An exciting day of competition opened up the Soup Bowl Pro Junior Men's event with plenty on the line for World Junior Championships qualification -- and the waves to provide the opportunities for all of it to happen.
Jake Marshall turned in two brilliant performances that earned him two heat wins en route to a Semifinal appearance. The California-native showed his powerful style in the pocket of each turn with variety and controlled intensity with an excellent 9.00. But, there is still plenty of work to be done to secure his No. 3 spot on the rankings.
"I was trying to stay patient and use my priority for when the good waves came through," Marshall said. "I didn't want to take off on anything that wouldn't provide me good opportunity. It's amazing when you get a good one and there was plenty of chances for everybody even though it was a little inconsistent out there. I'm stoked to make it through today, this is one of my favorite waves in the world and I love it here."
As it stands: With the elimination of Tyler Gunter and Cole Houshmand, Marshall must now fend off Luke Gordon and Chauncey Robinson to secure his place to the World Junior Championships. If Marshall earns fourth-place in his Semifinal, Gordon wins the event, and Robinson earns runner-up -- Marshall and Robinson will be placed in a surf-off for the No. 4 spot.
Fellow Semifinalist Luke Gordon displayed he's up to the task with tac-sharp surfing of his own. The South Carolina-native posted his scoring rides on his final two waves, capturing the victory in the final seconds with a 7.23 after his previous 7.33 on the best wave of the heat.
"I was actually really nervous out there just with Cole [Houshmand] and Tyler [Gunter] going out -- being the two people in front of me," Gordon said. "It's whoever gets the two best waves out there right now, it's so tricky and you have to get the right one. I was almost too patient in my second heat because I had to get a buzzer beater. I'm just going to try and forget everything, surf, and whatever happens, happens."
After a nail-biter in Round 2, Nolan Rapoza came back firing on all cylinders to display why he's in the No. 1 spot currently -- posting a 16.66 in his Quarterfinal match-up. The Long Beach-native came out of his heat all smiles with a place into the Semifinals and guaranteed place into World Junior Championships in the books.
"It's fun out there for sure and that Quarter was a lot better than the last heat," Rapoza said. "I think I sat deeper this time early on and found a good one right away to get started. Once I start off like that I feel invincible and then just wanted to be patient. One of my goals coming in was to surf smarter heats, but also to surf smarter on the wave as well and that's what I wanted to work on here."
An in-form Chauncey Robinson will be putting up a fight of his own to make the Final and battle for a spot into World Junior Championships there. Robinson's formidable layback snaps were the turning point for the Floridian when posting his 8.10. He then posted a 7.60 in the final six minutes to earn the lead and not give it back up.
"To me this is the best contest of the year, hands down," Robinson said. "This is the event I look forward to every year and if it came down to this for qualification I knew it's where I could put the most trust in myself. I was a long shot and didn't have any nerves until about ten minutes before that Quarterfinal. But, this is one of the best waves in the world and it's just about having fun."
Che Allan hasn't counted himself out of the Top 4 picture just yet with a spot into the Semifinals. While he needs those ahead of him to fall out before the Final, the Bajan can put pressure of his own on with a big win -- something he is putting out of sight and mind at his homebreak.
Also in the Semifinals and a chance at the Top 4, Micky Clarke is within striking distance if he comes away with a win and has other results fall his way from those above him.
The 7:30 a.m. local time call will determine an 8:00 a.m. start for either the men or women's Semifinal bouts at Soup Bowl.