To be chaired-up the beach is surfing's greatest, competitive honor whether it's a Junior Tour victory, Qualifying Series (QS) win, or the marquee Championship Tour (CT). Sunday witnessed three surfers earn coveted wins at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,000, Junior Pro, and Ron Jon Roxy Junior Pro in what is coming to be known as the best Cocoa Beach event -- ever.
An explosive Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro Final witnessed even standouts go all out for 25 minutes and a battle for first raged between Osborne and eventual runner-up Tyler Gunter. The two traded off near-perfect scores and excellent scores to back them up, but Osborne's 9.77 bested Gunter's 9.10. Taro Watanabe was able to break out of the combination situation, meaning he needed two new scores to equal Osborne's, in the final minutes but it was too late as he moved above Bo Raynor for a third-place finish.
This incredible win marks Osborne's first-ever WSL victory and puts his name at the top of North America Junior Tour rankings to start 2018 with even bigger goals in mind.
"That just feels so good, finally won one, and coming into my last year as junior I had to win one so it's a great start," Osborne said. "It just made my goal of the World Junior Championship that much more achievable and now I'm ready. That Final was just insane, we got so lucky with waves for it and Tyler [Gunter] got an eight, then I got an eight -- then Tyler got a nine and I got a higher nine, it was crazy. To have a Final like that with one of my best friends is great."
But, Osborne has a big year ahead of him as he heads into his final Junior Tour season and his mindset is dialed in for what it will take to achieve his goals.
"It's nowhere near over yet so I just need to keep my head down and power through the rest of these with similiar results," Osborne. "I've made two Finals in Los Cabos so I'm already looking forward to that event as our next junior stop, but I'll get some QS events done before then. This win definitely helps get my confidence going for the string of events coming up so I couldn't be more excited."
But, Gunter did not make the road easy for Osborne -- clashing in a big Semifinal before an even more exciting Final. Even though it was Osborne who boasted both heat wins, Gunter, 18, is off to his best start on the Junior Tour.
"Last year I lost Round One out here which made my year really difficult, so I'm pumped to start with a second," Gunter said. "I would've loved to win, but Eithan [Osborne] and I had such a good heat just going back and forth. It turned on for the Finals so that was nuts. The last two months of training at home has really paid off so I'll stick with that same program this year and hopefully string together some more results."
The Newport Beach, California, native is on a the best streak of any Pro Junior currently in the North America ranks -- earning five straight Final appearances spanning back to June of 2016. He's only garnered one victory in that span, but his work ethic is only getting stronger.
"Anytime you're surfing a lot of heats, and making them, I've got some confidence going which feels great," Gunter added. "I'll do the Jack's event in Huntington then head down to Barbados so I'm amped on these next few events. This is a busy month for us and it's time to perform. I've never had 8s and 9s in the QS before, and to know I can get those scores when I need them feels amazing."
A third-place finish for Watanabe starts him, and fourth-place finisher Raynor, in a World Junior Championship slot with a lot of work to be done. But, the 15-year-old, has plenty of time to establish himself among the Pro Junior, and QS, ranks.
The Carolinas have a lot to boast already this year in WSL competition and Raynor's Final appearance this week just adds to the building list. Raynor expressed earlier this week that he's geared in for a full year and his ambitions remain set on a Top 4 finish.
The next North America Junior Tour event will be the Los Cabos Open of Surf at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, June 13-17.