A massive finals day is set at the Vans Pro Men's Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and Pro Junior after Men's Round Five and the Juniors' Quarterfinal bouts were completed. A small drop-off in swell tested the QS elite and the next generation of competitive talent with 1-2-foot. conditions.
But, competitors picked apart the 1st Street Jetty lineup with moments of brilliance as former Vans Pro QS winners flourished along with some fresh faces.
Round Five began with the most anticipated heat of the event so far as Griffin Colapinto, Tanner Gudauskas, Miguel Pupo and Ian Crane went to battle. In the end, 19-year-old Colapinto came away with a massive win and spot in the Quarterfinals alongside Gudauskas, a fellow San Clemente native and former Championship Tour (CT) competitor. Both had different heat strategies as Gudauskas stayed busy and built his foundation, while Colapinto's continued patience paid off with an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) that secured his place in the Quarters.
"It was crazy with the amount of waves that were coming through before the start of the contest then it just kind of stopped for our heat so I just wanted to wait and start with a bang," Colapinto said. "I had my game plan of being patient again, but started thinking I should've gotten busy so it was good to make it out of that one. That was probably the most stacked heat of the contest, it felt like a Final, so it's a good one to get through."
2013 Vans Pro winner Patrick Gudauskas' experience at the 1st Street Jetty showed by finding his rhythm and earning Round Five's highest single-scoring wave of a 9.67 and heat total -- an impressive 16.37 (out of a possible 20). The former CT competitor is still chasing his dream to make his way back to the Top 34 and has the determination to back it up. But, the 29-year-old's approach to competitive surfing helps him keep a positive mindset and focus while traveling the world with his brother, Tanner.
"When it gets a little smaller those are the heats where anything can happen so I just tried to bring good energy into it and that wave was amazing," Gudauskas said. "Virginia Beach was pretty on in that moment and I just surfed it the best I could. I think having a good attitude can help a lot, especially since it can get small here in Virginia, otherwise you can get a little cussy at it.
"But, I really like competing here as well because you can catch a lot of waves and duke it out with your own surfing. I've made a couple finals here and I'm having a good year this year, and this where the meat and potatoes of the points really start coming from the following the US Open -- which was a good result after I've had a few close losses so to turn it around has been nice."
Defending Vans Pro winner Evan Geiselman is back into the Quarterfinals and in need of a result here to kickoff the back-half of 2017. Geiselman currently sits at No. 48 on the QS rankings with a lot of room ahead of him to move if he can earn another Final appearance. The New Smyrna Beach, Florida, native thrives when conditions turn smaller and showed that with vicious backhand attacks in the shorebreak to earn another important heat win over East Coast talents Rob Kelly, wildcard Aaron Cormican and San Clemente upstart Jake Marshall -- who advanced alongside Geiselman.
"Each of these heats you're really against the waves because rhythm out there is everything," Geiselman said. "You're trying to find those waves that allow you to get two good turns for a decent score so I've just been trying to stay busy and find them out there. I just try to put as much energy as I can in each of these heats -- I feel like that's one of the keys to small-wave surfing. Back in the Quarters is a good start and now it's all about trying to make it back to that Final and, even though it's one heat at a time, that's the endgame for me here is to get a repeat."
Fifteen-year-old Kade Matson is here to throw a wrench into the QS elite's plans with his first-ever Quarterfinals spot at this level of competition. Matson has surfed beyond his years at this year's proceedings and, after another big heat win in Round Five, finds himself fighting for 3,000 points.
"I'm tripping right now, I've just been surfing and trying to make heats so this great," Matson said. "I've just been trying to look for the best waves and be smart about wave selection. Staying patient is something I'm working on and surfing T-Street everyday prepping for this event with the San Clemente crew has helped so much. I haven't done too many QS events and this is my first bigger-rated event so I'm just beyond excited to be making heats here."
The Vans Pro QS3,000 and Pro Junior will be off Saturday for a lay day. Event organizers will reconvene Sunday morning to make a 7:30 a.m. EDT call for a possible 8:00 a.m. EDT start.
The Vans Pro Men's QS3,000 and Pro Junior will run August 22 through 27 in coordination with the East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) -- the world's second-longest running contest, now in its 55th year, behind Bells Beach.