The Qualifying Series (QS) hasn't competed at Barbados' most iconic wave, Soup Bowl, since 2007 and the Thomo QS1000 in Memory of Bill Thomson brings it right back there for a great cause. The men's contingent will battle for 1,000 valuable points November 9 through 11 that could help their push in 2018 and all the action will be live streamed throughout the event.
But, the event is rather special because of the driving force behind such an idea. Alan Burke, father to WSL competitive surfers Jacob and Josh, took the reins to honor former competitive surfer. Bill Thomson. Thomo, as he was known to friends, was at the forefront of Barbadian surfing and helped push the sport to new heights on the island where Burke and his fellow countrymen received all the knowledge they could.
Alan Burke (L) and Bill "Thomo" Thomson (L)
"It's always a huge sense of accomplishment when you set a goal like this and achieve it," Burke said. "It's a similar feeling to winning a heat, contest, or anything for that matter and this was a very high goal considering the time frame between Thomo's passing in July to having the event in November. The Thomo team basically worked around the clock raising the funds, which was mostly contributed locally, and organizing the event to successfully getting it on the WSL schedule."
"It means a tremendous amount personally as Thomo directly paved the way for my life I live today," Burke said. "However, he touched many other lives positively after he originally arrived from Wales to the island in 1973 on contract as a P.E. teacher -- and also taught French at The Foundation School and never really left. He coached the school rugby team there and was an active player in the league so he wasn't just the father of competitive surfing in Barbados, he made an impact on many Barbadians in general. To have this event in his memory is fitting as competitive surfing was his love."
For a surfer such as Bruce Mackie, older brother to fellow competitive surfer Dane, it's a chance to earn vital points toward setting himself up for the 2018 season. Mackie fell on hard times despite having his best competitive year yet, but, due to lack of funding, could not carry that momentum to the Azores Airlines Pro QS6,000 and dropped back to No. 195. Now the Barbadian is set for one last go in honor of "Thomo," who played a hefty role in his career growing up.
"About six months after I started surfing I was encouraged to come out to the local [Barbados Surfing Association] BSA surf contests and naturally I continued competing and met the many faces of surfing here including Bill [Thomson]," Mackie said. "At the time I didn't realize how instrumental Bill was in founding the BSA and the birth of competitive surfing in Barbados. But, through my early competitive days, I remember Bill and Annie sponsoring a ton of events which groomed a crop of really talented friends I have at home. I'm extremely grateful that he paved the way for all of us competing today."
Fellow Barbadian competitor Josh Burke earned a spot in multiple QS10,000s this year. But, with his rank falling to No. 111, he's now just on the outside looking at the Triple Crown. However, with news of the Thomo QS1,000 in his backyard, Burke now gears up for a chance setting himself for a solid to start to 2018 alongside Mackie.
"It was amazing having the QS3000 at 'Brandends' earlier this year, but now having a QS1,000 at my favorite wave in the same year is crazy," Burke said. "I'm psyched to see Barbados hosting more QS events and making it easier on the Barbadian surfers budgets, while providing an opportunity for the local upcoming groms to see world-class surfers compete in person."
"Uncle Bill coached, managed and traveled with my dad so I heard some stories," Burke added. "But, then in 2010 when I was 13, Uncle Bill was also an inspiration for myself by rewarding me with a Natural Art Board for being the most improved Barbadian surfer that year. It was my first epoxy board and has red stars with a blue outline all over it -- I still have it in my room. I loved that board and he taught me a lot about surfing in general. I will never forget him."
The Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson will run November 9 through 11 alongside the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia November 9 through 12.