Orange County’s best junior surfers ready to represent Team USA in Brazil
Sara Freyre did not have to travel far to practice with the USA Surfing Junior National Team earlier this month.
The travel team gathered on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier, a place that Freyre knows like the back of her hand.
The accomplishments keep building like a big wave for Freyre, 16, a junior at Huntington Beach High School. She’s a two-time NSSA national women’s open champion and two-time state champion as well.
Suiting up for the red, white and blue is an added privilege, however.
“It’s super-cool just to be part of a team, especially Team USA,” said Freyre, who competed for the team last year in El Salvador. “Surfing’s kind of an individual sport, but it’s cool to bring it together and be on a team full of amazing surfers and work together.”
Freyre and her friends head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Tuesday for the 2023 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, which starts Friday and runs through Dec. 3.
The travel roster is ripe with Orange County locals, as they make up five athletes on the 12-surfer team. Freyre was one of three Under-18 girls selected, while Mia McLeish and Eden Walla of San Clemente made the U16 girls’ team.
Costa Mesa’s Quaid Fahrion was one of three U16 boys to make the cut, as was Rex Hennings of San Clemente.
The full roster also includes Cole McCaffray, Lucas Owston and Titus Santucci (boys’ U18), Will Deane (boys’ U16), Zoe Chait and Talia Swindal (girls’ U18) and Lanea Mons (girls’ U16). Alternates include Kylie Pulcini, Avery McDonald, Hayden Rodgers and Teddy Wittemann.
Two-time U.S. Open of Surfing champion and Santa Ana native Courtney Conlogue will coach the squad in Brazil along with fellow assistant coach Asher Nolan, in the absence of head coach and Seal Beach native Ryan Simmons.
Team USA will be trying to better a bronze medal team finish in El Salvador at last year’s ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. Freyre, Swindal and Owston are the three returners from last year’s competition.
“I’ve been working hard and I feel like I’ve improved since last year,” said Freyre, who tied for 25th in U16 girls among nearly 100 surfers worldwide last year. “I’m just going to go out there and do my best, take it heat by heat. I feel super-honored just to be picked, one of three girls for the U18 team in the whole USA to be able to go and represent our team.”
The presence of one of her idols in the sport, Conlogue, is not lost on Fryre. Conlogue, a Sage Hill School alumna who’s now 31, was a two-time world-title runner up in 2015 and ’16 and is a Surfing Walk of Fame member.
She has been involved with USA Surfing since age 11 and was coached by local legend Peter “PT” Townend in those early years.
“I look up to her a lot, so it’s really cool to have her take on things, have her as a coach and a mentor as well,” Freyre said.
Fahrion, 15, is a sophomore at Pacifica Christian High School. He has surfed internationally in Indonesia before, but he said he’s not really sure what to expect in Brazil.
“I’m just really excited,” Fahrion said. “This is something that I’ve been working toward for a long time. In the last year, training with all of these guys has been helping me a lot.”
He said his goal is to bring an intensity to his surfing, and he hopes that will help him next week at Junior Worlds.
“My mindset is to surf like I’m in a heat all the time,” Fahrion said. “That helps me when I’m actually in heats. It’s not like I’m just cruising or chilling out in the water.”
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