The World Surf League (WSL) Vans Pro Junior competitors made their way back to the 1st Street Jetty in Virginia Beach, VA this morning to get Round 2 underway. With the Men's QS3000 event on Stand-by for the day, the Juniors had the day to themselves and gave their all in smaller conditions on hand to complete the round in its entirety - posting some massive numbers along the way.
The North American Junior Series Rankings leader, Kanoa Igarashi (USA), showed he wants to stay atop the leaderboard - posting the contest's highest single-wave score with a 9.10 and heat total, 17.67. The Huntington Beach, CA local looked to be on his way to earning a second place advancing position behind Hiroto Arai (JPN) until scoring an 8.57. Topping that with a 9.10 in the final minutes, Igarashi was able to come in early and reserve some scores for future rounds.
"The beginning of that heat was really tough," Igarashi said. "But then I was able to get a 7, 8, and then a 9 so everything worked according to plan. I wanted to save some energy so I came in early but it felt great to get those scores. That nine felt really great since it was one of the first real rides I've had on this board - it's an epoxy Al Merrick and goes really fast which is exactly what I want here in smaller waves."
Igarashi has big plans for the year, and this heat win inches him closer to those goals. Also competing in the Vans Pro Men's QS3000, Igarashi has progressed to the Round of 32 in each event and feels confident in his search to move far in these contests.
"I'm super stoked to be going in both events still," Igarashi said. "I want to win the North American Junior Series and qualify for the World Tour next year so both of these events here are really important to me. I just need to keep moving forward in these contests and today was good in terms of confidence building."
After being eliminated from the Vans Pro Men's QS3000, Noah Collins (USA) came into the Vans Pro Juniors knowing what his mistakes were and was able to correct them. Posting an excellent 8.00 score, Collins found a gem amidst the one-to-three foot conditions that he unloaded on.
"I had a bunch of waves that looked pretty similar but then found one that let me into it and go to town," Collins said. "It just went all the way down the beach and I kept going one turn after another, whereas the others I would do one turn and get caught behind it. It's basically just trial and error - if the wave lets you end up doing something then you have to take advantage."
Looking ahead, Collins will stick to his winning game plan and go into Round 3 with plenty of confidence. The Californian looked light on his feet, blasting each turn and has his wave selection dialed in.
"I just tried to go after every medium wave that looked average to above average," Collins said. "You just hoped to get that little double up section and open up on it. Going forward I'm going to keep that same mentality of which waves to go on - see what the conditions are doing and maybe do a board change, but if it's something similar then I'll stick with this board for sure."
Putting up the Juniors one of the highest single-wave score thus far in yesterday's Round 1 with an 8.87, Luan Wood (BRA) continued his winning form today in Round 2. Taking down a stacked heat including Nic Hdez (USA) and Dane Mackie (BRB) in the final minutes, Wood looked composed and is ready for more.
"I feel so good to be surfing my best on this wave," Wood said. "It's smaller and has some lulls but really fun when the sets come through. My heat yesterday was super hard with the guys I had to surf against, and today as well. In the final seconds I got that wave that took me from third to first and I was so stoked. I was in the best position for that wave and just tried my hardest on it. I knew it was my best score after finishing it and to win that heat was amazing."
Along with Wood, Cole Houshmand (USA) went from third to first on his final wave in the dying seconds and was exuberant coming out of the water. With the win under his belt, Houshmand moves forward with some momentum that is crucial in surf competitions - along with waiting for and recognizing the right wave to take.
"I just tried to be as patient as I could," Houshmand said. "You see any wave that comes through and just want to get it but thankfully in the last minute I saw that wave coming and knew I couldn't miss it - I was so stoked I got it. It felt really good to get the score and boosted my confidence knowing I could do that."
Houshmand is making his first appearance at a Pro Junior event here at the Vans Pro Juniors and is taking it all in - enjoying every bit of the atmosphere.
"This is my first WSL Pro Junior event and it feels really good to do well in the first heat," Houshmand said. "I'm just learning step-by-step and taking it as it comes. I'm super psyched right now so I'll get to go back to the room and get set for the next one. It's super fun staying right next to the contest site and coming down right before your heat. You've got the competitors area as well so you can chill with all your friends and the vibes here are great."
Tomorrow morning's 7am Call for a possible 7:30am Start will determine if the Vans Pro Men's QS3000 event or the Pro Junior event takes to the water.