenzie were backed up by a silver medal for Fletcher Kelleher and copper for Milla Brown. But the performance of the entire Irukandjis team was so strong that victory was almost secured before Finals Day even began, and a heat win for Brown, backed by Willow Hardy’s performance, in Girl’s U/18 Repechage Round 9 was enough to see Australia take the Team gold medal long before the Grand Finals began.

Kate Wilcomes, the Surfing Australia National High-Performance Director, expressed the broader implications of the team's success, stating, "This win represents where Australian Junior surfing is at and the dominance we intend 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. We are all so proud of each and every one of these athletes and how they have represented Australia."

In a stacked Under 18 men’s Grand Final, Dane Henry became the first Australian to win this division in 15 years. The 17-year-old led the pack with an excellent heat total of 16.8 out of a possible 20, clinching the gold medal. Close behind was fellow Australian Fletcher Kelleher, who scored an impressive 15.97 out of 20. Their strong performances triumphed over tough competition from Brazil's Rickson Falcão (14.67) and Japan's Ikko Watanabe (8.70), showcasing the depth of talent in Australian junior surfing.

Henry led the Australian charge through the entire event, with the team captain posting seven scores in the excellent range, including a perfect 10-point ride. 

Henry reflected on his achievement and the team's success, "I'm so proud of everyone in my team; it's been the best experience of my life. I couldn't have done it without my mum; she's an absolute legend, and I wouldn't be up here without her." 

Overcome with emotion, he added, "Thank you to all the coaches, everyone back at home, from the bottom of my heart this is the best thing I've ever done in my life."

Dane Henry, Team Australia / Photo: Pablo Franco

Ziggy Mackenzie’s (AUS) road to the Final was made smoother after she took a wave in her Girl’s U/16 Main Event Final with 1 second to go. Needing a 6.54, the 15-year-old grabbed a 6.57 to guarantee herself a medal. In an extremely tight final, a 6.83 from Mackenzie proved to be the high point and when her backup of a 5.93 arrived late in the heat, it was enough to seal the deal and plant her name as a World Junior Champion alongside fellow Australians Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright.

Mackenzie said. “I feel like all the work that I’ve put in and all the support from the Australian team has all come together. I think everyone was so excited but so nervous at the same time coming into this event. We’ve got such a strong team and we really wanted to just push and push as hard as we can. We’re on top and I’m so stoked for the team.”

Ziggy Mackenzie showcased her talent in the Under 16 division against an international field. "I just tried to keep calm and collected. I knew we had the (team) gold already, so I kind of wanted to go out there and surf how I surf and show the world Ziggy". Mackenzie explained. 

She later expressed her elation, saying, "I'm blown away, I'm so stoked. To be here with Australia has been an insane experience and I'm so happy to have come out on top and for team Australia to have come out on top as well, everyone's stoked."

Ziggy Mackenzie, Team Australia / Photo: Sean Evans

Clancy Dawson, Surfing Australia Performance Pathway Manager, highlighted the foundation of the team’s success, stating: “What an incredible performance by our team. Our vision is to be the most dominant surfing nation, and our results in this event exemplify that goal. All medal-winning athletes came through our 'Talent Identification Program' and have been working with the Surfing Australia High Performance Team for the last four years.

This program is designed to identify the most promising juniors at the ages of 13-14 and help them not only become the world's best surfers but also the world's best people. Dominant team and individual results like these make us extremely proud of the long-term work and strategy that goes into shaping the next generation of Australian surfers. Dane Henry exemplifies the degree of innovative high-performance surfing we foster, taking that competitive edge at an ISA event to a whole new level.”

The event was not without it's controversy for the Irukandjis, particularly during the Under 18 girls' repechage. Western Australia's Willow Hardy was in the spotlight over the weekend for maintaining her composure under highly stressful circumstances. Hardy, who needed a small score of a 2.4 to advance with only 50 seconds left in the heat, was interfered with by Portugal's Erica Máximo White. Máximo attempted to push Hardy off her craft and yelled verbal abuse before trying to grab Hardy's leash (attached to both her board and her leg). Despite the interference and unsporting conduct, Hardy surfed the wave to the required score to progress. 

Coach Pete Duncan lodged a successful protest, resulting in Máximo's disqualification. Duncan remarked, "While there is a tactical element to competitive surfing, there is no place for unsporting conduct. We are incredibly proud of the way Willow remained composed in what was an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation." Máximo later apologized via Instagram, expressing regret to Hardy, the Australian Team, and the ISA.

