THIS week 12 of Australia's best junior surfers travel to the USA for the most important event of their young careers when the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships begins at California's famous Huntington Beach.
Mid Coast NSW surfers are represented strongly with Norah Head's Jamie Skillin, Port Macquarie's Josh Bull and Boomerang Beach's Jessica Hickson vying for world titles against nearly 200 other competitors from 26 nations during the two week tournament considered the 'Olympics' of surfing.
They will be joined by fellow Aussie hopefuls Mitch Coleborn (Maroochydore, Qld), Tim Wrench (Ulludulla, NSW), Tom Wimmer (Trigg Beach, W.A.), Tim Stevenson (Torquay, Vic) (U/18boys), Stephanie Gilmore, (Kingscliff, NSW), Lori Kelly (Moffat Beach, Qld), Rebecca Oakley (Sunshine Beach, Qld) (U/18 girls), Dave Delroy-Carr (Cottesloe, WA) and Tom Salveson (Werri, NSW) (U/16 boys).
Individual world titles are on offer in three divisions including U/18 boys, U/18 girls and U/16 boys, plus a tag-team division. Individual points are also accrued to decide the overall world championship winning team.
In 2004 at Papeno'o Beach Tahiti Australia achieved the unprecedented, dominating every division for the first time in the event's history. A repeat performance is not out of the question according to Surfing Australia team coach, former professional surfer Sasha Stocker.
"The lead up to the event has seen Team Australia enjoy the best preparation I have ever been involved in. This year our team is just as strong but we are fully aware that we are heading into the lion's den in the USA. We have set our individual and team goals high and we will go about it with our normal no-fuss Aussie approach."
The greatest challenges are expected to be from traditional surfing powers Brazil, Hawaii, South Africa and of course host nation USA who in 2004 successfully restructured their entire national selection process in an attempt to boost their flagging junior surfing program.
The ISA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the world governing authority for surfing and as such the format of the event emulates that of the Olympics.
The top four finalists in each division are awarded gold, silver, bronze and copper medals while a "Parade of Nations" will officially commence proceedings with all teams marching through the streets of Huntington Beach while wearing their respective national colours.
A traditional "Sands of the World" ceremony also take place with beach sand brought from all represented nations mixed together as a symbol of unity.
Australian surfers have enjoyed unrivalled success at the event which first began at Manly Beach, Sydney in 1964 won by Midget Farrelly.
The road to Huntington has not been easy with all 12 surfers required to first qualify via regional, state and national rounds during a year-long campaign. All surfers competing at Huntington next week were finalists at last years Quiksilver Australian Grommet titles.