April 23, 2023
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

PanAms in Panama: Brazil and Argentina win gold, Canada’s comeback queen qualifies for Santiago 2023

above: the women’s podium from today’s surf race, L-R: Mariecarmen, Lina, Juliana, Natalia (via dukesurf.com)

With all the buzz building ahead of next weekend’s big double header in Carolina and Spain, let’s not forgot that another important event is happening right now…

The Pan American Surfing Games – sort of like the “ISA Worlds of the Americas” – are being held in Panama this week featuring shortboard, longboard, SUP surfing and racing. Panama is the second-chance qualifier for the 2023 PanAm Games in Santiago, Chile – sort of like the “Olympics of the Americas” – following the ISA Worlds in Puerto Rico six months ago.

While some of the big names set for Santiago had the luxury of bypassing Panama (Connor Baxter, Candice Appleby and Jenny Kalmbach already qualified through the Worlds) we did see a couple of very familiar faces and plenty of dark horses in action today.

Winning the surf race in a time of 49 minutes was Juliana González of Argentina, one of the leading lights of South America who is supremely underrated outside the region. Juliana – who you may recognise as @julisupargentina on Insta – tamed the small, messy surf to win by more than two minutes.

Lina Augaitis winding back the clock (via pasasurf.org)

Coming home second was a very familiar face for long-time fans of the sport: Lina Augaitis of Canada. The former world number two, BOP runner-up and 2014 ISA marathon champion has made a comeback after six years in the wilderness with the main goal of qualifying for the PanAms. With today’s silver, Lina has done just that and will join another comeback Queen in Jenny Kalmbach on the sand in Santiago in late October.

Argentina dominated the podium with Natalia de la Lama taking bronze ahead of Puerto Rico’s Mariecarmen Rivera who takes home the copper medal and presumably a spot on the start line for Santiago.

It wasn’t all smiles in Panama today though with Brazil’s red hot favourite Lena Ribeiro forced to retire hurt after her board and head had a mid-race meeting. Not only favourite in today’s race, Lena is the defending PanAm gold medalist so this incident will probably be a tough blow both physically and emotionally. We’re hoping she’s ok…

Brazil, the traditional powerhouse of paddling in South America, did manage to secure gold in the men’s race as young Guilherme dos Reis took the win in 44 minutes (what’s with the marathon surf races?) ahead of the Peruvian Prince, Itzel Delgado.

Looks like Gui has been training hard ahead of the new season (via dukesurf.com)

I thought Gui might be the next big thing five years ago – as a youngster he was the hero of the last ever Pacific Paddle Games in 2018 – but we haven’t seen a lot of him since. Now that he’s qualified for the PanAms he’ll have a spot on the stage for one of the highest-profile events in our sport’s history, and I’m really hoping it’s the start of a renaissance for the uber-talented Brazilian (the Guiaissance?).

Follow @guidosreissup on Insta to track Gui’s journey towards the main event.

Itzel, one of the most-recognisable names in today’s race, had a shocker of a start before working his way back through the field into the silver medal position. With qualification already secured at the Worlds this was just a test run — Itzel will join Gui in taking on the likes of Conbax at the PanAms in six months.

Coming home third and fourth today was the Argentine duo of Franco Faccin and Santino Basaldella. Argentina thoroughly dominated the podiums collecting 4 of the 8 medals: 1x gold, 2x bronze and 1x fourth-place copper medal. If we have France and Spain battling for supremacy in Europe I guess you could say we’ve got Brazil and Argentina doing the same in South America.

(Team Quickblade also took home 4 out of 8 medals today: QB seems to dominate even more than usual in this part of the world — they were by far the top team at the ISA Worlds in Puerto Rico as well.)

While I haven’t been able to find the full results I did see a few of the juniors up near the front of the field. The official @panamericansurf has a bunch of stories and posts over on IG if you want to see more.

While geography and language always make it a bit trickier to gauge what’s happening in Latin America, the level of enthusiasm among the teams at this week’s event was a pretty good sign. And I’m very interested to see how it all goes in Santiago later this year… While the PanAm are met with a shrug of the shoulders for much of the world, they’re a crazy big deal for the countries involved (it really is a mini Olympics).

SUP racing debuted at the previous PanAms in 2019, where Connor and Lena took gold, which probably offered stand up paddling its biggest stage to date, and 2023 should be even bigger..

PanAm Games timeline

November 2022
ISA Worlds
Puerto Rico

April 2023
Pan American Surfing Games

20 October – 5 November 2023
Pan American Games
Santiago, Chile
the main event

The top 10 men and women from Puerto Rico and Panama qualify for Santiago (with a limit of one athlete per country per race)

photo credits: Dukesurf.com and pasasurf.org