After a very successful 2015 event, the World Surf League (WSL) is excited to announce that the Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro will return to the shores of Cocoa Beach, Fla. for the 4th consecutive year with even more action to offer. In addition to the Junior Tour events held for both Men and Women, a Men's Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 will join the schedule of events at the Beach ‘n Boards Fest.
Contest founder Mitch Varnes is eyeing down March 10 - 13 in preparation for the expanded field of competitors and is thrilled for the opportunity. Receiving fun, two-to-three foot conditions at Cocoa Beach for last year's event, Varnes reveled in the idea of bringing it back to Shepard Beach Park.
"The surfers and the community have started to get excited about our event as the only contest that puts Cocoa Beach on a global surf map," Varnes said. "Adding the QS this year will certainly add to the local froth for our contest. The WSL's change in age criteria for the juniors took a lot of surfers out of the mix for our event. But, Ron Jon and Vans decided to add the QS event to give more surfers a chance at competing in a WSL event in Florida and to elevate the level of surfing."
Making his return to Cocoa after earning a Junior Pro win last year, Lucca Mesinas (PER) will be looking to claim the inaugural QS title at the Ron Jon Vans Pro. The Peruvian is coming off his best finish in a QS event at last month's Shoe City Pro in Huntington Beach, Ca. where he secured a Quarterfinal appearance. With big plans set for the season, Mesinas is prepared both mentally and physically to achieve his goals.
"My experience in Cocoa Beach was pretty fun having some friends from Peru at the event with me so we had a great time," Mesinas said. "The waves were small but I was pretty stoked to have won the contest in those kind of conditions. To start with a 5th place in the first QS1000 of the year makes me feel more confident and of course is a good way to start the year. My goal for this year is to get into the top 100 so I can surf the QS10000 events next year. I've been training a lot in Huntington Beach with my coach Toma every day to be prepared for this year."
Luke Marks (USA) has his eyes set on both the Men's Pro Junior and QS1000 titles in Cocoa Beach, just down the road from his hometown of Melbourne, Fla. Though Marks became a San Clemente, Ca. transplant last year for training purposes, he still holds Florida close to heart. Earning a spot in the Final at last year's event, Luke is hoping to replicate that performance and find his place back on the podium after recently gaining a new sponsor.
"I'm very excited to be competing in an event so close to my home - there is definitely a comfortability level," Marks said. "It feels great to be able to start 2016 with a new sponsorship in Quiksilver and I feel so confident with them supporting me. This year I've made it a priority to really dial in my boards for all conditions so that I can feel confident in whatever the ocean delivers."
"My goal in the Junior Tour this year is to qualify for Worlds," Marks added. "I've been so close to qualifying in the previous years and I feel that this year I'm going to. I also want to build enough points on the QS to get into the 6,000 events."
With Tia Blanco (USA) aging out of her Junior career, a fresh champion at the Ron Jon Vans Pro is a certainty for the Women's Junior Pro division amongst a talented field of surfers. One of those talents, Rachel Presti (USA), hails from just down the road in Melbourne Beach, Fla., and has a promising future ahead of her. At age 13, Presti has established herself as a prominent up-and-coming surfer with plenty of spark and is elated with the chance to perform close to home.
"I am extremely excited to surf this event and being able to compete against the top surfers from around this region," Presti said. "I think the tougher the competition, the better. The knowledge and experience you get from surfing these contests is amazing. With every contest, good or bad outcome you learn something new. It's important to take it all in - hopefully you'll learn from your mistakes and enjoy the ride on your way up the competitive ladder."
Event registration is open for all competitors in each division and can be completed by going to www.worldsurfleague.com, scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on Surfer Management and Registration.