The World Surf League (WSL) Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro reached it's finale today with clean offshore conditions and 2-3 ft surf on offer at Shepard Park, Cocoa Beach, Fl. The third event on the North American Junior Series showcased the top North American male and female surfing talent Under 20, as part of a multi-stop series to qualify for the WSL Junior Championships.
In the Junior Women's, top honors were taken by San Clemente, California's Tia Blanco. The talented goofy-foot put on a fantastic display of power and flow throughout the 25 minute Final. In the somewhat in-consistent conditions she was able to get on a roll mid way through the heat finding the highest wave score of the Final, an 8.67, putting her in front of local favorite Caroline Marks. The win marks Blanco's maiden WSL victory, earning her $2,000.00 and 1000 rankings points, which moves her into the top spot on the overall Junior Series rankings.
"This feels really, really good. I've worked real hard for this," said an elated Blanco during her award acceptance. "It seems like every big event I've gone in, whether it was Amateur or Pro, I've had a mental block keeping me from winning. To finally win at this level is so nice."
"My strategy was really just to focus on my surfing," offered Blanco, in regards to her approach to the Final. "I didn't want to worry about the other girls too much, just knowing it's up to me to get the scores. That wave that I got the 8.67 on looked like a gem when I was paddling for it. It allowed me to do three turns, and I knew it was going to be a strong score."
"Caroline is so, so good," added Blanco. "She's a prodigy, and I'm excited to see what she does in the next few years. She's one of my favorite surfers."
Finishing as the runner-up was the local girl from just down the road in Melbourne Beach, Caroline Marks. Marks, who has been on a tear in the last 12 months winning nearly every Amateur title, was the crowd favorite. Despite a last minute push, she was still in need of an 8.00 ride to move into first when the horn sounded, but spirits were high for the savvy 13 year-old, who was stoked to be in the Final.
"We all had 5s and 6s, seesawing a little bit back and forth to start," said Marks, in review of the heat. "And then, really the only good one that came through around midway, Tia got it. It was the best wave of the heat and she dropped her 8.00 and not much came after that."
"I was psyched. The waves were fun, maybe a little slow in the Final, but I'm just stoked to get a good result and make the Final," admitted the cheerful Marks. "I'm 13 and all the girls here are so good, with more experience, so I'm just learning and trying to improve all the time."
Taking top honors in the Junior Men's event was Peru's Lucca Mesinas Novaro. The powerful regular-foot pulled out a last minute ride to snatch victory from perennial contender Kanoa Igarashi. With less than two minutes remaining in the Final, Mesinas Novaro was in 2nd position, looking for an 8.83. The wave of the contest came to him seemingly out of nowhere and he surfed it to a near perfect 9.17 to take the win, 1000 points and a check for $2,500.00.
"Right now I am super stoked. This is the second Junior Pro that I have won in my career, but the first for me in North America," said a happy Mesinas Novaro, following the final buzzer. "I was saying to god to give me one more opportunity to try to get the score. I was super nervous that maybe I wouldn't get the wave, but it came and I'm so happy to get this win."
"Kanoa did a couple of really good airs in the heat, and I was lucky to get that last wave and do really good turns. I did three backhand turns on that left and the final section I made sure I put a lot into it. It was a good wave."
"The waves were really good this year, and for me it was the best contest ever," summarized Mesinas Novaro during the awards presentation.
Finishing with a hard fought runner-up result was Huntington Beach's Kanoa Igarashi. Having held the lead for the majority of the final, following an explosive air reverse that was worth an 8.17 from the judges, Igarashi was unable to play defense on Mesinas Novaro, ultimately allowing him to catch his last minute ride.
"I chose to stay over next to Noe Mar (McGongagle) to keep an eye on him," said a disappointed Igarashi. "Lucca was on the other side of the contest area, and I didn't see a wave there the whole time. They both needed almost 9.00s to get me, and I couldn't stay with both of them, so I chose to stay where the waves seemed to be breaking most. But, then the craziest waves came to Lucca and I was just like oh man, is this happening."
"I felt like I was surfing a smart heat, which was actually one of the goals for me in the event, just to surf smart. I felt like I did that, up until the last two minutes of that heat."
"I hadn't really done airs the whole heat, and had a couple of sixes already, but knew I still needed to get my total up toward 15.00 points," said Igarashi in regards to his highest scoring ride in the Final. "So, I just went for the air on the one section and hucked it, hoping for an eight. The judges liked it, and I thought it might be enough for the win."
New Smyrna Beach's Daniel Glenn continues to hold down the top spot on the Junior Men's Rankings, heading into stop #4 this week in Hawaii, the Pipeline Pro Jr.
For more information on the Ron Jon Vans Pro Junior and other events happening at the Beach 'n Boards Fest visit www.beachnboardsfest.com.