Gigantic Surf Decides Gold Medalists and Olympic Games Slots at Santiago 2023 Pan American Games
Sanoa Olin (CAN) and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Lucca Mesinas (PER) qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
Returning Pan American Champions Isabella Gomez (COL), Lucca Mesinas (PER), Connor Baxter (USA) and Benoit ‘Piccolo’ Clemente (PER) win back-to-back gold medals
First Pan American gold medals for Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Maria Fernanda Reyes (PER), Zane Schweitzer (USA) and Candice Appleby (USA)
Rafael Cortez wins host nation Chile’s first Pan American Surfing medal
Pichilemu, Chile – October 30, 2023
The Santiago 2023 Pan American Games culminated in a historic day of competition with an incredible showing for Surfing in its second appearance in the Games.
Massive 10-15 foot surf, easily four-to-five times overhead, poured into Punta de Lobos, providing an impressive show for the medalists to be decided in the women’s and men’s divisions of each of the four surfing disciplines; Shortboard, Longboard, SUP Surfing and SUP Racing. The swell was amongst the biggest seen in the ISA’s history.
88 athletes representing 16 countries delivered amazing performances over the course of the event, with consistently large swell pumping into Punta de Lobos for the entire contest period.
The 24 available medals were won by athletes from 9 different nations. Peru took the overall rankings lead with 6 medals, 3 of which were gold.
Weston-Webb wins gold, Dempfle-Olin punches ticket to Paris 2024
Tokyo 2020 Olympian and 2023 ISA World Surfing Games gold medalist Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) won the women’s Shortboard gold medal. As a result of her previously qualifying for Paris 2024, the women’s Shortboard bronze medal match was the decider for who would take the Olympic Games slot.
Tokyo 2020 Olympian Leilani McGonagle (CRC) looked strong all event, but Canadian Sanoa Dempfle-Olin charged two massive waves to progress to the final, where she collected the silver medal and punched her ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“I’m over the moon to have qualified for the Olympics and being the first Canadian surfer ever in the Olympic Games is huge,” Olin said. “I’m kind of at a loss for words but I’m just feeling really, really grateful.”
Defending champion Mesinas earns a slot in Paris 2024 with back-to-back gold medals
Men’s Shortboard winner Lucca Mesinas (PER), the defending Pan American champion and Tokyo 2020 Olympian, had a harder road to the final than silver medalist Francisco Bellorin (VEN), who earned Venezuela’s first Pan American Games medal in Surfing and the best result of his career. A relieved Mesinas was especially happy to defend the gold medal and claim a ticket to Paris 2024 after being knocked into repechage in Main Round 3 by teammate and fellow Tokyo 2020 Olympian Miguel Tudela.
“Today I came, saw the waves were really big,” Mesinas said. “I borrowed a board and I was like, just YOLO it. Just go surf. I’m happy to take the gold for Peru, that was the main goal, and happy to qualify for the Olympics again. I’m really stoked because Tahiti is an amazing wave. That was the goal too, to qualify for that wave and surf perfect barrels.”
Longboard clean sweep for Peru, first Pan American surfing medal for Chile
Teammates Maria Fernanda Reyes and Benoit ‘Piccolo’ Clemente earned a clean sweep for Peru in Longboard, each winning their second Pan American medals. For Clemente it was back-to-back gold medals, while Fernanda Reyes collected her first gold medal after winning silver at Lima 2019.
“It’s incredible to win gold,” Fernanda Reyes said. “I still can’t believe it’s real but I’m so happy with the result. It’s so special to have Longboard in the Pan American Games. Our dream is to be in the Olympics, the same as Shortboard.”
Local Chilean longboarder Rafael Cortez earned the host nation their first ever Pan American Games medal in Surfing, with a huge crowd lining the cliffs in support to see him claim the silver medal.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be competing here at home,” Cortez said. “I feel happy and thankful for everyone that came to support me. It’s like a dream.”
World Champions Gomez and Schweitzer share SUP Surfing gold medal wins
Two names familiar in both big-wave and stand-up paddle circles claimed gold in SUP Surfing. Defending champion and 2015 ISA World Champion Isabella Gomez (COL) went back-to-back, while 2016 ISA World Champion Zane Schweitzer won the men’s SUP Surfing gold medal in his first Pan American Games appearance, returning to the ocean for the event after two months out of the water due to the devastating fires at his home in Maui.
“I’ve been praying for my community back home this whole time,” Schweitzer said. “It’s been really hard to be here, but this win makes it all worthwhile. This type of venue is what SUP Surfing was made for. I’m so proud to be an ambassador for this sport.”
USA tops SUP Racing podium with wins for Appleby and Baxter
Two ISA World Champions representing the USA, Candice Appleby and Connor Baxter, claimed wins in the SUP Racing finals with significant leads over the rest of the field. Baxter backed up his Lima 2019 victory, while Appleby went one better than her Lima 2019 silver medal to earn the gold medal.
“I’m super grateful that I get to keep doing this,” Appleby said. “It’s so cool to see SUP Racing be a part of the Pan American Games, because I’m a surfer to the core. I mean, I grew up surfing my whole life. The roots of stand-up paddling are surfing, so to have racing and SUP Surfing be a part of this event is pretty special.”
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:
“From the huge crowds celebrating Chile’s first Pan American surfing medal, to the phenomenal performances of surfers from throughout the Americas, to the mind-blowing waves of Punta de Lobos, this event has been a total success.
“The more that Surfing is a part of the Olympic Movement, the more valuable it proves itself to be.
“Congratulations to each of the gold medalists and to Lucca and Sanoa, who surfed so incredibly to earn their place in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and represent their countries next year in Tahiti.
“Each of the four surfing disciplines represented are so important in their own right and to be able to continue to celebrate them all together in such a prestigious event as the Pan American Games is a dream come true.”