ISA World Surfing Games 2023: Erin Brooks, Joao Chianca, Vahine Fierro
Age and experience are often the best protection against rough waves. But these young surfers are proving that you can get to the top whether you’re in your early 20s or even 15.
Joao Chianca, Erin Brooks and Vahine Fierro are among the talented youngsters making their mark on the international surf scene this season. Skilled, ambitious, and unafraid of the biggest waves, they’ll surely be keeping an eye on them as we head to the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond.
Do you still have doubts? Tune in to the ISA World Surfing Games 2023, broadcast live from Surf City El Salvador by Olympics.com May 30-June 7, and see them compete against Olympic medalists and world champions.
Joao Chianca: New Brazilian in action
As many young athletes know, stepping out of the shadow of older teammates is difficult.
That’s especially true if your teammates happen to be part of the Brazilian men’s surf team. And the best way to get there is to go straight to the top of the world rankings, and 22-year-old Joao Chianca has done just that in his second season on the World Championship Tour.
Originally introduced as the little brother of big wave surfer Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca, Joao Chianca has quickly made a name for himself and has become one of Brazil’s top talents for Paris 2024.
Chianca made his debut on the World Championship Tour in 2022, where he mostly stayed under the radar with a streak of five 17th places.
But in 2023 everything changed. Chianca announced his presence with a third-place finish on the first stage of the Tour, while a win at the Portugal Pro in March over Australia’s Jack Robinson and two other third-place finishes helped cement his lead in the rankings.
The world No. 1 has never made the top 10 this season, but what’s perhaps even more satisfying are all the victories he’s had in head-to-head with the sport’s biggest stars, including Kelly Slater, Kanoa Igarashi and… Rio Weida and teammate and Olympic champion Italo Ferreira were able to book.
What’s next for Chianca? A world championship title would not be out of the question.
Erin Brooks: There is talk of outstanding teenage Olympic champions
Even if you’re not an expert on how the scoring system works in surfing, you’ll be amazed by Canadian Erin Brooks’ skills on a board.
The 15-year-old became a viral sensation in 2022 when she became the first woman to do a front and back flip on a surfboard.
And she’s not just good in the air.
At the 2022 ISA World Junior Championships in El Salvador, Brooks made further history when she won the girls’ U-16 division – Canada’s first junior medal in the sport.
What makes her accomplishment special is that Brooks grew up in Texas and first stood on a surfboard when she was nine after her family moved to Maui.
Inspired by her first surf lessons, Brooks entered several competitions in Hawaii – and lost in the first round of each. Far from being discouraged, the teen began to train even harder, paddling her board at dawn outside school and repeating the process after class.
That tenacity and natural talent is a talking point for even experienced surfers. Olympic gold medalist Italo Ferreira sends messages of encouragement to Brooks, while Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion Carissa Moore praised Brooks for paving the way in women’s airsurfing, saying “Erin does airs I can’t even handle.”.
Vahine Fierro: Home advantage in surfing
While the surfing world looks on with understandable concern at the infamous huge waves at Teahupo’o in Tahiti, 23-year-old Vahine Fierro is hoping those waves will be as tough as possible when the island hosts the Olympics next summer.
Battling the waves in Tahiti is a daily chore for the island native, who started surfing when she was two years old.
When she was five, Fierro was approached by viewers and encouraged to enter competitions. She was initially reluctant to heed this advice, preferring to think of surfing as a pastime and enjoying time in the water with her younger sisters, 19-year-old Heimiti and 16-year-old Kohai.
When Fierro took the leap into competitive surfing at the age of 14, it was a given. She quickly developed a competitive spirit that took her from an unexpected junior title in 2018 to the World Championship Tour.
Fierro has surfed all over the world and it’s in the waters of Tahiti that he shines the most. At the age of 15 she tried her hand at the big wave and had some of her biggest victories there. In August 2022, she entered the Tahiti Pro stage of the World Championship Tour as a wildcard, defeating Olympic gold medalist Moore in the quarterfinals and finishing third overall.
With her local knowledge of Tahiti’s waves and her bold attitude, Fierro will be one surfer the world’s best will watch heading to Paris 2024.