Vans Pro Junior

Vans Pro Juniors Shine With Near Perfection; Quarterfinalists Decided

Andrew Nichols

The Juniors were prepared for the early morning start that would unfold into an unsuspecting day of excellent surfing. The Juniors were prepared for the early morning start that would unfold into an unsuspecting day of excellent surfing. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

The remaining heats of Round One and completion of Round Two at the Vans Pro Junior left spectators wanting more with eleven excellent scores (8.00 or better) posted throughout the day. It was also a day of upsets as both No. 4 candidates Cole Houshmand and Chauncey Robinsonwere eliminated -- though Houshmand gained some ground over Robinson making one extra round.

In one-to-two foot windswell coming through the 1st St. Jetty to supply competitors with some opportunity, the Juniors rose to the occasion and had moments of brilliance. With the Quarterfinal draws set in stone, competitors await their next call to get back in the water and decide who will be involved with the final day proceedings.

Here's who turned heads throughout the day of superb surfing from the Junior talent:

Samuel Pupo (BRA), who posted two excellent scores in his debut at Virginia Beach, with an 8.17 in Round One and 8.57 in Round Two, now awaits his Quarterfinal matchup in coming days with plenty of momentum.

"There's not too much opportunity so when the waves come you just had to take advantage and I tried to do my best on each wave -- maybe try for a big air to get those extra points. I wasn't too nervous out there, just looking to have a lot of fun so I'm excited to be here.

"The Junior event is a great opportunity for me as well to get more time in the water and see what I need to do in my next heat. It helps get the nerves out and I'm really excited to see how I can do in both of these events this week."

Samuel Pupo (BRA) took flight at the end of nearly wave looking to maximize his score -- and he did just that posting two excellent scores between Round 1 and Round 2. Pupo works with his dad closely on all the boards and getting prepared for contests by spending hours in testy conditions. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Ryland Rubens continues to turn heads at this event, topping up-and-coming phenom Griffin Colapinto with a near-perfect 9.50 to earn the tie-break with both competitors deadlocked at a 15.00 heat total.

"I think that was the only decent wave of the whole heat so I was super fortunate to be in the spot and just get a chance to surf my best on it," said Rubens. "It was one you didn't want to over-surf, with the wave being a bit soft and not wanting to do too much.

"After losing in the QS I'm definitely a little fired up to make it far in this one but I don't want to get ahead of myself and just keep having fun -- it's what it's all about. When I get stressed I just don't perform well so just want to stay relaxed and do what I know I can do."

Ryland Rubens (USA) found an absolute gem and ripped it all the way to shore for the event's highest single-wave score of 9.50. Rubens kept finding himself in the right place at the right time despite ever changing peaks with tides and winds and is looking for a big result with just the Junior event remaining in his sights. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Micha Cantor (USA) can't get enough of Virginia Beach and continues his hot streak beginning with the QS yesterday and earning two heat wins for the Vans Pro Junior. Posting a 9.17 in Round One and an 8.00 in Round Two, Cantor is proving he's a threat in these smaller conditions.

"It was fun in that last heat, though I might get scored a little higher on that first wave but that just motivated me to go bigger and got rewarded with an 8.00. Finishing off these waves is super important, it's the difference between that 6 and maybe getting a 7. Everyone is tripping on my board, it's working so well and going fast through places it shouldn't so I couldn't ask for too much more. I just want to keep winning some heats and have some fun out here -- it's been a great experience so far and maybe we'll get some better waves going into the next few days."

Micha Cantor (USA) has found the winning formula at Virginia Beach in a dominating way -- winning all three of his heats thus between the QS and first two rounds of the Junior event. The South Carolina native sees these conditions and begins to get hyped, comparing them to a fun day at home -- and looking right at home here in VB. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Nolan Rapoza is right on the heels of Kei Kobayashi in the North America Junior series and he's hungry for his first Junior Tour win -- already making two finals this year. Posting an 8.83 in his Round One victory and advancing into the Quarterfinals with a runner-up spot in Round Two, Rapoza's learning that it's all about keeping it in balance.

"Definitely feel a little fortunate with that last wave coming my way in the first heat. I was a little stressed with Eithan in the lead with a six and me just sitting on two threes so that felt great to get a score in the end. I'm stoked to be making it through these heats with a great board under my feet and trying to find the best waves out there to get some scores on. I'm still on the same board I've been doing the last few Junior events, it's just such a magic board and I'm keeping it on ice between events so for it to still be doing well here, I'm just stoked."

Nolan Rapoza (USA) ripping his way to a Round 1 win and Round 2 runner-up spot to earn a place in the Quarterfinals. Rapoza came into this event just under 300 points shy of Kobayashi and has kept pace so far. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Jake Marshall came off a frustrating runner-up at the Vans US Open of Surfing and is looking for a big result to catapult his Junior Tour season -- as well as his QS opportunity. But, his focus was on the Junior event in today's action with another big heat win including an excellent 8.67.

Jake Marshall (USA) has found the winning formula in the difficult conditions on offer and is into the Quarterfinals. The Californian looked comfortable in the Virginia Beach lineup and has a chance to capitalize on the misfortune of Houshmand and Robinson who sit in front of him by just 5 points. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Taro Watanabe (USA) may be in his first WSL Junior event, but is surfing well and now has a spot in the Quarterfinals with the help of his 8.33. Watanabe has veteran surfer Asher Nolan (USA) providing some knowledge, as well as his father, to help his campaign.

"I'm so excited to be here and surfing in my first contest," Watanabe said. "Having my dad here helps keep me relaxed and focused on my heats, and I'm just having fun getting to compete. It's my first time to Virginia Beach and now that I've gotten some heats in I really would like to win this event. I'm stoked to make it to the Quarters and can't wait for my next heat."

Taro Watanabe (USA) is surfing in his first-ever Junior Tour event -- and has been doing quite well. Posting an 8.33 in his Round 2 heat to advance into the Quarterfinals. Watanabe has a great support crew in his corner, encouraging him to go after scores and have fun -- something he's certainly doing. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

American Luke Gordon made his way through two heats today in terrific fashion by finding himself in the right place at the right time for an impressive 8.67. Gordon will need a result here to get his Junior Tour ranking up and looks ready for the challenge.

"This contest is huge for me. If I get a great result here then I'll be able to tell if I have a shot at making it into the top four. There's the bigger picture, but I'm focused on the heat in front me knowing there's a lot of work to be done."

"Even though it's pretty challenging out there, the waves are pretty good for being here and at least giving us some opportunity. I like this contest a lot because it's not like some other contests and a lot of fun to be with all the East Coast guys in one place. Seth Brody always lets me stay at his house and there's a bunch of us under one roof so it's a great time."

Luke Gordon (USA) took his waves all the way to the inside on multiple occasions, finishing with a bang, and securing an 8.67 on his best effort to advance into the Quarterfinals. Only sitting 245 points back from a Top 4 spot, Gordon now has an opportunity to make a jump into that spot by the end of this event. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

Victor Mendes came away with a second heat win, posting a near-perfect 9.23, but Yuji Mori was not so fortunate. Despite his 8.60, the Japanese surfer couldn't find the backup he needed to advance on.

Despite posting a brilliant 8.60, Yuji Mori (JPN) was eliminated in Round 2 with no backup score to support his excellent score. Mori only lacked a 4.90 as the final buzzer sounded, showing that anything can happen in the lineup of Virginia Beach. - WSL / John W. Ferguson