A career bookmark was notched by Nolan Rapoza winning his first-ever Junior Tour event in defining fashion at the Vans Pro Junior. Taking out an international field of Junior competitors including QS standouts Griffin Colapinto and Samuel Pupo, as well as Yuji Nishi, the Long Beach, Ca. native now sits at No. 1 on the North America Junior Tour rankings. It was no easy feat with the talent around him and the exuberance coming in from the water showcased all his efforts being rewarded at once.
"I really don't even know how to feel right now," Rapoza said. "I've wanted a win on the Junior Tour so bad and my other goal is to get on top of the Junior rankings so right now I'm there and just have to keep it going -- I'm still hungry."
After Kei Kobayashi fell 5.95 shy of earning a spot into the Final, Rapoza advanced through a crucial Semifinal. Once advancing to the Final, he needed at least a runner-up finish to overcome Kobayashi's tour lead. Two events remain clash for the top honor, but both surfers have a edged way ahead in the race for a spot toward the World Junior Championships.
Runner-up Griffin Colapinto found his way into the second final of his 2016 Junior Tour year and maintains his spot at No. 3 behind Kobayashi, and he too moves one step closer to the World Junior Championships by remaining in the Top 4.
"It was a fun heat and I really wanted to win another one so definitely a little bummed but still got some good scores that I'm happy with -- and it's another final so I'm alright with that one."
Completing the international heat, the incredible performances of Samuel Pupo were stifled by a long day of surfing in which he surfed five of the ten heats in today's action. Finishing third in front of Japan's Yuji Nishi, the two gained valuable experience surfing against their future competitors for years to come.
"I don't even know what to think right now after surfing all those heats -- I'm so tired but in the best way possible," Pupo said. "It will be great to go back home after this result and see my family to share how excited I am with them. This was an incredible experience and looking back on it all I'd just have to say it's job done here. I'm looking forward to competing against these guys more since it's only my first year and want to get as many heats together as I can."
"I'm just so stoked to have competed here and done well," Nishi said. "It's exciting to surf against the people from out of my home region and see what I have to do better. Now I just want to get even better and keep progressing my surfing. I have a great support crew around me at these events and they were amazing to have in my corner here."