From 24 May, the world’s top junior surfing stars are set to gather on France’s southwest coast, where they will compete for the 2008 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.

Organised by the French Surfing Federation (FFS) with the support of the French Ministry of Sport, Youth and Health and sanctioned by the International Surfing Association (ISA), this major meeting on the surfing calendar is returning to France for the first time since 1992 (when it was held in Lacanau, and won by Chad Edser).

The ISA World Junior Surfing Championships is uniquely imbued with the Olympic spirit, as it is officially recognised by the IOC.

Unlike the formats commonly adopted for professional surfing competitions, the almost 300 competitors will be grouped into national teams, and will surf in official representation of their countries. In addition to the individual World Junior Champions titles, they will also be competing together for the title Junior Team World Champion. The winners will be awarded the ISA World Junior Team Champion. The current World Team champion is Australia, who won it last year in Costa de Caparica, Portugal.

There will be a distinct Olympic feel to proceedings as well. Highlights are set to include the grand Parade of Nations in Hossegor on May 24th, and the procession will end with the now traditional Sands of the World Ceremony.

News just in: the official competition venue has just been unveiled as Plage du Penon, Seignosse.

The 28 countries in the 2008 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship will include Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hawaii, Ireland, Israël, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New-Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Tahiti, UK, USA and Venezuela.

THE FRENCH TEAM

Marc Lacomare, Charlie Martin, Pierre-Valentin Laborde and Mehdi Veminardi will represent France in the Boys U18 category. For the U16s, Maxime Huscenot, Dimitri Ouvré, Kieran Bulard and Ian Fontaine will be flying the French flag. For the girls, Pauline Ado, Alizée Arnaud and Marie Dejean are certain to be competing in the ISA World Junior Championship. There is still one place up for grabs for the girls, and Justine Dupont, Cannelle Bulard and Johanne Defaye are the three candidates. All the athletes will meet up on May 17 to prepare for the Championship. On 19 May, the FFS’ National Technical Director, François Pradier, will announce the name of the fourth and final girl to qualify for the French team.

FRANCE /COSTA RICA

At the initiative of the FFS, a match between the French and Costa Rican teams, directed by the Christophe Commarieu, will take place on Wednesday 21 May at La Grande Plage, Biarritz. The warm-up event, organised by the Biarritz Association of Surf Clubs (BASC), is an opportunity for the French Junior Team to prepare for the tough challenge of international competition. It forms part of the final preparations for the French group of sixteen U18s, whom the French Surfing Federation has chosen to spearhead the country’s bid for glory. After the warm-up match, both teams, their entourages and the partners of the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship will attend a special reception at the Hôtel de Ville in Biarritz.

THE PARADE OF NATIONS

The celebratory team pageant will start at the town hall in Hossegor at 2pm on Saturday 24 May, and will proceed - with musical accompaniment - to the Casino d’Hossegor, where the traditional Sands of the World Ceremony will take place.

The representatives from each country will pour sand from their home nation into a special box, as a sign of peace and fraternity.

Refreshments will be served at the Casino after the ceremony.

GLITTERING PRIZES FOR THE WINNERS

Unlike at the professional tournaments, young surfers take part in the ISA World Junior Championship solely for the honour of representing their country, either individually or collectively. Those who are named World Champion in each category will also receive some great prizes.

For the Boys Under 18 category: a spot to the trials of Quiksilver Pro 08 (France) and Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast 09 (Australia).

For the Girls Under 18 category, a spot to the trials of Roxy Pro Hawaii 08 and Roxy Pro Gold Coast 09 (Australia).

The winner in the Boys Under 16 category will receive from Quiksilver the equivalent of $2000 trip.

CONCERTS

At the end of the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, all the competitors will come together at a concert featuring Mick Hart and Rogerthat, to take place at 8pm on June 1st at La Salle des Bourdaines, Seignosse.

With a style somewhere between Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, Mick Hart has already played support to some massive names including Coldplay, Sting, Bob Dylan and The Pretenders. More recently, he played alongside Van Morrison at the Olympia in Paris, and took to the stage with the John Butler Trio on their French tour in 2007. Mick Hart.com.

Rogerthat is an Australian group who have performed at festival gigs alongside Rage Against the Machine or Björk. Should be great.