Hawaiian girls account for the most gold medals in the WJSC, and Vaihiti Inso continued that tradition when she won the 11th gold medal for Hawaii. The new U/18 World Champion was proud to represent her team and her culture with the victory, but was also thrilled to display a solid show of surfing. Winning the Grand Final with an 8.50 and 8.17, largely on the strength of her powerful and stylish forehand carves on the lefts of La Bocana, her 16.67 heat total left her fellow finalists in need of near-perfection to reach her.

“I’m almost speechless,” Inso said. “Honestly my main goal was not the result but just to put on a good performance and I hope I did that. I love surfing and before there was no lefts and all of a sudden the lefts just came that way. So mahalo ke Akua for the waves and God for everything.”

After impressive performances across both U/16 and U/18, 2022 U/16 copper medallist Tya Zebrowski (FRA) was able to add an U/18 silver medal to her count, with Sara Freyre (USA) and Milla Brown (AUS) winning the bronze and silver medals respectively.

Vaihiti Inso, Team Hawaii / Photo: Jersson Barboza

ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, said:

“What an incredible week. Some of the best waves in the history of our ISA events in El Salvador, and we have had many. It’s been a great partnership with the government of El Salvador. Thank you to President Bukele and thank you to the people of El Salvador for receiving us as warm as ever.

“Congratulations to all the medalists. You are now going home as champions, and the top surfers in the world in the junior divisions. Some of you will be in the Olympics this year, just 75 days away, in Tahiti. Most of you will not, but most of you have the opportunity to be in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.”

The ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, held this year in Surf City, El Salvador, saw 441 young surfers from around the globe compete in various divisions. The event is renowned for showcasing the world's best upcoming talent in surfing and offering a glimpse into the sport's future.

As the Irukandjis return home with gold, they bring not only medals but also immense pride and inspiration to the Australian surfing community while putting the rest of the surfing world on notice.

About the ISA:

The International Surfing Association (ISA) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world governing authority for surfing.  This championship has proved to be a direct pathway to the Olympic Games, with  Olympic Bronze Medallist Owen Wright, eight-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, two-time World Champion Tyler Wright and Sally Fitzgibbons among the past ISA World Junior Champions.


Team Rankings
Gold – Australia
Silver – Hawaii
Bronze – France
Copper – USA

Boy’s U/16
Gold – Dylan Donegan (ESP)
Silver – Lukas Skinner (ENG)
Bronze – Thiago Passeri (ARG)
Copper – Alexis Owen (NZL)

Girl’s U/16
Gold – Ziggy Mackenzie (AUS)
Silver – Clémence Schorsch (FRA)
Bronze – Louise Le Pront (RSA)
Copper – Eden Walla (USA)

Boy’s U/18
Gold – Dane Henry (AUS)
Silver – Fletcher Kelleher (AUS)
Bronze – Rickson Falcão (BRA)
Copper – Ikko Watanabe (JPN)

Girl’s U/18
Gold – Vaihiti Inso (HAW)
Silver – Tya Zebrowski (FRA)
Bronze – Sara Freyre (USA)
Copper – Milla Brown (AUS)

2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship - Team Irukandjis

U18 Girls
Milla Brown (Newport, NSW)
Willow Hardy (Gnarabup, WA)
Isi Campbell (Denmark, WA)

U18 Boys
Eden Hasson (Port Stephens, NSW)
Dane Henry (Fingal Head, NSW)
Fletcher Kelleher (Freshwater, NSW)

U16 Girls
Ziggy Mackenzie (Bilinga, Qld) 
Charli Hately (Tugun, Qld)
Ocea Curtis (Lennox Head, NSW)

U16 Boys
Lachlan Arghyros (Kingscliff, NSW)
Maverick Wilson (Dunsborough, WA)
Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW)

Follow the team and the Irukandjis on Surfing Australia's Socials.

Surfing Australia is thankful for the support it has received from the Australian Government - through the Australian Sports Commission - to help enhance the Irukandjis medal chances at Paris 2024.

2024 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Junior Surfing Championship: Day 9 Action + Closing Ceremony Awards

Ziggy Mckenzie. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Ziggy Mackenzie. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

 Ziggy Mackenzie. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco

Milla Brown. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Milla Brown. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Milla Brown. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Milla Brown Willow Hardy. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco

 Ziggy Mackenzie. Credit: ISA / Jersson Barboza

Ziggy Mackenzie. Credit: ISA / Jersson Barboza

Ziggy Mackenzie. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Ziggy Mackenzie.  ISA / Pablo Franco

Dane Henry. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

 Fletcher Kelleher. Credit: ISA / Jersson Barboza

Fletcher Kelleher. Credit: ISA / Jersson Barboza

Dane Henry. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Fletcher Kelleher. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Milla Brown. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

 Ziggy McKenzie. Credit: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Credit: ISA / Sean Evans