The World Surf League (WSL) North American Pro Junior Series' first-ever RVCA Pro Junior presented by Jack's Surfboards champion emerged after two days of action in Newport Beach, CA. Matt Passaquindinci (USA) took down the field in dominating fashion, earning the outright lead early and never looking back. Hailing from just up the road in Huntington Beach, Passaquindici came out flying, earning a 6.83 and then backing it up right away with an excellent 8.00 - each in a different spot in the lineup. This marks Passaquindici's first WSL win with a victory at the 56th Street Jetty.
"I wanted to start quickly and got those two waves right off the bat - just can't believe that everything went my way," Passaquindinci said. "I don't know if it's local knowledge or just some good vibes but paddling right back out after the first wave then getting another bomb was just insane. It was just a really good, punchy wave and I was able to stab the first turn then just wanted to put an exclamation point on it - slid the tail and I was so stoked to pull it. It's unbelievable, I couldn't be happier to finally get a win."
Taking down a stacked heat including Josh Burke (BRB), Kalani David (HAW), and Parker Coffin (USA), Passaquindici went into the Final with his mind in the right place - paying dividends in the end. The result launches Passaquindici into a position of possibly qualifying for the WSL Junior Championships with one event remaining on the North America Junior Series.
"It didn't matter who was going to be in the Final, I just wanted to get busy early and stick to my game plan," Passaquindici said. "These contests are not easy at all and I can't believe I won one. They're such a challenge and everyone here is a threat so to come out on top - I'm so excited. I wasn't going to sign up for Barbados but now I'm definitely going. I need another result with my goal being to qualify for Worlds."
Finding himself in a second consecutive final, Josh Burke (BRB) finished runner-up at the inaugural RVCA Pro Junior. Earning the highest single-wave score of the Final, an 8.33, Burke made a run at Passaqunidici but the waves did not cooperate in the final minutes.
"It feels good to make another final but definitely bummed at the same time making two finals and not a win," Burke said. "After Matt got those two bombs the waves went flat for almost fifteen minutes but then I got lucky and found a set. I was stoked to get the 8.33 but then needing a 6.0, and not another wave came. But, at least I'm moving up and now just need to earn a win at home."
RVCA Team Rider Kalani David (HAW) represented himself and the event sponsors well, earning third place after an exuberant effort here in Newport. After a great competitive streak on the East Coast, David continued to show he is a reoccurring threat on different platforms. David is one to recognize when someone else is lighting it up - something he had a front row seat to as Passaquindici came out firing.
"I was talking to Matt in North Carolina and remember him saying ‘I just want to win or at least make a Pro Junior Final' so I couldn't be prouder of him," David said. "Seeing him get those two turns on a bigger wave I could see it being good and then a minute later he just blasted an 8.0. He was just really in rhythm with the ocean and I was making some big mistakes. You have to learn from those mistakes."
Moving forward, David has plenty of support in his corner and can take some words of wisdom from fellow Hawaiian and former UFC Champion, BJ Penn.
"Being here for the first-ever RVCA event means a lot to me," David added. "It's amazing to see them on the beach in Newport coming full force and gave me a lot of confidence. You can learn a lot from taking a loss and BJ told me setbacks just leave more room for comebacks. He's been a big inspiration in my life."
The final event of the North American Pro Junior Series is right around the corner, beginning mid-November, and will be the last opportunity to lock in a qualification spot for the Junior World Championships.