The World Surf League (WSL) Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro finished competition today in fading two-to-three foot, southeast windswell as an incredible Final capped off a great event for the Junior Men. When the final horn sounded, Kei Kobayashi came out the water in exuberant fashion - securing his first Junior Pro victory at age 17.
Kobayashi surfed beside himself, posting a near-perfect 9.83 and 8.00 to put the entire field in a combination situation. Taking down an in-form Chauncey Robinson, along with event standouts John Mel (USA) and Che Allan, Kobayashi blasted the event's highest single-wave score of 9.83 and heat total of 17.83 after already earning multiple 8.50s. The 17-year-old was all smiles coming out of the water and has a big year ahead of him.
"This is my first Junior Final I've ever made so I'm beyond stoked - I can't believe it happened," Kobayashi said. "One of my goals this year was just to make a Final, the level of competition is incredible and all week I just wanted to keep bettering myself. I was definitely just focused on my surfing in that last heat, everyone was surfing so well and it comes down to who gets the best waves. This year I want to do my best and make some more Finals; this summer will be super important."
Hailing from San Clemente, Calif., Kobayashi had a home away from home here in Cocoa that he attributes much of his success to - along with great surfing and solid board under his feet.
"The last fifteen minutes I just wanted to stay away from the pack after getting those two big scores right away," Kobayashi said. "I was so happy with my surfing this week and my boards were amazing even though I got some funny comments about how wide they are being a 5'4 and 18.6-inches wide. This means a lot to me and I can't thank the Coleman family enough for showing me the love they did - I felt so at home here and that was a huge difference coming to compete each morning."
Earning a personal best runner-up after a fantastic showing here in Cocoa Beach, Chauncey Robinson was elated with his finish. After facing elimination in the Semifinals, Robinson posted a 6.77 in the dying seconds to clinch a Finals spot and is off to a flying start in 2016.
"Making the Final here is probably the best thing that's happened in my competitive career so far," Robinson said. "When I got that last score in the Semis I was so stoked, just had to throw a little claim on it out of pure emotion. It's just a Junior Pro but it was such a tough event and I'm so psyched to get second-place. Everybody kind of knew that Kei was going to run away with after those two scores so in my mind I just wanted to do my best and really earn that second spot. It was amazing to have my family and friends support on the beach today, I never take that for granted."
Blasting through an incredible run at this event, John Mel posted some excellent numbers throughout the contest and finished third-place in the Final. With not too many events in the North America region, Mel is looking to take full advantage of them and continue this winning form for a chance at his ultimate goal this year.
"I was stoked to make it through to the Final with the waves being really challenging - I'm not really used to these conditions but I put a lot of time in to make sure my boards were good," Mel said. "That's something I see as super important when the waves are small like this so you can make it over flat sections and make the most of them. I'll keep my focus on the Junior Tour this year with some QS events in mind but I really want to make it to Worlds - that's just my big goal."
"Everything was going well through this event and I was posting some good scores but just couldn't find the right waves in the Final," Allan said. "I'm so stoked though, that's my first Junior Pro and I think we're all just excited to start the year off with some points and cash. I'm focusing more on the Junior events but with the Men's QS involved in a lot of them I'm wanting to compete in both so this year is going to be really fun."