By Erin Hawkins
Surfers from 27 nations competed in the INS International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games in Playa Jacó, Costa Rica, from Aug. 6-12.
Among those selected to compete for the United States team were San Clemente locals Kevin Schulz and Colt Ward.
The U.S. team also included surfers Brett Simpson, Nolan Rapoza, Maddie Peterson, Tia Blanco, coach Ryan Simmons and assistant coach/team official Brian Bourgeois.
Kevin Schulz, 21, currently holds the No. 10 rank in the World Surf League’s (WSL) 2016 Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) for North America.
He said this was his second time competing in an ISA event, after competing in the ISA World Junior Games in Nicaragua 2013.
“Traveling with this team was amazing. There was no negativity and everyone really made a solid effort in the contest,” said Schulz.
Schulz competed in Round 1 placing first in his heat, but was unable to advance after Round 2.
“The ISA events are extremely long; it’s more of a marathon, not a sprint as you can surf multiple times in a day for seven days straight,” said Schulz.
Colt Ward, 19, is also a WSL QS competitor for North America. He took a second place win in Round 1, but also did not advance past Round 2.
The U.S. team took home bronze overall, earned a gold medal in the Aloha Cup event for the first time in U.S. history, and Blanco became the Women’s Gold Medalist in the Open Women’s competition for the second consecutive year.
Simmons said while he had a younger team this year, the members surfed really well.
“I felt we were the team to beat based off the performance,” said Simmons.
He explained that the team experienced some judging calls that went against them, referring to Rapoza and Schulz losing their heats when he believed they should have advanced.
“We never gave up, we never thought we were out of it, and then we won the Aloha Cup Saturday,” said Simmons.
He said the team went from ninth place to fifth to third within the last few days of the competition, but despite setbacks, were able to push through with a positive attitude.
“One of my keys as a coach, I try to bring that positivity to my students,” said Simmons.
In the Aloha Cup event, the top eight teams from the previous ISA World Surfing Games were invited to compete in a tag-team surfing competition.
Five surfers from each country made up a team, and competitors were required to catch three waves each, and run in and tag their next teammate to surf all in under an hour.
The event consisted of two four-team semifinal rounds, and one final round where the top four countries would compete for gold.
The U.S. placed second in their semifinal heat right behind Argentina. In the finals round, the U.S. managed to win the gold after surfing against Costa Rica, New Zealand and Argentina.
“It all came down to the unity of the team in the end, and to come out on top with such a great crew was the best feeling ever,” said Schulz.