The Vans US Open of Surfing Men's Junior event witnessed the next generation of talent once more with the surfers taking to the water for their Quarterfinal bouts. Familiar names rose to the occasion while newcomers joined in the mix for what looks to be an impressive Semifinal arrangement. Following a riveting day of the Men's QS10,000 event, the Juniors made the challenging conditions look impressive despite the slowly rising tide.
Ethan Ewing (AUS) is pulling double duty and remains in both the QS and Junior competition. The young competitor will not have a break between events as he will charge for two strong finishes in Huntington Beach. Posting the highest single-wave score, 8.67, and heat total of 15.84 despite the challenging conditions on offer for the final goings of the day.
"I just want to have fun, not too much to it out there so I just had the watch the waves for awhile before my heat," Ewing said. "Today's not a day that you can stay too patient so I just wanted to get a quick start. Once I got two alright scores I just waited for a good one. It's been really fun. Super different from any other comp I've been to with all the spectators. Got two really good boards. Trying to get really excited and motivated to surf these smaller waves and show what I'm capable in these types of conditions."
Following Ewing's impressive performance, Nolan Rapoza (USA) showed he's prepared to take on the tough conditions with some high-performance surfing of his own. Dropping a 7.17, the 16-year-old is motivated and wants to better his runner-up performance in Los Cabos to take his first Vans US Open title.
"I looked for the lip that would have a close out on it so I could get in a good hit and it ended up working out well," Nolan said. "I knew I wanted to try and get two turns off but my ultimate goal when I got up was to make the inside. I knew it was hard for everyone but Sammy got in and Ethan as well, but my board was feeling good so I had the feeling it was possible.
"Normally I don't put my boards on ice like I have, especially if I'm surfing well, but this is one that hasn't hit the water since Los Cabos and it's working so well and can't wait to try and win this event."
Earning his first Semifinals appearance of the year, Ryland Rubens (USA) found himself in one of the heavier-weighted draws of the event but emerged victorious. Taking on defending champion Griffin Colapinto (USA), Luis Diaz (CNY), and an in-form Chauncey Robinson (USA), Rubens found two diamonds in the rough to claim a Quarterfinals win.
"It was one of those heats where we were all surfing the same conditions so it just feels good to get through that heat," Rubens said. "I haven't done a lot of Junior events this year but this one is just an hour away from my house so I really wanted to come down for it. You had to take off on almost anything that came through and hope that it provided you some good opportunities.
"It's cool since I've been competing against these guys since I was 10 years old and I'll see them a lot throughout my career which is really great. Hopefully the waves pick up and gives some good chances to show what we can really do."
Rounding off the Quarterfinal action, Jake Marshall (USA) found a near-excellent score in less than excellent conditions and is into the Semifinals. Topping a talented heat that included Los Cabos finalist Cole Houshmand (USA), Marshall is taking advantage of his last year as a Junior at Huntington Beach in search of a big result. Currently sitting at No. 12 on the North America rankings, he is in need of a result to help find himself in the Top 4 for a chance at World Junior Championships.
"I was watching the heats prior and some good waves were coming through but then the last heat before mine looked brutal so I knew going in it would be tough but you just had to capitalize," Marshall said. "There was one really good set that came in which gave us the exchange and I was sitting closer to the pier so I think it was the better move since it lined up really well. It was a battle of the back up scores after that. I felt that going in if I could get a two-wave total of ten or better I'd be pretty set but when I got to eleven and heard they only needed a five or six to catch me, it was a little nerve-racking."
"It's a trippy experience competing out here at the pier," Marshall added. "You have a bunch of people cheering for you that don't really even know who you are so it's great to see that kind of support. We thrive off that kind of energy, especially when it's smaller like it was today so it's encouraging. I'm really looking forward to the weekend since I haven't had a good result this year on the Junior Tour and a win here in my last junior year would be amazing."
The Juniors will prepare for their Semifinal matchups this Sunday to crown a new 2016 champion as Griffin Colapinto was eliminated from competition.