Another exciting morning of action at the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) Ron Jon Vans Pro Men's QS1000 witnessed more impressive surfing despite smaller conditions at Cocoa Beach, Fla. The wind backed off and an arriving east groundswell provided cleaner surf for some of North America's elite to pick apart as Round 4 was completed -- setting up some stacked Quarterfinal draws.
Brian Toth (PRI) continued to post more excellent numbers with the round's highest single-wave score of 8.50 in the opening heat and totaling a 15.00 heat score. Toth began his campaign in Round 2 and has been gaining momentum with each day.
"That wave came and I was nervous thinking I was too far out to make the double up so I had to paddle harder than usual but luckily got in," Toth said. "It gave me a couple sections and I just rode it real patiently which paid off well. It's not too much wind now so we're getting more of that groundswell that offers cleaner lines to figure out the sections to hit easier.
"We'll be getting into man vs. man heats and since there isn't a real dominating peak it's going to be interesting, but I'm excited for it," Toth added. "When it gets down to the countdown and you have priority you'll have to use it. I'm stoked to make it this far and I've got my strategy set for tomorrow so we'll see how it is -- hopefully I can take this thing out."
While Josh Burke (BRB) blasted Round 4's highest heat total of a 15.17, it was Taylor Clark (USA) who had to battle his way into the Quarterfinals -- trading exchanges with Venezuelan threat Rafael Pereira (VEN). Earning a 6.90 in the final 20 seconds, Clark took the runner-up spot from Pereira in dramatic fashion.
"I started off super slow which I hate doing and I was forced to surf a six- or seven- minute heat," Clark said. "I got my first six on one turn and a quick finish which helped big time. But, it was that last wave that came in when I needed it. I maybe shouldn't have tried to ride it through the hump into the reform but it paid off -- really fortunate to get that wave in the dying minute. I'm super excited for tomorrow and I'm just going to try and focus on my surfing."
Jake Marshall (USA) has been in great form here in Cocoa Beach, winning his Round 2 and Round 4 heats. He found himself within striking distance of vital points with a Quarterfinal appearance. Only catching three waves in his Round 4 heat, Marshall stuck to his strategy which paid dividends for him in the end.
"It was slow but I told myself I just needed to catch the two best waves of the heat so I tried to be on them," Marshall said. "I lost my heat in the Junior Pro because I didn't get the best waves and I wasn't going to make that mistake again. I'm stoked to make it through this one and get to the one-on-one match ups because it's so much fun."
The 16-year-old bested Round 3's standout performer, Cory Arrambide (USA), after earning a 6.73 and will take on east coast threat Cam Richards (USA) in the one-on-one format.
"With the man versus man it's much easier strategy wise knowing you just have to beat one other guy," Marshall said. "You have to point out what their strengths and weaknesses are but really just focus on your heat. It simplifies the heat a lot more. I got a bunch of Sharp Eye boards before this event and just started riding for them so I'm psyched on that. They're going insane with boards this year."
Event organizers will reconvene at 8:30am for a 9:00am Start for the Men's QS1000 Quarterfinal action and crown a champion later in the day.