Originally published on Surfline.com on July 31, 2018
What happens when you round up four of the world’s best teenage surfers, set them loose at the world’s best man-made wave and give them a chance to win $10,000?
The event started in June as an Instagram contest that drew over 1000 entries from all corners of the globe. The judges, Leonardo Fioravanti and Kanoa Igarashi, combed all the entries and hand-picked their eight favorites. Those eight Young Guns were subject to a public voting challenge and the top three earned tickets to the WSL Surf Ranch. Leo and Kanoa also hand-picked a wildcard to join them for the final in Lemoore.
And then there were four: Jett Schilling, 15, from San Clemente, USA, Samuel Pupo, 17, from Maresias, Brazil, Justin Becret, 16, from Seignosse, France and Marco Mignot, 17, who is from France but currently resides in Mexico.
The day of surfing started off strong — Justin described his first wave as the best wave of his life — and the Young Guns never looked back. The fun was infectious and the future of surfing was unfolding before everyone’s eyes.
The Showdown used an innovative format that broke the half-mile-long wave at the WSL Surf Ranch into three different sections. In a rotating order, the competitors would position themselves at different points along the pool. Each surfer would catch the wave and do their best before they had to kick out in order to allow the next surfer to get his section of the wave.
The new formula meant two things: the surfers got a ton of opportunities and they always went for broke. Towards the end of the day, each Young Gun also got to surf a few waves from start to finish to see what they could do when the legs start burning.
So, how do you take all that and pick a champion? Simple. The Young Gun who surfs the best wins. And of course, Leo and Kanoa had the final say.
At The Showdown, that kid was Samuel Pupo.
“I couldn’t believe how hard all of them were ripping,” said Leo. “In the end, Sammy did the biggest air and best carve. The new format worked really well and let all the kids open up, but Sammy was a standout all day.”
“They were getting better and better every wave,” Kanoa added. “By the end, I felt like I was watching them get to a completely different level.”
And here’s what Samuel had to say, while he was dripping wet and grinning ear to ear, “I’ve competed in this event for the past four years and even won it last year. It’s so much different from all the other contests. It’s always so much fun and I feel like it enables you to surf your best instead of surfing a normal heat. It’s crazy to finish my Young Guns career with a win here.”
Sammy also said that his eyes are now set on the US Open. If his surfing here was any indication, Sammy and all of the #YGSurf Finalists will be ones to watch out for.