The WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region has just returned from French Polynesia, where it completed a series of five different competitive events, and now opens a new event window for the Pipe Pro Junior and Wahine Pipe Pro from April 27 - March 3. A Men's JQS 1,000 and Women's QS 1,000, the two divisions will count toward regional rankings for 2018 and see top placing surfers one step closer to a sought-after spot in the 2018 World Junior Championships.
Fresh off a win at the Papara Pro Vahine Open Tahiti and runner-up at the Papara Pro Vahine Junior, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) heads into the Wahine Pipe Pro as the top seed. The Kauai native also won the Sunset Pro Junior in January and now leads both the Women's QS and Women's Pro Junior rankings in the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region.
"I had a list of goals this year and both of them got ticked off," Bryan said following her Papara Pro Vahine Open win. "One of my goals was to win a Pro Junior, one of them was to win a QS. I've just been working really hard so it's cool to finally have all the hard work pay off."
Following the Wahine Pipe Pro, Bryan plans to compete in a few more QS events around the world to maintain momentum, then head into the Pro Junior at Turtle Bay this October with a focused desire to win.
"Hopefully at the Turtle Bay Resort Pro Junior I can claim the regional title for the Junior division and go to Worlds, that would be really awesome," Bryan said. "Heading into that final Pro Junior of the year, my goal is to obviously win and come out on top for the overall rankings."
The Pipe Pro Junior will feature a 48-man field with athletes like Dwight Pastrana (PRI), 17, traveling from as far as Puerto Rico to compete. The other countries represented in the competition include French Polynesia, Australia, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and Japan.
"I'm pretty stoked to be consistent and hopefully get one more good result before the end of the year," said McHale following his second-place finish at the Papara Pro Junior. "I definitely want to qualify for World Juniors and if I could win the region that would be awesome too, but main goal is World Juniors."
Defending event winner and 2017 Regional Junior Champion Barron Mamiya (HAW) will return to Hawaii after a successful stint in Australia that saw him earn runner-up at the Burton Automotive Pro QS 6,000 and surf the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. Currently in the No. 5 spot on the International QS rankings, Mamiya is the highest rated athlete from Hawaii for potential Championship Tour (CT) qualification in 2019.
Also entered in the men's draw is Finn McGill (HAW), 17, who earned a win at the first Pro Junior event of the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui season. He sits only 275 points below McHale on the regional rankings and will be a fierce contender at Pipeline, given his prowess at the world-famous break. A proven winner at Pipe, McGill won the 2016 Pipe Invitational against an incredibly stacked field of veterans to receive a spot into the Billabong Pipe Masters, the final WSL Men's CT stop of the year.
The QS Women and Junior Men will have the opportunity to surf Pipeline with only a few other competitors in the lineup, a rare occasion considering the popularity of the perfect, barreling wave. The eight-day holding period will feature two full days of competition with a 48-man field for the Junior Men and a 16-man field for the Women's QS.