LIMA, Peru – On Friday, the United States won its first two medals in the inaugural surfing event at the Pan American Games, securing gold in the men’s stand up paddle race and silver in the women’s stand up paddle race. The United States added two bronzes to its medal count Sunday at Punta Rocas Complex with Daniel Hughes in men’s stand up paddle surfing and Cole Robbins in men’s longboard.
“I’m so grateful to be here,” Hughes said. “Just to be at the first ever Pan American Games (with surfing) representing my home country. I’m doing a sport that I love. It was a tough heat, but I’m grateful for bronze. Absolutely stoked.”
Hughes was first to compete for the United States. He was up against Tamil Martino of Peru, who had the advantage of having Punta Rocas as his practice venue. This advantage paid dividends early as Martino caught a swell and rode it nearly back to the shoreline, impressing the judges with a series of difficult maneuvers. This ride landed him a score of 9.67, just shy of a perfect ten.
“Home field advantage definitely plays a part,” Hughes said. “It’s so nice to surf on waves you see every day. You’re able to read the wave a lot better because you know it. If you surf somewhere all the time, you’re most likely going to get the good waves.”
While Martino was off to a successful start, Hughes struggled to keep pace. He scored a 4.50 and 2.33, respectively, on his first two rides after stumbles cut his surf short. He rebounded to record a 5.07 on his third attempt. After Martino had struggled in his two subsequent rides, Hughes needed just a 6.01 to overtake Martino for the lead.
This sense of hope was quickly erased with Martino’s next ride. Again, he rode a wave strong and true all the way up to the shoreline. The judges rewarded his performance with score of 9.23. Now, Hughes needed to put together a combined 18.90 to win the competition. While he did put forth a 5.77, his best score of the day, on his fifth attempt, he couldn’t build up the points needed to challenge. Martino won the heat with a total score of 18.90 and advanced to the gold medal surf as Hughes accepted bronze with his total score of 10.84.
Robbins was next up for the U.S. in the men’s longboard. As was the case in the first event, the U.S. got off to a slow start. Robbins’ opponent, Julian Schweizer of Uruguay, took the first two surfs, scoring a 3.00 on the first and a 6.83 on the second to secure an early lead. Robbins responded with a 3.83 on his first ride and a 5.17 on his second to put himself back in contention, needing just a 4.67 to take the lead.
Schweizer padded his lead with a 5.00 with 16 minutes left to surf. Now, Robbins needed a 6.67 to advance. Robbins did that and more, securing a score of 7.33 on his third surf to bump himself into the lead. This didn’t last long as Schweizer snatched his lead back on the subsequent surf by scoring a 6.20.
With just 10 minutes remaining, Robbins had to act fast to have a chance to advance to the gold medal heat. Instead, it was Schweizer that impressed. He saved his best for last with a 7.30 on his fifth surf and a 7.80 on his sixth, a total score of 15.10, to seal the win and his position in the gold medal heat. Robbins couldn’t muster a score good enough to challenge this in the waning minutes, remaining at his total score of 12.50 and settling for bronze.
“I’m very proud to represent my country, my family and my community in the debut of surfing in the Pan American Games,” Robbins said. “I was determined for the gold but I’m proud to make the podium. This was an important day for surfing.”