The shores of Bathsheba, Barbados lit up with cheers and applause as Che Allan claimed the island's first-ever Soup Bowl Pro Men's Junior title in great fashion. The backhander used his local knowledge to the utmost advantage and found the diamonds in the rough for a massive victory after taking an early lead -- and not giving it up. Allan needed at least a runner-up finish to find a place in the Top 4 and in doing so earned his first-ever WSL Junior Tour victory with a trip to the World Junior Championship in January.
"To be the first Bajan to win the Pro Junior event here is just unbelievable, I couldn't have dreamt this," Allan said. "I just can't believe it. I wasn't really focusing on the numbers until just before the Final when my dad told me I needed to win or get runner-up. Knowing that, I just wanted to go out there and get total control of the heat right away. I'm just so happy to come away with a win."
"Knowing this wave is such a big advantage," Allan continued. "It's not that big today but you could've definitely pulled a sneaky move and gone up a bit deeper in the lineup -- just a couple of little tricks I know about this place that definitely played a big role."
Fellow goofyfooter Nolan Rapoza's remarkable year came to an end with a third runner-up finish to cap off 2016 as the North America Junior Men's Regional Champion. After a breakout day one of competition, Rapoza finished off strong and kept Luke Gordon's run for WJC qualification at bay in the Semifinals before doing battle with Allan again in the Final.
"It's been a blast this whole year after I came so close last year and I've never had this opportunity before so I'm definitely stoked," Rapoza said. "I was constantly working with my boards out here because you never know what kind of board you'll need. Positioning is also a big factor. It should help my confidence a lot just surfing smarter this year through each event so I'm hoping it translates to the future for me."
Jake Marshall successfully defended his No. 3 spot with one last Final appearance in his Junior Tour career and showed his form throughout the event to get there. Marshall held onto the highest scoring of the event after his performance Friday and took that into his Semifinal win. But, Soup Bowl went quiet for the California-native and now he'll prepare for the World Junior Championship.
"This event was so fun and the first couple of days were super sick," Marshall said. "Today was definitely more of a strategy game so you just had to find yourself on the best waves coming through. It feels great and that was the main goal of coming down here was to secure that spot into Worlds. I didn't make it last year so I'm stoked to head over to Australia and give it a shot there."
It wasn't all celebrations following the Final as Chauncey Robinson found himself on the outside looking in when the last horn sounded. The Floridian needed Allan to falter to get into the Top 4, but the Bajan's strong start couldn't be matched. Robinson now sets his eyes beyond the surfing world with his Junior career at an end.
"I knew what I needed to do the whole time and it was such a fun event until that last heat just not quite turning on for us," Robinson said. "It was pretty slow out there and I never maintained priority so it was just bad wave selection. All it takes for someone to get the right waves. I may take a bit of a break from the contest scene and hold off on the QS. This event is still my favorite of the year. Even if the waves are just average, it's still such an amazing venue and wave."
The World Junior Championship will take place Januar 4 - 13, 2017 at Kiama, New South Wales, Australia.