The World Surf League (WSL) Qualification Series (QS) returns to Virginia Beach, VA for the Vans Pro Men's QS3000 and Vans Pro Junior. Alongside the longest-running event in North American surfing history, the 53rd Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC), the WSL events begin Monday, August 17, 2015 and will showcase some of the best competitors from around the world. Virginia Beach's own Michael Dunphy (USA) claimed the Vans Pro title last year, joining an elite list of surfers who have won this prestigious event over its 52 year history.
Looking to defend his crown as king of his hometown, Dunphy finds himself near the top of the QS rankings, but needs the 3,000 points on offer at this year's ECSC to move closer to a coveted Top 10 spot. The local favorite was astounded by the support he received last year and is hoping for more of the same from his surfing community.
"Last year was crazy," Dunphy said. "Before winning I knew it was a big event for the community, but never realized how big it would be if I won - being from here and all. The amount of people that came down to carry me up the beach and contact me after was something I thought would never happen around here. It made me realize how big our surf community is."
Dunphy is looking to build momentum competing at home this week, knowing what it takes to make a run at Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour (CT) qualification. Drowning out the noise around him, he will take on a stacked field of competitors with the drive that keeps him in the hunt.
"The past few months have been a bit rough for me confidence wise," Dunphy said. "This event for me is just enjoying competing at home and knowing that I can do well after last year's run. It's all about getting some momentum for the big events coming up in Europe. The year isn't even halfway over so I try not to pay much attention to the rankings and try to just focus on surfing well without pressure."
Patrick Gudauskas (USA) is no stranger to being chaired up at the infamous Virginia Beach, having won the Vans Pro in 2013, and is looking for more at this year's contest. Making his way from San Clemente, CA, this wave is harder to navigate then many breaks he is used to -- but that won't slow him down.
"For the waves here I just try to stay light," Gudauskas said. "I have some deadly small wave boards right now that get me super inspired to surf when the waves are small. I think to win it's just about keeping it light and bringing a lot of energy in the smaller conditions. Sometimes the small waves can make guys look uninterested or frustrated and I just like to treat it like the opportunity it is to surf some good heats and put on a good show for the local crowds."
Gudauskas has enjoyed this venue for years along with his brother, Tanner Gudauskas (USA), and is looking forward to the camaraderie that comes with ECSC.
"I really just enjoy diving into the Virginia Beach experience," Gudauskas said. "I get psyched on the whole energy of the place! It's pure good times! I love catching up with the crew over there like 'D' at Coastal Edge - it's so mental. It feels like a second home with the hospitality."
After a blockbuster week of competition in his hometown of Huntington Beach, CA two weeks ago, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) finished runner-up in the Junior Men's event and 3rd in the Men's QS10000 at the Vans US Open of Surfing. Igarashi now sits atop the Junior rankings and is looking to solidify his position in both the Men's and Junior's rankings. Igarashi can maintain his No. 9 spot on the QS as well, and has a shot at qualifying for the CT for the first time.
"I've just been having a good year in general," Igarashi said. "I just hope it's another event in which things go my way, but I am definitely feeling a lot more confident after each event. I like double dipping because it keeps my rhythm and momentum going.
"Instead of doing one division and waiting around a lot, I can keep the energy level high and always have something to do. My goal is to qualify for the CT this year and also to win the North American Junior Series --so a win in either division will help towards my goal."
Action begins tomorrow morning with the first call at 6:30 a.m. local time for a likely start of the Vans Pro QS3000 at 7:00 a.m. The Vans Pro Junior will be on standby for a possible Round 1 start Monday afternoon.