It was a critical opening day for some of the next up-and-coming talent in competitive surfing after Rounds One, Two, and Three of the Vans Pro Junior were all done. The last horn sounded on their competition before moving into the Vans Pro QS3,000, but not before crucial Quarterfinal draws were determined with a shakeup in the North America Top 4 already unfolding early on.
One of the day's best Pro Junior performances came from Eithan Osborne with a 15.17 heat total. Osborne's strong surfing overpowered the wave's softer sections and set himself up for critical finishes on the shoreline. At age 17, Osborne still has this and next year on the Pro Junior circuit before taking to QS full-time -- something he's using to his advantage by already pulling double-duty as well.
"It was fun out there, the waves are actually pretty good right now and always seems to pick up just in time for the contest," Osborne said. "I'm feeling good [coming into this event] and need two good results for a shot at making World Junior Championships. I've just been training around the beach breaks at home that resemble this one and get my boards dialed in -- I tried an epoxy for the first time and didn't like it so I stuck with the same board I had at the US Open. My mindset stays about the same all year long, just comes with some added pressure here and there, but I've learned to shrug that off knowing it's just a contest."
Mateus Herdy is in his first full year of pulling double-duty between the QS and Pro Junior, and brings a lot of momentum into Virginia Beach. The 16-year-old Brazilian has been climbing the ranks on the QS this year with his dynamic aerial attack and a growing power game on rail. Herdy put that potential to good use with two heat wins and earning an 8.50 in the process. His victory at the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing Pro Junior earlier this summer in South Africa solidified him as a threat to be reckoned with -- after already earning a Quarterfinal appearance at the World Junior Championships to start 2017.
"This year has been great, especially after Durban was my best result so far of my career and just want to keep performing like that," Herdy said. "I'm more focused on the QS here since I can't get points or anything in the juniors, but this contest is still really important and I'm going to give it my best. It really helps to get all the heats I can and continue learning this wave. I really want to perform like Samuel [Pupo] did last year making both Finals, but want to do even better. He's such a good surfer and I've competed against him almost my whole life so it's been cool to learn from him, and I'm doing the same type of path he did last year getting on the QS early."
Current North America Pro Junior No. 1 Ryland Rubens narrowly escaped an early elimination with a last-minute, near-excellent 7.57. Rubens and Tommy Coleman split a peak in the dying seconds, each earning the scores they needed to advance and knock Liam Murray out of the first-place position with no time to respond.
"I just want to do my best here after having a shocker at the US Open, but that's in the past now and I'm looking forward to this one," Rubens said. "I'm a big fan of Virginia Beach and the East Coast in general. This contest and the one in Florida are very similar -- it's grindy, but whenever you can win a Pro Junior it's great. It's cool to still be No. 1, but I don't even look at the rankings honestly, with a few more events left, a lot can happen so I just go into every event wanting to win and enjoy traveling with my family. It can be stressful at times, but I just try to enjoy it all because when it gets too serious it's not fun anymore."
Current North America Pro Junior No. 2 Che Allan also made his way into the Quarterfinals alongside Chase Modelski, Luke Gordon, Nick Marshall, Tyler Gunter, John Mel, Jacob Burke, Jett Schilling and the Japanese duo of Yuji Mori and Joh Azuchi.
Event organizers will reconvene in the morning to make a 7:00 a.m. EDT call for a possible 7:30 a.m. EDT start.
The Vans Pro Men's QS3,000 and Pro Junior will run August 22 through 27 in coordination with the historical East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) -- the world's second-longest running contest, now in its 55th year, behind Bells Beach.