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Argentinian, Chilean and Ecuadorian Surfing Teams – Preview

Having covered the chances of the biggest teams in world surfing, the likes of the USA, Australia and Brazil, it’s time to have a look at the minnows. Argentina, Chile and Ecuador have each managed to compile teams of one to send to Tokyo despite not having any regulars on the world tour, so let’s have a look at who will be competing for each of these three nations.


Leandro Usuna is the man who will be carrying the blue and white flag of Argentina to Tokyo, having qualified back in 2019 through the Pan American Games. Only one male and one female made it to the Olympics via that route, and Usuna qualified despite actually finishing second – this happened because of a strange quirk of the qualification which saw Peru’s Lucca Mesinas, who won, instead be given a spot through the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games. Never mind how that happened – the end result is they are both heading to Tokyo!

You may not have heard of Usuna given he has never competed at the top level, but he has actually been plying his trade on the Qualifying Series for over a decade. And while he’s been a fairly consistent presence at that level and has had a handful of good results, he hasn’t exactly enjoyed an overwhelming amount of success. It took until 2016 for Usuna to first advance to a final, and as of 2021 he still hasn’t managed a win at the level – though he did take out the ISA World Surfing Games in both 2014 and 2016. A disproportionate amount of his good results have come at the Rip Curl Pro in his native Argentina, while the second place at the Pan American Games which saw him qualify for the Olympics was also a highlight.

An experienced regular footer, Usuna won’t be one of the major threats at Tsurigasaki Beach. This will be the toughest field of surfers he has ever competed against, and though he obviously has talent he will likely struggle to match it with the best surfers in the world. If he makes it through to the top ten, that will be an achievement in itself, but a medal appears out of reach.


Chile’s sole surfer heading to Tokyo is Manuel Selman, another experienced South American who has spent more than ten years in the Qualifying Series. He first competed at that level one year before Usuna in 2008, 19 years after he was born in a town called Vińa del Mar a little to the northwest of Chile’s capital Santiago. 

A goofy-footer with a particularly strong backhand, Selman’s career has followed a very similar path to that of Usuna – in his 13 years in the Qualifying Series he has never won an event, though he did take out the Gold Medal at the 2016 Pan American Games. He earned his spot in Tokyo courtesy of his performance at the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games, where he finished in a tie for ninth place but still qualified because two of the surfers above him had already reserved their spot through another route, while another couple competed for countries who had filled their quotas.

Like Usuna, Manuel Selman’s presence at the Olympics will no doubt be a career highlight, but he’s not likely to be competing when the whips are cracking in the latter stages of the event. Winning a heat or two would be a surprise against the quality he will competing against, and a medal would be an enormous surprise.


Ecuador’s representative is Dominic – AKA Mimi – Barona, the third experienced pro from these three countries. Like the Argentinian and Chilean men we covered above, she has never competed at the top level, and has instead spent her 11-year career in the Qualifying Series. The 30-year-old has, however, enjoyed a decent amount of success in various events throughout the course of her career, establishing herself as one of the best surfers in South America in the process.

Among these included a second-place finish at the ISA World Surfing Games in 2014, where she managed to put together the highest individual round score in event history. She finished 2018 as the South American champion of the WSL, and like Argentina’s Leandro Ursuna, qualified for Tokyo the next year through her first possible avenue – the Pan American Games. Also like Ursuna, she finished in second, falling in the final to Peru’s Daniella Rosas, but under the same qualification quirk she advanced through that event, while Rosas qualification came through the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games.

Perhaps more so than the Argentinian and Chilean surfers mentioned above, Barona has some chance of causing a few headaches for some of the top-rated surfers. She has shown a capacity to surf at an extremely high level and has enjoyed numerous good results in the past, and if she brings her A-game could advance through a round or two. In terms of going a step further, however, and matching it with the Moore’s and Gilmore’s of the world, she will likely struggle, and would be a surprise addition to the podium come tournament’s end.

None of these countries would necessarily have expected to have a representative at the inaugural Olympic surfing event, though each of the aforementioned three surfers have established themselves as among the most competitive in South America over an extended period of time. The Olympic Games, however, will be a different ball game entirely, and it’s likely that these three names will struggle against the might of the best surfers in the world.