An imposing day of early eliminations, separating those able to maintain their momentum from yesterday and those who may have peaked too early, lingered amid a beautiful day at the Vans Pro men's Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and Vans Pro Junior. For the Pro Juniors, a spot into the Quarterfinals awaited those who could overcome the peaky morning conditions. The Men's QS then took over and continued as the next batch of seeded surfers debuted.
The top-seeded Round 3 of the QS awaits its start as all the slots are full and some of today's standouts will look to continue their form.
Jake Kelley Stays Relative with Near-Perfection
Kelley continues to stay relevant in the jersey despite taking hiatuses for his recent filming project and he came back firing on all cylinders with a near-perfect 9.33. Kelley went against the grain for his wave selection to start the heat and was rewarded greatly for it before joining the pack to finish off the heat win. The 23-year-old is always a threat when he enters the lineup and looks to keep up with competition for a chance at his breakthrough.
"I've just been surfing a bunch at home and working on filming and it's been really fun," Kelley said. "I noticed there's some pretty good waves off to the side so I wanted to start away from everyone. My goals are to get some points and that's a big motivation coming to these East Coast events and to keep my seed so I can get into those competitions at the start of the year like the Volcom Pipe Pro."
Former Pro Junior Champ Finds His QS Form
Fellow Californian and former North America Pro Junior Champion and 2016 Vans Pro Junior winner Nolan Rapoza followed suit, despite not watching heats prior, and posted a 14.90 heat total en route to his debut win. Rapoza had to overcome the likes of in-form competitors Josh Burke, Jeremy Carter, and Eithan Osborne, but his backhand looked to be unstoppable. It's been a lackluster year aside from a Semifinal performance at the Jack's Surfboards Pro, but Rapoza still finds himself ranked No. 134 with a chance to propel up the rankings if he earns a result here.
"All I could think of was to start fast because that was such a slow heat and I wanted to be the first one to catch a wave," Rapoza said. "It would help put pressure on them as quick as possible. After I got lucky on that inside wave I wanted to back it up, but thought to sit and wait for something worthy. Then the wave of the heat came through and luckily I had priority, but that's what got me through. I felt like I did my job today so I'm stoked."
Jett Schilling's Hot Streak: Pro Junior Quarters and a CT Takedown
One of the youngest competitors in the draw made the biggest dent so far as Jett Schilling, 15, took down former Championship Tour (CT) surfer Jack Freestone in his QS debut. Schilling already earned a spot into the Quarterfinals earlier in the morning and carried that confidence into another huge win. This is only Schilling's second showing at the Vans Pro QS 3,000 as the young San Clemente, California, surfer finds his way through the process.
"I feel really good to get this momentum going and even though the waves are small, they can be pretty fun," Schilling said. "It was great to compete with a guy like Freestone because they're so good and gives me some motivation. I'm just psyched to keep going and want to stay happy, hopefully get a good result, but just enjoy it."
An 8:30 a.m. EDT call will determine a possible 9:00 a.m. start to either the Men's QS Round 3 or Pro Junior Quarterfinals.