A full day of action at Virginia Beach's 1st Street Jetty saw the World Surf League (WSL) Vans Pro Men's QS3000 get back in the water along with the Vans Pro Junior. Both events put on a showcase of high-performance surfing in tough, choppy conditions as both events surfed through the Quarterfinals, setting up Finals day tomorrow.
Kanoa Igarashi (USA) dropped the highest single-wave score, 9.40, and heat total, 17.40 of the Vans Pro today in Round 5. After losing his Vans Pro Junior Quarterfinal heat, the Huntington Beach, CA native came back with a vengeance and posted an 8.67 on his last wave to win the heat. Igarashi looked to be on his way to being eliminated from both events before finding an inside wave that bowled up perfectly for him and he took full advantage.
"You just have to pick the right wave out here and I couldn't get anything going in my Juniors heat," Igarashi said. "I tried to learn from mistakes and just got really unlucky the heat before, but I felt like it was happening again until the end when everything came together. I was stoked to get that wave at the end and didn't want to over-surf it, and really just finish it strong."
Making it to the Semifinals, Igarashi has continued his success this year and has now strengthened his CT qualification hopes by moving further up the QS rankings, now focusing on a win to really solidify his spot with a win here in Virginia Beach, VA.
"I've had such a great year and it just keeps going and going," Igarashi said. "I'm so stoked. Just to get another 7th at least, it's going to go into my total for the season and move up the rankings a little just from this. I'm so thankful to just keep making heats and keep this roll going into tomorrow."
Perennial Qualifying Series (QS) campaigner Jesse Mendes (BRA) caused the sentimental upset of the event knocking out defending event champion and Virginia Beach local Michael Dunphy (USA) In a low scoring Quarterfinal. Mendes was relieved to earn the win with only 9.10 heat total and make it into the Semifinals in his first appearance at Virginia Beach, VA.
"It's my first time here so I knew I was going to have to grind it, but that was the most grinding heat I've ever surfed," Mendes said. "I'm super stoked to get the win even though I thought I was going to lose. The guys only needed a four to take the lead and I did what I had to do getting a smaller wave but giving everything I had on it. It wasn't really working for any of us out there so I'm really glad things went my way in the end."
A win here at the Vans Pro would kick-start Mendes' back half of the year, moving him into the Top 20, and putting the Brazilian in striking distance of a Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour (CT) qualification. But, he has his eyes set on the task at hand and is ready to grind for a victory.
"I'm just going to try and stay busy," Mendes said. "Even though I only won today's heat with an 9-point total I'd rather win with that than lose with a 7.50. I'm just going to take it heat by heat tomorrow - you never know what's going to happen. This is a really stacked competition in terms of rankings and who's here. The guys have been ripping so hopefully I get some more opportunities tomorrow and stick to my plan for the next one."
Kevin Schulz (USA) was in top form here at the 1st Street Jetty, posting the highest single-wave score, 9.00, and heat total, 16.00, of the Vans Pro Junior Quarterfinals. Attributing his success to the equipment he's on, Schulz is feeling confident in the water and his scores are reflecting it.
"Once I felt that wave under my feet I knew it was going to be a good score right away," Schulz said. "Connecting a wave with speed out here will get you a solid number. Getting out there and shifting from going left to right was a pretty easy transition just because my board feels amazing. It's a huge factor in my surfing right now to have a good board under me and go top to bottom on every wave has been giving me those scores."
Spending nearly six months out of the water with an ankle injury, Schulz's first event back is one he's taking pride in. Learning just as much out of the water as he does in it, the Californian is ready for finals day and has plenty of momentum carrying him forward.
"It was a good thing having some time to reset and get my focus back," Schulz said. "It made me want it that much more not surfing for so long. I came here just knowing I wanted to make the final and get a win. I'm just going to try and keep that mindset and come back tomorrow with the focus - there's still a couple more heats so hopefully I can do the same thing."
Arguably the most in-form surfer of the week, Noah Schweizer (USA) took the win in his stacked Quarterfinal heat over North American Junior Tour no.1, Igarashi and no.3 Griffin Colapinto (USA. The East Coaster stuck with his strategy and was able to grab the best waves in the heat.
"I've surfed against those two in Junior events the last few years and they're probably two of the best out there," Schweizer said. "I was definitely a little nervous going into it but stoked to get a couple waves and get moving. I just wanted to stay on the other side of them and try to keep my position the whole time because any little bump can turn into a wave."
Schweizer has successfully made it to both events' Semifinals and couldn't be more excited. The New Smyrna Beach, FL has proved himself a threat here in Virginia Beach, VA and will look to earn some big points on both fronts of competition tomorrow.
"I'm really just going heat by heat and giving everything I have," Schweizer said. "I just keep hoping the waves keep coming my way like they have been this whole time - pretty much my biggest worry out here is not getting any waves. I'm keeping that mindset and staying focused on the waves. I'll maybe go for something a little bigger in the Men's knowing what I'm up against there."
Finals day Call is at 8:30am for a possible 9am Start and will have the 2015 Vans Pro and Vans Pro Junior champions crowned by mid-day.