Sierra Kerr (AUS) and Jett Schilling (USA) won the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western and added their name to surfing history as WSL World Junior Champions. Kerr and Schilling overcame formidable fields to earn the World Junior Titles and claim their spots on the 2024 Challenger Series. Impressive showings from Zoe Benedetto (USA) and Jackson Bunch (HAW) earned them runner-up finishes after surmounting world-class opponents as they return to their respective Qualifying Series (QS) events in hopes of joining the 2024 Challenger Series contenders.

Kerr Kickstarts Competitive Surfing Legacy with World Junior Championship

A star-studded women’s Final featured one of the sport’s rising stars, Sierra Kerr (AUS), and current North America Qualifying Series (QS) No. 1, event wildcard, Zoe Benedetto (USA). A masterclass performance from Kerr’s signature progression and flair provided a near-perfect 9.00 (out of a possible 10) after opening the heat with a 7.83. Benedetto’s excellent 8.00 kept her in the heat, but slower conditions tested the Floridian’s patience and didn’t get the opportunity to perform before time expired.

“That was the craziest heat,” said Kerr. “It’s amazing to win. I feel like I haven’t been surfing that good this contest. I went in the Final just going to leave nothing on the table. I felt like I actually surfed good, so I was frothing. I wasn’t even expecting to qualify for the Challenger Series. I forgot that was a thing. That’s insane. Thank you to everyone who came and watched, and everyone that’s watching.”

In the 2022 SAMBAZON World Junior Championships, Sierra Kerr (AUS) established herself as a competitive threat with her Semifinal appearance and continues to push the boundaries of progressive surfing. Kerr backed herself up by winning the 2023 Australia/Oceania Pro Regional title and then showcased even more progression with a flawless run in Oceanside heading into the Final after a 16.17 heat total (out of a possible 20) victory over Talia Swindal (USA) in the Semifinals. Now, Kerr prepares for a big year ahead among the Challenger Series contenders and the opportunity to qualify for the 2025 Championship Tour (CT).

Schilling Delivers Southern California First World Junior Title Since 2018

A clash of event standouts delivered fireworks in the men’s Final between Southern California’s own Jett Schilling and Maui, Hawaii’s Jackson Bunch (HAW). Schilling wasted no time getting busy, posting a 6.33 on his first wave before finding a gem that allowed him to unleash his quick, powerful backhand for an excellent 8.33. Bunch was able to respond, posting a 6.00, but Schilling was relentless and posted a 7.17 to apply pressure to Bunch before besting that with a 7.90 and become a WSL World Junior Champion.

“It was so special, I couldn’t believe it,” said Schilling. “I just want to thank God and my family first and thank them for everything they’ve done for me This is really special for me, all my friends are here, it’s just surreal. Thank you to everyone. I have to work even harder for this year and just keep going until I get on the CT with all my friends.”

Schilling completed a flawless run of his own, not losing a single heat on the way to becoming the 2023 WSL World Junior Champion. The 20-year-old Schilling battled with fellow Southern Californian Levi Slawson in a stout Semifinal clash and surged past him in brilliant form. One of San Clemente’s rising talents, Schilling now returns to the Challenger Series in hopes of qualifying for the Championship Tour for 2025 alongside his fellow California contingent.

Benedetto and Bunch Earn Runner-up Finishes Amid World-Class Fields

An incredible run from wildcard Zoe Benedetto (USA) played the ultimate spoiler throughout competition all the way to the Final. Benedetto, the current North America Qualifying Series (QS) No. 1, surpassed reigning South America Regional Pro Junior victor Sol Aguirre (PER) in their Semifinal clash before her Final showdown with eventual WSL World Junior Champion Sierra Kerr (AUS). Now, Benedetto returns to the QS in search of maintaining her re-qualification place onto the 2024 Challenger Series.

“This week is my first World Juniors,” said Benedetto. “I couldn’t be more grateful for my team, my family, my friends, that support me through this. That final was like one of the highlights. I just felt really accomplished making it there. I felt not too pressured. Congrats to Sierra, she’s pushing women’s surfing so much. To share a Final with her is amazing. I’m really grateful. Can’t thank WSL enough, and everyone for making it a special weekend.”

Jackson Bunch’s (HAW) run throughout the World Junior Championships culminated with a runner-up finish. Bunch eliminated Leo Casal (BRA) in the Semifinals this morning with an excellent heat score of 16.63. But, Bunch couldn’t quite carry the momentum from the Semifinals into the Finals heat against Schilling, losing his first heat of the competition, and nearly joined Kai Barger (HAW) as one of Maui’s WSL World Junior Champions.

“The waves have been super fun. Just unlucky with the waves in that last heat,” said Bunch. “But, I’m super stoked and super grateful for this opportunity. I’m just having fun and I’m along for the ride.”

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SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Women’s Final Results:
1 – Sierra Kerr (AUS) 16.83
2 – Zoe Benedetto (USA) 11.50

SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Men’s Final Results:
1 – Jett Schilling (USA) 16.23
2 – Jackson Bunch (HAW) 13.37

SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Women’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Zoe Benedetto (USA) 10.17 DEF. Sol Aguirre (PER) 9.77
HEAT 2: Sierra Kerr (AUS) 16.17 DEF. Talia Swindal (USA) 12.26

SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Jett Schilling (USA) 14.00 DEF. Levi Slawson (USA) 4.50
HEAT 2: Jackson Bunch (HAW) 16.63 DEF. Leo Casal (BRA) 13.33

The 2023 SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western are proudly supported by SAMBAZON, Best Western, Cup Noodles, Visit Oceanside, Original Sprout, Sun Diego, Boxed Water, Board and Brew, and Tractor Beverage Co.