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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Isle juniors aiming to beat pressure, world

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By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kaua'i's Alex Smith is part of the Hawai'i team defending its title in the Quicksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships.

BERNIE BAKER | Special to The Advertiser

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It's a new year, a new team and a new location, but Hawai'i is looking to achieve the same result at the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships.

Twelve youth surfers from Hawai'i are in Brazil this week to defend the team title against 27 other countries/regions in the World Junior Surfing Championships. The contest will start tomorrow and run through May 14 at Maresias Beach, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The event is recognized as the world championship for surfers age 18 and younger.

Hawai'i is allowed to compete as its own nation because of its storied history in the sport.

"I think it's an honor to represent Hawai'i in this contest," Kaua'i surfer Alex Smith said. "But there's also pressure because all the other teams will be looking at us, wanting to beat us."

Hawai'i won the team title last year at Huntington Beach, Calif., but only four surfers are back from that team Casey Brown, Torrey Meister, Granger Larsen and Lani Hunter. Some of the eligible returnees did not even try out for the team this year because of conflicting school schedules.

"The hardest thing every year is choosing the team," Hawai'i coach Rainos Hayes said. "But the talent pool in Hawai'i is so deep that I think we can put together a strong team regardless of who we pick."

The contest features three divisions (boys under 18, boys under 16, and girls under 18). Each team will have 12 surfers four in each of the three divisions.

The Hawai'i surfers on this year's team are Brown, Meister, Kyle Ramey and Nathan Rex in the boys under 18 division; Larsen, Smith, Dylan Melamed, and Tyler Newton in the boys under 16 division; Hunter, Monica Byrne-Wickey, Bethany Hamilton and Lipoa Kahaleuahi in the girls under 18 division.

"It's a good mix," Hayes said. "And what I like about this team is that there's a cohesiveness. They're all friends; they all get along."

Six of the surfers are from Kaua'i: Ramey, Rex, Melamed, Newton, Smith and Hamilton.

Among the surprising selections were Rex and Hamilton. Rex has been surfing for several years, but did not start entering contests until last year.

"Hopefully we can give everybody a surprise in Brazil," Rex said. "It's going to be tough going all the way over there to surf in the cold water, but I feel like I have nothing to lose. A lot of people don't know about me."

Hamilton's left arm was severed in a shark attack off Kaua'i in 2003.

"She's not only back, she's stronger than she was before," Hayes said. "She is fully capable of winning (her division)."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.