Stab Magazine | Four Groms Battle For Tubes, Ramps, Glory, Pizza And $10K In Portugal

Four Groms Battle For Tubes, Ramps, Glory, Pizza And $10K In Portugal

Quiksilver’s Young Guns isn’t all cookies and ice cream! 

cinema // Nov 21, 2019
Words by Morgan Williamson
Reading Time: 5 minutes

A wet wool sock pulls over Ericeira.

Can barely see the cars on the road; can’t see the coast. Can only hear the waves; sounds big, maybe. Who knows, they’re invisible from the shoreline. In the water, they come from nowhere. Not huge, but consistent. The current is strong. It’s wonky with potential for brilliance…and to get caught inside until your stomach cramps from furious paddling in one place; headed, it seems, to nowhere. 

The day before Quiksilver’s annual grom festival, the Young Gun Surf Comp, was met with the sort of weather that favors the television on and the curtain drawn. As the four Young Guns pulled from the Instagram hashtag comp trickled into Lapoint Surf Camp, the weather showed no sign of change, at least not from the reports analyzed off an iPhone application.

The winds are all wrong, or so the local hero, Tiago Pires, tells us. Yes, there’s swell. There’s a ton of it but as anyone with a worth-trusting report continually reminds us, the conditions are tricky, the swell direction is odd, and Nazare could break in a few days.

Oh, and don’t forget last week, “It was on fire! You should’ve been here, bro.” 

It’s a typical Europe mission–one that is mistimed by too-much-preparation and no ability to strike, not dissimilar to the WSL event at Supertubos just a month before we arrived. But we have no waiting period. Instead, we have eight days to drive mindlessly from Ericeira to Peniche and Cascais in search of something contestable. But these are the conditions for this freeform competition. It might not be a lot but we’re here to make the most.

2019 YG Final Leo Casal

Brazilian fly-boy, tube-hound, and pitbull of a shredder, Leo Casal.

Let’s rewind a moment. 

This year, Quiksilver teamed up with Stab to pick the top eight surfers who submitted their clips. After we chose who we deemed worthy, the top eight went to a public and Quik team rider vote. The people called for Brazil’s Leo Casal and Oz’s Oscar Berry. Then Mikey Wright voted in San Diego’s Levi Slawson, and Zeke Lau tapped North Shore grommet, Luke Swanson, to round out the final four. Then, at the start of October, they all flew out to Lapoint Surf Camp in Ericeira to battle it out over eight days for a $10k check that would reveal Kanoa Igarashi’s impetuous handwriting.

We had four judges: First, Head Judge and bonafide Portuguese surf god, Tiago Pires. Next is ex-CT and Young Gun surfer, Troy “Brooko” Brooks. The comp was presented and also judged by Japan’s great Olympic hope and CT wiz-kid, Kanoa Igarashi. Then bringing down the surf talent average in the judging panel was this author, Stab’s resident punching bag/part-time Senior Editor, me.

2019 YG Final Oscar Berry

Oscar Berry loves a tube (most likely) more than the next guy.

Okay, let’s fast forward. 

Even with the forecast doldrum, tubes, ramps, sections for hard carves and waves worthy of linking combinations were aplenty. This is Portugal, not Los Angeles. It’s one of the richest coastlines in the world for surf and diversity. All this pre-doom was quick to fade with the grom’s spinning gears in head-high wonk out in front of the hostel on day one. They then proceeded to slip into tubes, jump hefty ramps, and down carve any wave ranging from the head to well-overhead range. 

These kids made this comp for one reason: They’re some of the best 18U surfers in the world. No wonky forecast was going to stop them from putting in four-to-six-plus hours a day in the water. The competition was close; some might even call it fierce.

Then Levi Slawson went on a murderous run. Over the final days, it was like he couldn’t fall. He put on a display of airs, tail-whips, rail-grab carves, tubes and combos. He was surfing looser than his patented shaka… looser than Lindsay Lohan in Ibiza. Leading up to finals day, Leo Casal was trailing behind Levi by only a few points.

2019 YG Final Lifestyle 2

The 2019 Young Guns…and a couple resident Old Guns.

The best overall surfing throughout the eight days would win the 10k, and we were only counting the grom’s best maneuvers from each day. So, if someone did a carve that got a six on day one and didn’t top it throughout the comp, they’d have a six in that category. The top scores in each category: Air, Turn, Carve combined would go onto win. Also, the turn category could be subbed out by a solid tube. Combinations were taken into account, as well. 

Like any event worth investing in, it all came down to finals day. It was the first day of conditions that one would consider good, even great. Supertubos was super tubing. The previously onshore wind was offshoring. And the rain had cleared into a bluebird day. A perfect ending to a delightful eight-day trek. 

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Luke Swanson with the 11 o’clock dagger.

While Leo and Levi maintained their consistency, Oscar Berry, who (respectably) hit every section as hard as his 17-year-old body would allow, finally started sticking his board to the wave with his feet on top. He must’ve spent eight hours in the water on the last day, only coming in to eat two full pizzas, drink a Coke and return to a frenzy of tubes and roters. If he had put on a show like that all week, he might have just taken the check.

Luke Swanson also made his way out of the bathroom on the final day. And I only say that because poor Luke got violently sick and spent the majority of the trip in bed, dehydrated, making journeys back and forth from the toilet in utter agony. He found a few gems, but it was too-little-too-late. In the end, Levi took home a $10k check written out to “Leni Slawso.” 

Young Guns will always be a breeding ground for youthful talent, tap the play button above for a quick history of the franchise, and to watch these four groms tear the guts out of what Portugal had to offer. 

2019 YG Final Champ

Leni Slawso, collect your bills!


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