The World Surf League (WSL) Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) season is in full swing and the teens stormed the North Shore Monday for a full day of competition at the Pipe Pro Junior. A JQS1,000 rated event, this is the eleventh stop on the Junior tour and third contest in the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region.
Fresh off a win in Tahiti, current Junior ratings leader Noah Hill (USA) from Maui went down in Round 2 to Keoni Picollo (HAW) and Quentin Turko (USA). Hill, 14, won the Papara Pro Junior last week with standout aerial maneuvers at the rampy beach break, but missed out on a solid finish today at Pipeline. Picollo, from Waialua, Oahu, is looking to make a Final and raise his standing on the junior rankings.
Nolan Rapoza (USA) of Long Beach, Calif., earned the highest score of the day, a 9.60 for a long, Backdoor barrel. The 18-year-old used competitive strategy to hold off his opponent and ended up advancing in first place. Rapoza will head to the Caribbean in April for the Martinique Surf Pro QS3,000 and has his sights set on a productive year.
"I definitely want to win a Junior Pro, make some finals in the QSs, I really just want to do well this year," said Rapoza. "I want to get points to go into the 10,000s, I want to make it to World Juniors, there's a lot of goals this year so hopefully I succeed."
Replacement surfer Kona Oliveira (HAW) had a solid start to the competition after getting into Round 1 in place of Will Gorssarth (USA). The 17-year-old had a near-perfect wave Monday morning, a 9.50 to take the heat win and advance ahead of Dante Silva (HAW).
"It felt good, got some waves. It's not perfect but it's definitely good enough to surf with only three guys out, I'm not complaining," said Oliveira. "Every single heat there's potential out there, you just have to pick and chose the right ones for sure."
The North Shore surfer has strived each year to qualify for the Vans Triple Crown, the year-ending elite surfing series that takes place along the seven mile miracle.
"My goal for this year is really just get into the Triple Crown," he said. "I want to be able to do Haleiwa, Sunset and try and get into that spot in Pipe. It's been my dream since I was a little kid. It's always the goal. But each year it feels like I'm getting closer and closer to it. So just keep doing what I'm doing and try to have fun with it and make some more heats."
Another junior surfer with big goals is Sebastian Williams (ZAF), who is the only representative hailing from South Africa. Williams, 15, is originally from Puerto Escondido, Mexico but has been living in Durban for the past two years. The teen has spent this winter on the North Shore, staying at the Quiksilver house with his dad, Tim Williams, who was a travel judge for the WSL (formerly ASP) from 1984-86. Today Williams saw success after surfing through the first three rounds of competition, but missed out in the first Quarterfinal to Braden Jones (USA) and Barron Mamiya (HAW).
"It's tough. I did the Sunset Pro Junior a while ago and the guys here are all really good surfers," said Williams. "A lot of guys I haven't heard of before and then you get them in your heat and wonder how good they are, and then you see them surf and think, ‘I really need to step my game up.'"
When competition resumes for the Juniors, in the water first will be the last Quarterfinal matchup against Kainehe Hunt (HAW), Keoni Picollo (HAW), Griffin Colapinto (USA), Quentin Turko (USA).
Contest officials will reconvene Tuesday to make a call by 7 a.m., with the Wahine Pipe Pro getting a start at 8 a.m. Defending event winner Keala Kennelly (HAW) will surf in Heat 3 against Mainei Kinimaka (HAW), Stephanie Da Silva (HAW) and Leila Riccobuano (HAW).