Prior to the Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson finale, the women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia ripped into action with impressive performances from the top seeds. Only one World Junior Championships spot is up for grabs with current No. 1 Alyssa Spencer locked in and, mathematically, up to No. 13 Molly Kirk are still in the running as Quarterfinalists were determined.
Those hopefuls need current No. 2 Samantha Sibley to lose in her next heat but, after today's stunning performance, those chances slimmed as the San Clemente, California, native unleashed her forehand attack in Round One. Sibley accrued Round One's top performance with an excellent 8.33 and 15.23 heat total on two Soup Bowl gems. But, with Spencer also advancing, the battle for No. 1 heats up.
"I just wanted to get out there and do my best while keeping all those scenarios out of my mind which really helped," Sibley said. "This wave is called Soup Bowl for a reason and I just found two really steep sections for that wave and just tried to hit them as hard as possible. I found my lineup and just wanted to go vertical so I waited for the right wave. This first heat was crucial to get all the jitters out."
But, fellow San Clemente competitor Kirra Pinkerton is right behind Sibley and posted an 8.00 of her own as she looks to overtake the No. 2 spot. This marks Pinkerton's second time being in the World Junior Championships showdown and has the experience to make a big run at Soup Bowl.
"I was waiting and waiting then decided to just go on a few of the insiders to get busy and it worked so I'm pretty happy with that," Pinkerton said. "I want to do well in this and give myself a chance at making Worlds. It feels really good to get off to a good start, I feel like I get stronger every heat in events because I figure out where I need to be and now what I'm capable of doing."
Tiare Thompson also has hopes of clinching that No. 2 spot, but must have fate fall her way in order for that dream to be realized. Thompson was able to put nerves aside and earn a valuable Round One heat win that keeps those hopes alive heading into finals day -- after earning a Semifinal appearance in last year's event.
"At first I thought it was going to hard to find a few, but ended up having a few come to me so I couldn't be happier," Thompson said. "Waiting for a few days was starting to get to me a little bit so I just kept surfing down the beach and I'm so happy to be out there with only three other girls. I'm excited to get this event started knowing I have a shot and if I can keep getting good waves then hopefully I can get it done."
The men's competition also have their Quarterfinal draws set and the Top 4 battle is well intact with all surfers making their bid for a spot into World Junior Championships still in the match ups.
Current No. 2 John Mel continues to hold his spot with brilliant performances throughout the event so far, but still has work to do. The Santa Cruz, California, native must make the Final to be completely safe from all the possible scenarios that play against him. Mel's mindset is focused on the task at hand and his deadly backhand attack hasn't let him down so far.
"I'm psyched for tomorrow and hopefully a little more swell picks up after a slower day today, but I feel good on my backside out there," Mel said. "It's been important to just show up and take each heat as it comes which has helped take my mind off the rankings -- because that's my big goal at this event in the end. There's still a chance if Ryland falls out early that I can take the region so that'd be really cool, but I just need to make sure I'm bettering my worst result and I'll be happy."
Eithan Osborne's calendar year was anything but sugarcoated after a knee injury took him out of the water for nearly four months at the end of 2016 and has been in and out of surgery since. But, the injury has helped him realize what his goals are and re-found his passion for surfing. Osborne's chances are slim to qualify for the World Junior Championships, but the 17-year-old still has another year left on the Junior Tour to capitalize on that opportunity and is focused on the one at hand.
"Even if I win I'm not sure that will give me a shot at Worlds, but just to win this event and do it for Zander [Venezia] would be incredible," Osborne said. "When you're out of the water that long it makes you think about what you want to do and I just want to keep surfing. After the injury I didn't really care about contests too much and was just stoked on surfing so that gave me a boost to come back even better."
Tomorrow's 7:30a.m. AST call will determine an 8:00 a.m. start for the women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia.