The World Surf League (WSL) men's Qualifying Series (QS) elite made their highly-anticipated Round 3 debut at the Vans Pro QS 3,000, but a plethora of the top-seeded competitors faltered out of the gates and were eliminated. Competition covered a lot of ground after yesterday's lay day, also completing Round 4, in the one-to-two foot windswell on offer and Quarterfinalists were decided with a handful of familiar faces finding their way into new territory -- a Finals day appearance at a major QS event.
The Vans Pro Junior had a lay day and await tomorrow's Finals day call. But, they will be joined by an array of the best up and coming threats looking to claim a major victory toward their 2018 qualification campaign.
Deivid Silva Looks For Charge Into Top 10
After Championship Tour (CT) Alex Ribeiro was eliminated in the heat prior, Silva got one back for the Brasilian contingent and smashed a golden opportunity to post a near-perfect 9.57, and the men's QS top heat total so far of 17.74, in Round 4. Silva, currently ranked No. 12 on the QS, has a chance at moving through the ranks here with a big result, but needs to capitalize with more performances like today's. The 23-year-old has earned runner-up at this event twice in the past and is pushing harder than before to ensure one spot better.
"That was such a tough heat with Victor (Bernardo), Santiago (Muniz), and the grom (Jett Schilling) who's been surfing amazing this whole event so I'm very excited to make that one," Silva said. "You just had to stay busy and catch a lot of waves to stay in rhythm. It feels great to have those waves come to me and perform my best on them. This is an important event for me with 3,000 points and my focus is good so I'm ready for finals day."
Now Full-Time QS Campaigner Luke Gordon is Catching Up
East Coast native, hailing from South Carolina, Gordon tipped the scale toward perfection and earned a 9.40 to catapult himself into a huge heat win. The 18-year-old came out of the water in disbelief following his performance as he has the possibility of making big moves on the QS rankings if he can continue today's success. This marks Gordon's first full-time year on the QS and the learning curve has been steep, but days like today keep the motivation to succeed well intact.
"I'm so thankful that wave came and I'm speechless to get that score," Gordon said. "When it's small like this it's such a rollercoaster of emotions. Everyone can get a score if you get a wave and after I got that first hit out the back, I was so thankful it stood up on the inside for three more turns. It's so nice to be on the East Coast, close enough to home to where it feels really comfortable, and this would be a pretty fun day where I live. First year on the QS, it's the dream and I'm just trying to live it the best I can. This event is huge and this is my best result by far, and I feel like I'm catching up on the rankings right here."
Two-Time Vans Pro Finalist Evan Geiselman: "It's All About Rhythm"
Geiselman returned to Virginia Beach in phenomenal form with two big heat wins. The 2016 Vans Pro Champion and 2017 Finalist picked up right where he left off in his debut, Round 3 heat with a 15.83 (out of a possible 20) heat total, earning an excellent 8.50 (out of a possible 10). Geiselman knows what to expect at 1st Street Jetty and came well-equipped for a third-straight Vans Pro finals day appearance with a little help from Mother Nature.
"I gave myself the opportunity by getting to my 11-point mark and then held priority for the last seven minutes, luckily that last wave came through for a shot at making the heat," Geiselman said. "That was a tough heat, I needed 13 points so I'm stoked to get through. In small waves it's all about rhythm and you have to make it happen -- both heats I was moving around a lot. It's always my goal to make finals day, I feel like I've done my job if I'm there. Three heats left, I'll go at them one at a time, but happy to find myself back in the Quarters."
Tyler Gunter Surges Into Finals Day For QS and Pro Junior
Gunter's remarkable run looks unstoppable as he powered his way through Round 3 and 4, taking out top-seeded surfer Carlos Munoz in Round 3, finding himself in both the Vans Pro QS 3,000 Quarterfinals and Pro Junior Semifinals. The Newport Beach, California, native hopes to return to the Pro Junior Final for a shot at redemption, earning fourth-place last year, and also found new territory by earning a spot into the Men's QS Quarterfinals. Gunter's, 18, strategy and all his training at home have paid off as he looks for a big finish on finals day.
"I've been in the Round of 64 at a QS 3,000 before so I really wanted to make it past that heat and after grinding through I didn't want to stop," Gunter said. "It's feeling really good to keep picking up momentum in both events and it's important to have confidence in your board when it gets small like this. I'm going to be on the QS full-time next year so it's always great to get some experience and build points, but my main focus is still the junior. Maybe something weird will work out on finals day and I can take out both events, that'd be crazy.
Tanner Gudauskas Earns First Vans Pro Quarterfinal Since 2014
One of Vans most electric team riders, and Positive Vibe Warrior representative, kept his Vans US Open form intact amid the small conditions and won both his Round 3 and 4 heats. The former Championship Tour (CT) competitor locked in an excellent 8.00 in his Round 3 debut before following up with an improved 8.13 in Round 4. Gudauskas found himself among fellow former CT competitors Alex Ribeiro and Alejo Muniz, alongside QS threat Kei Kobayashi, but rose to the occasion and solidified himself back into a Vans Pro finals day for the first time since 2014.
"It's really tough, but I'm stoked to choose the right ones out there and get through it," Gudauskas said. "I haven't really been doing a lot of contests this year, but I'm down here doing a lot of things with Vans and Coastal Edge so either way it's a win. It's been a full, fun trip and this event is a pretty potent piece of the East Coast experience so it's great to be back. It's been a long time since my last finals day here so I'll take it and see what tomorrow brings us."
Japanese Contingent Remain Strong
Japanese contenders Hiroto Ohhara and Reo Inaba, alongside fellow countrymen Joh Azuchi, and Riki Horikoshi join the finals day action. Inaba led the light-footed competitors, who were able to race through sections and find critical turns in the tough conditions, but conditions they thrive in around the world. The land of the rising sun is well-represented with one of its most notable surfers, Ohhara, finding his way into the Quarters behind Azuchi -- after earning a wildcard into the Surf Ranch Pro with a trials win.
Tomorrow's 7:30 a.m. EDT call will determine a possible 8:00 a.m. EDT start for the Men's QS Quarterfinal battles.