The Irukandjis Win Eighth Team World Championship and Two Individual Gold Medals at the 2024 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

Published on 16/05/2024

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 result makes the Irukandjis the winningest team in ISA World Junior history, ending an 11-year wait since their last triumph in 2013.

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.”

Ziggy Mackenzie showcased her talent in the Under 16 division against an international field. Mackenzie put together the 5.93 she needed with just 6 minutes to go in the heat. “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.”

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.

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.

For more information, visit the ISA event website.

For Photos, see the ISA Media Centre

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 our 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.

The Irukandjis are proudly presented by Hyundai.

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