A big part of the Qualifying Series (QS) is knowing how to perform when the waves are less than stellar. While there was an abundance of opportunity throughout the day of two-to-three foot gems on opening day at Cocoa Beach, Fla., surfers had to stay busy and truly strike when the chance came -- and they did. A stacked field of competitors has been reduced from 80 to 32 and a majority of the top seeds showed their dominance early on.
Noah Schweizer and Evan Geiselman opened Round Two, after Schweizer's impressive Round One opener, with an incredible showdown in which the two went wave for wave until the horn sounded. Although both are advancing to Round Three, it was Schweizer who came out with the heat win over his fellow New Smyrna Beach-native. Though, Schweizer now finds himself a transplant of the West Coast with a big year planned.
"It was nice to get going in Round One since I haven't surfed small waves in a long time -- I've been getting a little spoiled lately," Schweizer said. "I surfed against Evan a lot in NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) days so that was great splitting waves with him here. You just have to stay light on your feet in smaller waves like this and go for anything that's breaking. I missed the events in Australia since I had a broken wrist and went through a sponsor change so I'm looking to do those QS6,000s later this year and hopefully get into the QS10,000s."
2016 North America Regional Champion Kilian Garland is in the Ron Jon Vans Pro for the first time with hopes of defending his Title in 2017. Though Garland missed the Australian leg due to personal reasons, he has not lost sight of his goals to excel at the highest level of QS competition. The 30-year-old looked spry in the smaller conditions and is off to a brilliant start with some excellent surfing of his own.
"I've never competed at this event, but I've done other East Coast events and events here in Florida, so I'm just trying to base everything off what I've done. I'm hoping to pace myself at the beginning of this year and build up toward the end of it, if I can do all the North America events I will. Also, really hope this year is the year I can place well in those bigger events, but the more you go at it the better you'll get."
San Clemente surfer Kevin Schulz flowed through his opening Round Two heat with an impressive showcase of maneuvers in the smaller conditions. Schulz awaits his breakthrough at the QS level and proved he's a certified threat at this event with his outlook on the 2017 season in full effect.
"I've been coming here for three years now and that was the first heat I've made -- I'm psyched," Schulz said. "My board felt great under my feet and I knew if I just got the waves then I'd be able to post a good score. I'm coming into this year wanting to have fun more than anything and that's when I seem to perform my best. I've just focused on filming and photos this year, I didn't even do the Australian events, which has really helped to get my head in the right place so I'm excited for this year."
As competition headed into the late afternoon, Yuji Nishi was able to find two near-excellent scores amid the changing conditions. The onshore wind prevailed and provided more opportunity with the mix of swell already in the water -- something Nishi took full advantage of. After his appearance at the World Junior Championships, the Japanese junior is dead-set on a QS title here in Cocoa Beach.
"This is the second QS event I've done this year and I'm really excited to be here," Nishi said. "I'm still on the Junior Tour, but this event is not in my region so I'm just focusing on the QS. I didn't do well at the World Juniors, but that experience was great and helped my surfing. I can't wait for my next heat."
Event organizers will meet tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. EST to determine an 8:00 a.m. EST start for either the men's or women's Pro Junior -- the Men's QS1,000 will be off for the day.