While the Los Cabos Open of Surf Women's Qualifying Series (QS) 6,000 takes center stage at Zippers, the North America Junior Tour gets back underway with its next event. This event proved to a turning point for Nolan Rapoza, who finished runner-up last year and went on to win the North America Regional Title, after having a shocker in the opening event of the year. Two surfers who finished near the top of the rankings in 2016 are hoping for similar fortune in the men's event.
Last year saw an all-California Final in the men's Pro Junior event between Griffin Colapinto, Nolan Rapoza, Cole Houshmand, and Eithan Osborne, but it was Colapinto who took the win -- though only Houshmand and Osborne return with the age restriction. After a tough start in Cocoa Beach, earning an equal 13th, Houshmand returns in hopes of bettering his third-place finish from last year and make a charge up the ratings leaderboard.
"Getting that result last year has really boosted my confidence, "Houshmand said. "I am really looking forward to going back, and am feeling good for hopefully another final result. This result held me in that qualifying position throughout the whole year with just a bad result at Soup Bowl making me miss out on Worlds, but overall this event was my backbone to qualify last year. I really love the wave, being on my backhand, [and] I feel really comfortable. Overall Cabo is a really nice and fun place to hang out and surf so I am looking forward to it."
Tyler Gunter finished one spot above fellow goofyfooter Houshmand on the rankings last year, at No. 6, and narrowly missed a trip to World Junior Championships. This event marks a turning point for Gunter as well, who currently holds a forgettable equal 41st, but takes to his formidable backhand at Zippers with hopes of staying in the Top 4 hunt.
"I'm super pumped to be going back to Cabo [since] I haven't got the result I have wanted there yet but I feel like this could be the year," Gunter said. "It's such a fun right and I love surfing on my backhand. In the previous years I have struggled with the waves being small, but this year I have been focusing a lot on my small wave surfing so I'm feeling really confident in whatever conditions Cabo has for us. Since Florida I have been doing a bunch of QS events so I'm really excited and confident for the next junior."
For the women Pro Juniors, this was a pretty forgettable event for all but one surfer -- Meah Collins. An all-international Final affair, aside from the Californian, proved to be a recoverable scenario for many of the surfers (Alyssa Spencer and Leilani McGonagle both suffered Quarterfinal losses, though went on to finish Top 2), but a wake up call that the world was ready for them.
After an early upset at Cocoa Beach, Collins will count every event from here on out, dropping only one of four results this year. The 18-year-old will also pull double duty between the QS and Junior once again, and also looks to shift her ambitions by year's end.
"I get such a great energy when I surf against the international field -- the girls push my surfing to the next level, so I know I'm going to be bringing my best to the event," Collins said. "To get the win here would definitely propel my momentum through the rest of the year. Cocoa is such a tough competition for me since the waves are typically really small and inconsistent. I'm disappointed with my result there, but I don't take it to heart, knowing I've got a great chance at the other events coming up that have conditions which suit my abilities."
Tune in live June 6 - 11 and watch all the action unfold at this year's Los Cabos Open of Surf.