Today was a groundbreaking day for the island of Barbados as the first-ever Qualifying Series began on the shores of Drill Hall Beach. The Barbados Surf Pro QS3,000 men's event kicked off the affair with big performances in Round One at the lefthand reefbreak with some familiar up-and-comers taking charge.
Sixteen-year-old Cole Houshmand may not have gotten the result he was looking for on his backhand at the Martinique Pro last week, but that did not stop him from unleashing on his forehand here in Barbados. With the help of some local knowledge, and past experience on the island, Houshmand looked in-form when the waves turned on.
"It was really fun being in that heat with the tide push giving us some good waves and didn't want to push it too hard, but just go with the flow," he said. "I wanted to stay relaxed and just wait for the best waves so I was stoked it worked out. The waves back in Martinique were incredible, but I just didn't get the result I wanted and I took that fire into this event. I've been staying with Che [Allan] and we've just been surfing everyday to get ready for this contest so it's been really good."
Ty Watson lit up the trickier morning conditions with an impressive backhand performance. The South Coast Australian competitor hasn't set foot on the island of Barbados until arriving for this event and showed his adaptability right away.
"I've just done Martinique so I thought I'd come down and do both of them -- it's so incredible here," said Watson. "It's different here in terms of waves being smaller and you just have to find the best ones then do what you have to do on them. I did a few events back at home to start the year and went okay so thought I'd start doing a few more this year. It's awesome to have a QS3,000 in such an amazing place with good vibes so I'm hoping to enjoy that and make a few heats."
Round One, Heat 14 was an all-goofyfooter, all-North American affair with Colt Ward pitted against 2016 North America Junior Tour Champion Nolan Rapoza and an in-form Ryland Rubens. But it was Ward who found the better opportunities throughout the heat and capitalized. The 19-year-old has big ambitions for 2017 and, with a string of QS3,000s ahead, wants to take full advantage.
"This is my first time back since I did the Pro Junior event two years ago and I just love it here," said Ward. "I'd love to come back every year for this event if they keep putting it on. I made a couple of heats in Martinique, but came over here early and just got the good vibes rolling. I was pretty stoked to see I had a three-man heat, just because it makes priority rotation even better, but to have a goofy battle with two of my friends was great."
"It's great that they have two back-to-back QS3,000s, it's an opportunity for a lot of points," Ward added. "Then right after this I'll get home for five days then head to Portugal for the QS3,000 there so this is a pretty important leg -- especially for me trying to get into the QS10,000s and also better seeds into the QS6,000s."
Weslley Dantas brought his Brazilian flair to the shores of Barbados and he's got the power to try and match that of his brother, Wiggolly, who competes on the Championship Tour (CT). Despite the smaller conditions, Dantas ripped through the lineup of Drill Hall Beach and is on to a stacked Round Two.
"I'm a bigger guy so it was a little difficult to get going on this wave, but my board was great and once I build momentum I just had to use it the best I could," he said. "This is my first time to Barbados and I love it, the wave reminds me a little bit of home so it's nice to be prepared for a place I've never been to. I'm really looking to forward to getting back out there for my next heat and so stoked to be here."
A 7:30 a.m. EDT start will determine an 8:00 a.m. start for either men's Round Two or women's Round Three. Tune in live for all the action.