LIMA, Peru (AP) — Surfers Kevin Schulz of the United States and Cody Young of Canada made history on Monday as the first competitors in the ocean during the sport’s debut in the Pan American Games.
Young earned 10.43 points to Schulz’s 7.50 at Punta Rocas beach, a reef break located about 38 miles (60 kilometers) south of the Peruvian capital of Lima. Surfing will also make its Olympic debut next year in Tokyo, and is one of the “wait and see” sports at the Pan Am Games. That means top man and woman surfers not yet qualified for the Olympics will earn a spot, although the top finishers from the Pan Ams won’t be confirmed until May 2020.
The 20-year-old Young said his victory was bittersweet. He was glad to qualify for the next round. But he said it was tough to compete against Schulz because he’s a close friend and they often meet to catch waves.
“It’s crazy. I don’t usually like to be first heat of the day. If you ask a lot of surfers it’s not their favorite thing, but now that I think about it, it’s pretty insane that I get to do it for this event,” Young told The Associated Press. “The first heat ever of the Pan American Games for surfing, and to win it, it means the world.”
Surfing’s debut at the Pan Am Games coincided with Schulz’s 24th birthday. He will now compete for a spot in the final against other surfers who placed highly but failed to win their heats.
“It was a pretty cool experience. Obviously it’s hard to have a heat with one of your good friends early on and I didn’t win that heat. But it was a good experience and I’m not done yet. I have more heats coming up and I’m excited,” Schulz told the AP.
“Regardless of how I turned out, it’s a huge honor to represent my country.”
Young said since the waves were small, he tried to hit as many as possible.
“I was a little bit nervous to be surfing this first day, you know, with the waves being small, because I like big waves. Personally it’s kind of more in my wheelhouse,” he said. “The events that I’ve done well are usually in Hawaii, where the waves are big.”
He’s amped about waves that are expected to reach up to 15 feet later this week. “It’s supposed to be at least twice as big as it is today,” Young said.
Canadian coach Shannon Brown said he also had mixed feelings when he saw Young and Schulz in the water.
“Kevin spends a lot of time in Canada, so he’s really good friends with the entire team and the entire organization. He’s like an honorary Canadian,” Brown said. “And we’re so happy that he’s here with us but we’re also bummed that we had to have a heat with him. ... Kevin is such an amazing surfer that I’ve no doubt he can fight his way back to the final from here.”
Schulz won the 2018 Jacks Pro QS 1500 and competed in the ISA World Surf Games in 2018, contributing to the team that won the bronze medal.
“Going into the next rounds I just need to focus on putting myself into the best waves possible and I should win,” Schulz said. “I know I can go all the way to the final and win the gold.”