The World Surf League (WSL) Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro kicked off with incredible surfing from the young talent the North America region, and beyond, had to offer. Getting their competition underway following Round 3 of the Men's QS1000, the Juniors posted excellent scores throughout the day as their Round of 48 and Round of 32 were completed.
Kei Kobayashi (USA) took full advantage of the waves on hand in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and posted two excellent 8.50 rides that earned him the day's highest heat total of 17.00. Though faltering in the Men's QS1000 event earlier in morning, Kobayashi put that out of his head and started fresh with a renewed vigor.
"This wave is super tricky but if you find the right one you just have to take advantage and hit it as much as you can for the score," Kobayashi said. "Jacob [Burke] got a good one, he rips and with conditions like this anyone can be in the right spot and post a good number up. You definitely need a wider board out there and that heat just put the icing on the cake for me."
The 17-year-old, San Clemente, Calif., native has put in time here at Cocoa this year alone - competing in both the Men's QS1000 and Junior Pro. But, feels that he could use even more experience despite a brilliant performance.
"I just want to stay busy and not really wait - you can't wait too long but all the waves kind of look the same to me since I don't know this wave too well," Kobayashi said. "It's tricky but you just have to find the ones that are going against the grain and just so happy with my board making it through sections I probably wouldn't make normally."
Following Kobayashi's heat, local talent Tommy Coleman (USA) picked apart the Shepard Park lineup and had the field in a combination situation throughout most of the heat with an 8.13 and 8.17. Coleman has had some experience at this event but today marked a new best for the young talent.
"I actually haven't made it through a heat here in the past," Coleman said. "This is my third year and that was my first heat win so I couldn't be happier. It felt really good - would've been great to stick that air reverse in the end to cap it off but I'm feeling pretty good in my surfing so I just want to try and show it."
Barbados' own Che Allan (BRB) found a few gems of his own, posting a near-excellent 7.67 and looked to be in great form. The smaller wave size was no problem for the young Bajan as he is no stranger to the East Coast conditions on hand.
"My QS heat didn't go so well but it gave me a chance to feel out the conditions and make me more confident going into the Junior competition," Allan said. "It felt great to get a good score on the board I'm riding even though I probably should've been on a groveler but I'm happy with this one and to make it past that heat. The waves might drop a bit more tomorrow so I might have to change out boards but I'm just going to see what it's doing and take it heat by heat."
Some of the best surfing was saved for last as Chauncey Robinson (USA) found a low tide gem that he connected with multiple times to earn an 8.50. Posting a 15.83 heat total, Robinson was in tune with what Cocoa Beach had to offer and has plenty of steam moving forward.
"There's a few fun bowls out there that, if you're in the right spot, you can get some good turns on - it's small but still really fun," Robinson said. "This is my second time here and first time I've made it through a heat which is great. It feels good to get started on the Junior Tour with a good start and carry this confidence into tomorrow. I'm going to show up early in the morning and get an idea of what I need to do to get another win."
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7:30am EST for a possible 8am Start in the Men's QS1000 before reassessing for the Junior Pro divisions.