NewsVans Pro JuniorMateus Herdy

Pro Juniors Battle to Determine Semifinalists in Virginia Beach

Joh Azuchi (JPN) winning his Quarterfinal heat at the Vans Pro Junior. Joh Azuchi and a few other internationals earning Semifinal berths create a tough challenge for the North America Pro Juniors on hand looking for vital points at the Vans Pro Junior. WSL / John Ferguson

The Vans Pro Junior got back in the water following men's Round Five and big performances continued from both international and North America regional surfers.

An all-important victory from the international competitors on hand can heavily disrupt the regional surfers looking points toward World Junior Championships qualification with only the Top 4 from each region earning a place there. But, it's also valuable experience against one another as building rivalries can form early on as they look to begin their careers in competitive surfing.

Mateus Herdy (BRA) winning his Round Four heat at the Vans Pro QS3,000. Mateus Herdy continues to impress in both the Vans Pro QS3,000 and Pro Junior with a double finals day ahead. WSL / John Ferguson

Brazilian talent Mateus Herdy looks unstoppable in the Pro Junior proceedings after a last-second win in Round Five of the QS event has him in both finals day appearances. The 16-year-old continues to draw inspiration from fellow Brazilian Samuel Pupo who made both event Finals last year. Herdy's light-footed attacks on the small sections available earned him an 8.83 and 15.17 heat total -- the highest single-score and heat total of Quarterfinal action.

"I've been working really hard leading up to this event and I'm really happy to make both the QS and Pro Junior finals day," Herdy said. "Every single heat you learn more with each one being so different from the last. There's those small things that you can always do better and win or lose you gain so much experience which is the biggest thing for me. I talk to my friends after the heats and learn a little bit about the waves or things I could've done different which helps a lot. I'll just be relaxing tomorrow and saving my energy so I can really give it my all in both events."

Tyler Gunter (USA) winning his Quarterfinal heat at the Vans Pro Junior. Tyler Gunter is a part of the North America contingent left to keep the Vans Pro Junior trophy in the region. WSL / John Ferguson

But, Herdy, Joh Azuchi and Yuji Mori will have to continue their form if they're to take down an in-form Tyler Gunter -- earning his own excellent 8.33 in the Quarterfinals.

Gunter, current North America No. 1 Ryland Rubensand No. 2 Che Allan, along with Barbadian Jacob Burke and Malibu's Taro Watanabe have the opportunity to keep the Vans Pro title on home soil. After Gunter's Quarterfinal showcase, his small wave formula is working well and needs a result in Virginia Beach to find his way back into the Top 4 for a chance at World Junior Championships qualification.

"I've just been trying to surf small waves the best I could before coming here to get ready for this event," Gunter said. "It's tough, but I like surfing smaller waves so I'm ready. I'm stoked to at least make it to the Semis. It's a good result after I started bad in Florida, but then I made a Final in Los Cabos and Quarters at the US Open so hopefully these last few events I can bag a few more good ones to make a run at Worlds. I was so close last year, only missing it by one spot, and I'm giving it my best. I don't get too bummed out when I get bad result in juniors because one win and you're right back in the mix -- like my win at the RVCA Pro Junior last year was the result that gave me a fighting shot."

Taro Watanabe (USA) earning third-place in his Round Five heat at the Vans Pro QS3,000. Former World Tour surfer Brad Gerlach's student Taro Watanabe is taking notes and showing great form at a young age -- looking for his first Pro Junior win here in Virginia Beach.' WSL / John Ferguson

The Vans Pro QS3,000 and Pro Junior will be OFF tomorrow 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 historical East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) -- the world's second-longest running contest, now in its 55th year, behind Bells Beach.

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