Many of the Vans US Open of Surfing - Men's Jr. haven't set foot in the south side arena atmosphere since this weekend when Quarterfinalists were locked in. That all changed Tuesday with some hefty, early upsets and surprise performances from some of North America's top up-and-coming competitors looking to make a name for themselves in professional surfing.
A vital day of competition for the region's best 18-and-under surfers began with a heavy upset courtesy of Jackson Butler as he helped eliminate current North America No. 1 Crosby Colapinto and No. 2 Eithan Osborne. 2017 standout Cole Houshmand advanced alongside Butler into a marquee Semifinal matchup, but a clutch performance from Kade Matson earned him a spot into his second-straight Vans US Open Pro Junior Final and eliminated Butler as the San Clemente duo punched their tickets into the Final.
"This is one of my favorite events and after I cracked the Final last year I just want to win it this year," Matson said. "I feel really good right now after getting that Final in Los Cabos earlier this summer and I won an NSSA National title here a few weeks ago. I feel in-sync with this wave. To have all the San Clemente guys here is so good because we push each other really hard even though we're all great friends, we all want to win so it's a healthy rivalry that we all have."
For Houshmand, this marks a drastic swing in momentum -- now making two WSL Finals in a row counting his recent exploits in the Acapulco QS 1,000 event -- as his first Pro Junior Final of the year.
"This feels amazing and I'm beyond stoked to make a junior Final this year, especially here," Houshmand said. "This is as big as the venue gets for the Pro Junior series with the crowds and atmosphere so I'm stoked to make the Final. It's only my third Pro Junior Final ever and each year I've done a step better at this event with Quarterfinals two years ago and Semifinals last year."
Alongside a well-represented San Clemente, California, crew, Hawaii will once again have a competitor in the Final as Barron Mamiya smashed his way through Quarterfinal and Semifinal action. After Cody Young's victory last year, Mamiya has an opportunity to keep the US Open trophy on the islands, but knows the work is far from done.
"I'm psyched to be in the Final after I had a great start to the year, but I've been on a bit of a downer with some poor results since so this is great momentum," Mamiya said. "For the Final I'm just going to try and find the best two waves of the heat and rip them as hard as I can. This is a big arena with huge crowds so I just put my headphones in and not try to think about it. Cody (Young) is one of my good friends and I wasn't here last year unfortunately to be with him to celebrate that win, but hopefully I can win it this year and fly the flag for us again."
Mamiya will be joined by an in-form Alan Cleland. A dominant Quarterfinal performance propelled the Pascuales, Mexico, native into the stacked Semifinal heat which he handled with poise and was able to advance into a career best, first-ever Pro Junior Final.
"I'm in the Final of the US Open, that's as good as it gets and I'm just so psyched," Cleland said. "That 8-point right got me way more excited to make the Final. This is the furthest I've ever made it and I can't believe it. It's going to take two of those 8-pointers to win this thing, all these guys are so good and it'll take all I have to win it."
The Vans US Open of Surfing will continue tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. PDT with Women's Pro Junior Round 1 (H1-4), Quarterfinals (H1-4), and Semifinals (H1-2), followed by the Men's QS Round 2 (H17-24).
You can watch the Vans US Open of Surfing live on CBS Sports Network (US only, check local schedule), the WSL website, the WSL app, and Facebook.