16-year-old Jake Marshall (USA) is proving himself a threat to the Men's QS, earning a spot into Round 3 after a dominant Round 2 win. WSL/ Ferguson Last year's runner-up, Jake Marshall (pictured) and winner, Taylor Clark are both absent from this year's event -- leaving the window wide open for a new champion to appear at the Ron Jon Vans Pro. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

The World Surf League (WSL) will descend upon 11x World Champion Kelly Slater's hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida March 9 - 12 for the Ron Jon Vans Pro and Pro Junior. This event's history goes back to 2013 where it began as a men and women's Pro Junior competition, but now boasts a men's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 for a second straight year. In conjunction with the Beach N' Boards Fest that begins Friday, March 10, the WSL will get action underway Thursday morning.

At a QS1,000, onlookers and those following along will see a great mix of talent from up-and-coming surfers, to a few well-established names. Evan Geiselman is one of them, coming in as the No. 1 seed. The Floridian started his year off at the string of Australian QS6,000 events and now returns to his home state in hopes of finding some momentum. Geiselman narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2017 Championship Tour with a No. 19 finish last year and has higher expectations of himself heading into this year.

Evan Geiselman (USA) en route to winning his second QS in 2016 -- and of his career -- at the Vans Pro Men's QS3,000 Geiselman grew up on East Coast waves and is a threat no matter the size -- particularly just down the road from his New Smyrna Beach home. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

"It's awesome having more events on the east coast and hopefully there's some waves," Geisleman said. "This will be the first event I've done in Florida in at least four years so I'm looking forward to competing close to home. Every event is important but taking advantage of the early opportunities is huge and getting the confidence going early in the year is big. I want to be more consistent from event to event so that's what I'm looking to improve this year."

Che Allan (BRB) Junior standout Che Allan feels right at home in Florida, just a short flight away from his home island of Barbados. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

An up-and-coming surfer to watch out for in 2017, Che Allan is prepared to kickoff his Junior Tour season after an impressive showing at the World Junior Championships earlier this year -- where he earned a Quarterfinal result. The Barbadian finished No. 4 on the North America Regional rankings, but comes into this year as the man to beat with the Top 3 aging out of the Junior Tour.

"I'm really excited for the first event in Cocoa Beach," Allan said. "I have been there many times and making my first Final there last year was definitely the moment that made me believe I could qualify for the Worlds. I feel a lot more confident this year after my last two big results. Right now the goal is just to qualify for the Worlds and get a good result there to help my seeding in the QS next year."

Earning runner-up in his Quarterfinal heat, Che Allan (BRB) is the sole Bajan remaining in the Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro. WSL/ Ferguson Allan's wave choice and light-footed approach made him dangerous last year -- something he's only improved on. - WSL / John W. Ferguson

2016 North America Women's Regional Junior Tour Champion Leilani McGonagle will look to begin her campaign for a repeat Title in her last year as a junior. The 17-year-old has already been in the competitive mindset with her appearances at multiple QS events in Australia following the World Junior Championships, though not yielding any breakthrough success just yet.

McGonagle earned runner-up at the Ron Jon Vans Pro Junior last year, but has plenty of talent around her to fend off if she wants to find another Final.

Leilani McGonagle (CRI) winning her Quarterfinal heat at the Soup Bowl Pro Junior McGonagle's brilliant backhand led her to a North America Regional Title and returns well-equipped for another season on the junior level. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

"Competing in Worlds was such a great experience," McGonagle said. "I'm going to do my best to try to repeat this opportunity. There's a ton of talent in the North American region so I hope to be consistent and get some good results under my belt at the start of our Pro Juniors. I feel that Worlds helped me learn a lot about my competitive surfing and I'm just trying to improve on it more and more."

Event organizers will meet tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. EST to determine an 8:00 a.m. EST start for either the men's QS1,000 or men's Pro Junior -- with the women off for the day.

World Surf League
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