Sam Hearn Reflects on the World Junior Surfing Championship
After an incredible journey at the World Junior Surfing Championship in El Salvador, I’m excited to look back on my achievement and share the experience with you!
Making Team England
I was selected for the team through my previous year’s results and a training day. I was super happy to hear that I had been selected to go to the World Juniors with England team. There were a couple of new faces I didn’t know but they were really nice and fit in right away, the crew we had were so supportive and we all helped each other throughout the trip.
Travelling to El Salvador
Everyone drove to London airport then we set off and began the mission. All of us had at least three boards with us so it was a bit of a nightmare checking all the bags in at each stop! We flew from London to Los Angeles and then on to El Salvador, arriving in the early hours of the morning, meaning everyone was super tired. We then got our final taxi to the house we were staying at and even got escorted there by the local armed police as crime in the country can be very serious.
Touch down in South America
After being in the area for a couple of days and seeing new places, it was fair to say it wasn’t my favourite place I’ve been to. The area was quite run down, the water was brown and dirty and there were no real beaches as they were all rocks or reef. However, Surf City itself was a lot nicer with good cafes and surf shops.
The local food was pretty good but most of us stuck to what we knew and were careful about what we were eating, especially as no one wanted to feel unwell before the championship began. The contest site was on two different waves, they were both really fun but difficult to surf as they were both constantly changing with the tides and wind. We visited a few other spots around the area which were cool to ride, it was great to see the potential of the setup and how it could be on a good day.
The first round
I was by far most nervous for my first heat of the competition. It’s the heat you think about while you’re travelling to the event and you just want it to go well. Thankfully, I won my first heat and was buzzing, this gave me a huge confidence boost!
The second round
Miles was one of the coaches in the team and we prepped together before the heat with a good warmup, getting my head in the right place. I only had a few nerves before I got in the water and once I paddled out to sea with just the three other surfers I was ready to go. I was surfing on the right for this heat which meant I didn’t feel as confident, but I managed to stay calm and get the biggest wave of the heat and a decent back up score which put me into round three.
The third round
Round three was just about staying cool and enjoying the event. I said to myself before the competition started, if I make it to this round I’d be happy. Getting through this heat was the next step and I knew I still had more to give!
This heat was a big one with well-known surfers who had been surfing solid in their previous heats. I knew I had to go all in from here for the judges to give me some good scores, so I didn’t hold back and it paid off for me. I had a good score early in the heat which set me up nicely for my second score, I went all in and committed to the heavy sections. I managed to complete the waves and I knew the judges were looking for those big sections to be hit. Everyone in the championship was stoked for me and so was everyone else watching online from home!
When you make it this far they schedule your heat for the best conditions of the day and for this event it was most mornings when the tide was good and the wind was perfect. I had just come back from Indonesia surfing solid waves so I was stoked to see I was on the left peak early in the morning. We walked down and it was pumping, I sat and watched it for a while, got in the zone, did my warmup and was ready to go.
At this point I had nothing to lose and was just going out and having fun, looking back I think that’s what got me so far in the event. I only caught two waves but that’s all you need and the scores were good. Then, someone else needed a score but I had priority over him. I managed to block him from catching a good wave and getting the score, the whole team went crazy and ran down as I got out the water, which is such a good feeling!
I treated this heat the exact same as all my others, by staying calm and just surfing how I would normally surf. I went out and surfed my best but unfortunately, I didn’t get the better waves and the best ones I caught were incomplete, which meant that I got eliminated and put into the repechage final. Sadly, I also fell off on my best waves in the final, it was hard to go from not losing a heat to losing two in a row, but that frustration only lasted that day and before I knew it, I was celebrating with the team. In the end it felt so good to say I came 6th in the world, for me it was a huge achievement, and everyone was so supportive and happy for me.