A marathon opening day unfolded at the World Surf League (WSL) Men and Women's RVCA Pro Junior presented by Jack's Surfboards and Banzai Bowls. Two-to-three foot surf streamed into Newport Beach, California's, 56th Street Jetty with some inconsistency throughout the varying tide changes that the men and women still managed to deliver impeccable performances on.
Now, an all-important finals day awaits as the Top 2 women kept pace with potential threats. However, a few hefty upsets sent a few shocks through the men's rankings and there's plenty of moving room left open.
Battle For The Men's Top 4 Recommences
A marathon day for the men immediately followed as the blitzed through Rounds 1, 2, and Quarterfinal bouts -- separating the conditioned from the fatigued.
Current No. 1 Tyler Gunter debuted brilliantly in his Round 2 heat and carried that momentum into the Quarterfinals, notching two victories on home turf to begin his campaign. Gunter unleashed his signature forehand attack throughout the day, earning solid heat totals of 13.50 and 14.83, helping eliminate Top 4 contender Tommy Coleman with an explosive finish from Round 2 standout Dylan Hord, in his respective heats. The former event champion is looking for redemption after his runner-up last year and is leaving it all in the water each heat.
"It's a nerve-racking first day every year for this contest surfing those two heats and if I don't make it I'm just left watching the rest of the weekend," Gunter said. "I felt really focused today and it feels great to make it past those heats. I've surfed 56th like this a thousand times and it's different in a heat, but I still know which waves I want when it comes in. I'm fired up and I want it more than anything. It's the last year I can do it and I've been doing this event for a really time so I'd love to finish strong."
Kade Matson Keeps A Hungry Field at Bay, Crosby Colapinto Out
One of the event's most-anticipated heats got underway as San Clemente natives and World Junior Championship threats No. 7 Cole Houshmand, No. 2 Crosby Colapinto, and No. 4 Kade Matson had to deal with Round 2's surprise performer -- 15-year-old Beck Adler. Matson, Houshmand, and Colapinto got started right away with an opening exchange that Matson was able to come out on top of before finishing out the way he started -- helping lead to Colapinto's, dealing with a lower back problem, elimination with Houshmand's performance.
Matson's 9.17 in Round 2 went down as the day's highest single-wave score and looks poised to move higher into the Top 4 picture with his goals set high.
"Always having a good first heat is encouraging knowing you can get big scores and gives you a lot of confidence," Matson said. "That was a pretty gnarly last heat after I saw Crosby (Colapinto) get second in his heat I knew I'd be in that heat if I got first. It's always good to have heats with friends and to get through that one in particular is crucial after Bo (Raynor) lost in the heat before. It's a little added pressure being where I am because you know you have to get a good result to stay there."
Cracks Begin to Show, Chase Modelski Makes His Statement
A back and forth heat between Chase Modelski, newcomer Sean Dougherty, current No. 5 Bo Raynor, and Sage Burke finished with a big upset as Raynor's hopes of capitalizing on a Top 4 spot eluded him. Modelski's in-form backhand served him well as he blasted through the hefty Quarterfinal heat after advancing over Round 1 standouts Robert Grilho and Shane Frontino in Round 2. The Floridian is looking to match his career best runner-up result with a big Semifinal bout awaiting.
"That wave I got as soon as the buzzer sounded was awesome and felt really good to get things going right away," Modelski said. "It's good to get two Semifinals in a row and keep the ball rolling. Now I'm just staying focused on making another Final and going all out on every section I get. It's nice to have my backhand and being able to put it right in the lip and just let it go. Even having a chance at making a trip to Worlds depending on how this one goes is so nice."
Internationals Pose A Threat on Finals Day
Japanese competitor Taichi Hagita and Queensland, Australia, standout Cooper Davies also added their names to the Semifinal draw and will contest for their first-ever Pro Junior wins Sunday. Hagita led the way into his respective Semifinal draw with Davies advancing behind him as they sent one of Round 2's excellent-scoring competitors Levi Slawson and up-and-comer Taj Lindblad out of the event. Both can shakeup the rankings even further as they will face Houshmand and Matson in Sunday's Semifinal Heat 2.
"The waves were so fun out there and after getting those 5's and 6's in my first two heats, it felt great to put up at 7 in the Quarterfinals," Hagita said. "I live in Shizuoka near Mount Fuji and I came here for about two months last year, and I met some friends like Kei Kobayashi, Taj Lindblad, so I'm stoked to be back. I hope we get some more waves Sunday and it'd be incredible to win this event."
The RVCA Pro Junior pres. by Jacks Surfboards and Banzai Bowls will get back in the water Sunday, September 23, beginning with women's Semifinals at 9:00 a.m. PDT.