Opening day of the World Surf League (WSL) Sprite Sup Bowl Pro Junior offered incredibly playful walls for competitors. Both the Men and Women got their events underway, putting on a spectacle of high-performance surfing worthy of excellent scores (8.00 or higher) throughout the day. Completing Rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men's and Round 1 of the Junior Women's, the Quarterfinals are set for the weekend.
Jake Davis (USA) is competing on the shores of Barbados for the first time after missing last year's event due to illness and is making up for lost time. Posting the event's first perfect 10 in Heat 5 of Round 2, Davis found a Caribbean gem worthy of genuine power turns from the Capo Beach, CA surfer.
"I was late into the paddle out and everyone was a little deeper on the point," Davis said. "And this really good, wide wave came in connecting all the way to the inside. There weren't any weird wobbles or anything, I could just go top to bottom and go through the motions all the way. I haven't gotten a 10 in a long time and that wave was a ten-point wave, whoever was going to get on that could've done the turns I did - it was perfect."
Finding success early is something Davis had to do, beginning his contest with his first win of the day in Round 1. In need of a massive result, the 18-year-old has a much bigger picture in mind but will not let the opportunity in front of him pass by.
"I've been here for about a week practicing because it's a must win for me," Davis said. "In order to qualify for the Junior World Championships I need some things to go my way but all I can really do is just try my best to win. I'm just trying to stay calm, go heat-by-heat, and chip away at it."
Entering the Sprite Soup Bowl Junior Pro at the last minute, Cam Richards (USA) was not going to miss the last Pro Junior of his career, winning both his Round 1 and Round 2 heats. Posting a 14.23 in Round 2, Richards looked sharp in a heat that demanded some of his best surfing alongside two up-and-coming Bajans and No.3 on the North America Pro Junior Rankings, Parker Coffin (USA).
"It's a little emotional that it's the last one so I didn't mind having to surf the extra heats since I wasn't sure on coming," Richards said. "But no matter what it's going to be a good time. Might as well try as hard as I can and go out with a win so it was fun to have a heat with Parker who really makes you challenge yourself. It's so great to have a reefbreak at a Pro Junior that breaks pretty much in the same spot every time. It eliminates a lot of the luck aspect which allows everyone to surf at their fullest - it's definitely a fun wave here. I was just waiting for the sets and figured if I got a good wave and surfed it well the score would reflect it."
With the Junior Series rankings leader Kanoa Igarashi (USA) double qualified through the Juniors and Men's Qualifying Series (QS), No.5 ranked Noah Schweizer (USA) is currently qualified for January's WSL Junior Championships. The New Smyrna Beach, FL local doesn't want to let his spot slip away, winning his Round 2 heat to earn a spot in the Quarterfinals.
"It feels good to get the first heat nerves out because I watched Parker and he had a shocker," Schweizer said. "It's pretty slow out there so you just have make sure you are selective and make the first heat. It's definitely a big event for all of us and I love this place, it's one of my favorite places to come and a great sendoff for the last Junior ever - unless I go to Worlds. Hopefully I just don't make any mistakes this year and just surf my heats."
Leading the charge for the Pro Junior Women in Round 1, Maddie Peterson (USA) lit up the reefbreak with the day's highest single-wave score, 7.83, and heat total of 14.00. Entering her last Junior event, the 17-year-old dealt with trickier conditions than the day's pristine start but still managed to show her form.
"I switched boards and remember just shaking the whole time being nervous, not knowing how it was going work out in these conditions," Peterson said. "It feels really good to get that score and take this wave to my advantage. Being one of the bigger girls here it gives you an extra push and I like my backhand right now - it's one of my favorite waves and I love being able to surf strong."
Action will resume Saturday morning as both the Men and Women have their draws set. Look for live scoring at www.worldsurfleague.com and follow along to see who will take this year's crown.