To be chaired-up the beach is surfing's greatest, competitive honor whether it's a Junior Tour victory, Qualifying Series (QS) win, or the marquee Championship Tour (CT). Sunday witnessed three surfers earn coveted wins at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,000, Junior Pro, and Ron Jon Roxy Junior Pro in what is coming to be known as the best Cocoa Beach event -- ever.
The third consecutive QS 1,000 added another new name to the trophy as Josh Burke finally emerged victorious at the QS level. A long-awaited Finals appearance was accomplished by the Barbadian and finished on top. It was a special day for the 21-year-old, who found his rhythm early on against 2017 Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro winner Ryland Rubens in the Semifinals.
But, Burke saved his best for last and earned an 8.33 (out of a possible 10) to begin the Final against an in-form Colt Ward and didn't stop pressing until the final horn sounded.
"I'm just so psyched to make the Finals and actually win, I don't know this feeling because I've never had it before," Burke said. "I've won a Pro Junior in the past, but this has been a goal of mine for a long time now to take out a QS. This definitely gives me some confidence and just hoping to keep this momentum going. I've got a third and first now so I just want to get keep getting these kind of results."
"I'm just so excited to be standing here right now with a win and I'd like to dedicate this win to Zander [Venezia]," Burke continued. "I saw a Z in the clouds and knew he was there."
Burke will now gear up for a big Caribbean leg that ends on his home shores at the Barbados Surf Pro QS 3,000 with this momentum pushing him forward.
"I'll get home for a few days before going to Martinique for the QS 3,000 there and then back home for another 3,000," Burke added. "These QS 1,000s are pretty hard with some of the surfers that come to do them like Evan [Geiselman] being here, who almost made the World Tour a couple of years. But, the 3,000s are another big step with a lot of great surfers so I'll just focus on doing my best there."
The Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro runner-up's, Ward, Semifinal bout highlighted finals day as he eliminated defending event winner and East Coast's most prominent QS force, Evan Geiselman. The 20-year-old sat in second for nearly the entire heat until the three-minute mark delivered a forehand gem he was able to take full advantage of -- earning an excellent 8.50 to take the win.
Unfortunately for the San Clemente, California, surfer, the ocean didn't deliver the same last-minute opportunity and he finished just behind Burke in the Final.
"It's great to finally get into a Final after really looking forward to that Semifinal with Evan [Geiselman] since I've never had a man-on-man heat with him," Ward said. "He's an amazing surfer and I was just super stoked to get that last opportunity, and couldn't contain my excitement when I let out that claim just hearing some cheers on the beach. This is a great result moving forward and hopefully it's the one that gets the ball rolling. I definitely feel like I worked on my heat strategies in this one and picked only the best waves, and I was just having fun all week without putting too much pressure on myself."
Ward's win over Geiselman marked the Floridian's first defeat in a Semifinal spanning back to 2015 -- earning three consecutive East Coast Final appearances since the Vans Pro in 2016.
Ryland Rubens returned to Cocoa Beach a full-time QS competitor after winning the 2017 Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro -- his first-ever WSL win. The Ocean Beach, San Diego, surfer can hold his head high after a brilliant run at this year's affairs ended with a Semifinal appearance and falling to eventual winner, Burke.
The next North America QS event will be the Jack's Surfboards Pro QS 1,500 at Huntington Beach, California, March 23 - 25.