Though Barbados has only produced one Championship Tour (CT) surfer, 2016 rookie Chelsea Tuach, the island is packed with talent waiting to make their jump into qualifying scenarios. But, they will have their work cut out for them with the caliber of surfers coming to their native island for the historic Barbados Surf Pro QS3,000 title. This will be the first Qualifying Series (QS) on its shores since 2007 and an extensive list of world-class talent will be vying for 3,000 points -- including former CT competitors Patrick Gudauskas, Aritz Aranburu, and Alex Ribeiro.
Cam Richards is all too familiar with Barbados, winning the Sprite Soup Bowl Pro Junior in 2015, but now has the pleasure of surfing on his forehand at Drill Hall Beach. The South Carolina-native ripped his way to two finals during the Australian leg at the start of the season which earned him a wildcard into the Australian Open -- and now has a chance to spoil more here with another wildcard selection.
"Australia was definitely an eyeopener for for. Winning the first contest then actually getting a little result in a 6000 was cool. It helps with confidence, but honestly you can never get cocky. There's only so much you can do in a heat but if things aren't going your way that's just the way it is. it's nice to be close to home some what and doing bigger contest. I've been here for a while now and been filming so it's good to be doing two jobs at once. And it makes it easy when we are this close. It definitely relives a lot of pressure being close to home."
"[I] personally haven't done much different [between last year and this year]. Now that a lot of events have priority, I think it has helped me a lot because I'm really bad at the whole hassling thing so a lot of times I couldn't even catch waves to surf. But now that problem is kinda solved with priority, I just try and find good waves and surf them how I normally would surf them."
Local Barbadian Josh Burke earned the second WSL wildcard and will be looking to give his native islanders something to cheer about . Burke is also joined by Bruce Mackie and Che Allan with a straight shot to Round Three.
On the women's side, fellow former CT competitors Tuach, Alessa Quizon and Paige Hareb are set to compete against some of the QS's best up-and-coming female surfers.
Quizon spent three years among the Top 17 ranks on the Dream Tour and now looks to find her way back after unsuccessfully re-qualifying by season's end last year. Her first two QS performances left her sitting at No. 35, but has a big opportunity to begin a trek back to the CT with a big result at Drill Beach Hall and a new mindset heading in.
"It's definitely an eye opener seeing myself starting back from the bottom again, but I know I belong back on tour," Quizon said. "This year I have a better picture of all the mistakes I've done in the past. I'm making it a priority to focus less on the things that don't matter and put all my energy to the main goal. I just want to have fun and improve my competitive surfing in any way that I can. It would be great to win this event, but overall I'm going in with no expectations other then enjoying the comp and the waves."
But, where there are the Goliaths, the Davids follow and plenty of talent is on hand to provide a proper challenge for the top seeds. One of those is 14-year-old wildcard selection Kirra Pinkerton, who has already come out on top of CT competitor Coco Ho in a three-man heat. Pinkerton's young career is just beginning and is wasting no time getting started with a full schedule planned for this year.
"I am really stoked to receive the WSL Wild Card for the Barbados Surf Pro and I hope to take advantage of it," Pinkerton said. "I am excited to surf against some of the top QS surfers and hope to build confidence from this event for the future QS and Junior events this season. It is vital for me to surf in the QS mostly for the experience at a young age, but also by getting some valuable points that could help me in years to come. Surfing against some of the top girls makes me want to raise my level of surfing every time I enter the water."
Local Barbadian Chelsea Roett also joins Pinkerton and Quizon in Round Three with the opportunity to make a lot of noise.