The World Surf League (WSL) North America Pro Juniors are back in action beginning tomorrow, September 21 - 23 for the fourth annual RVCA Pro Junior presented by Jack's Surfboards and Banzai Bowls at Newport Beach, California. 56th Street Jetty will host the region's top talents 18-and-under alongside the historic City of Newport Beach Surf Championship, produced by Darren Brilhart since its start, now proudly entering its 30th year of competition.
The men's Top 4 race is separated by just 130 points between No. 4 Kade Matson and No. 5 Bo Raynor as Newport Beach's own Tyler Gunter leads the charge into the RVCA Pro Junior at No. 1 following his runner-up at the Vans Pro Junior.
Gunter claimed his maiden WSL victory at the RVCA Pro Junior in 2016 and nearly replicated that performance last season, earning a runner-up. Now, Gunter sits at No. 1 on the rankings for the first time in his Pro Junior career heading back into this event and a chance to pull away from the pack with another big result.
"This event means everything to me, I've grown up watching the [Newport Beach Surf Championship] and surfing in it since I was like 6 years old," Gunter said. "I have been waiting all year for the [RVCA Pro Junior] and can't wait to give it everything I have to try and win. I'm definitely stoked to be No. 1, but I'm not going to focus on the ratings until after the contest because all I want to be focused on is trying to win. At the end of the year my goal is to finish in that top spot so I can have a high seed going into Worlds."
"I've grown up surfing 54th and 56th street and it's where I surf every day that I'm home," Gunter added. "They both can be really tricky to figure out which waves are the good ones to go on. I think I've surfed out there in every condition there is, so hopefully I can use my local knowledge to my advantage."
Eithan Osborne will miss this event with an invite to the Stab High Invitation, which opens up moving room amid the Top 4 and gives Raynor the opportunity to strike.
Raynor missed the heavy effects of Hurricane Florence that weighed down on his home coast of North Carolina and instead got proper swell to train on before heading to Newport Beach. It's a massive opportunity for the 18-year-old to make a move before the final event of the season, the Live Like Zander Junior Pro, and try to lock in a World Junior Championship spot in his last season as a junior. Raynor already has two Finals appearances this season after his recent Vans Pro Junior result, but will need to better his fourth-place finishes for a shot at getting into the Top 4.
"It's felt good to put results together all year and be No. 5 going into the last two contests," Raynor said. "Headed into Newport I'm super focused on getting my best result of the year and make it so I'm sitting comfortably going into the last contest in Barbados. I've never done the Pro Junior here, but I've competed in a couple contests there over the years and surfed there a good bit whenever I'm out in California. It feels kind of like an East Coast beachbreak so I'm excited to surf some heats there. I'm really wanting a big win by the years end and before I move on from the juniors."
Only Gunter and Tommy Coleman represent last year's finalists and Coleman has the opportunity to put himself in striking position of that Top 4 picture with another big result. But, Cole Houshmand is only adding to his total points and puts him in the best position sitting outside the Top 4 to catapult into the qualification picture after his wildcard into World Junior Championship last season.
Check for updates throughout the weekend and see who's able to make their move, or hold their spots, at 56th Street Jetty.
The women will get proceedings underway at 8:00 a.m. PST with their Quarterfinal match ups before men's Round 1, 2, and Quarterfinals follow.
The Men and Women's RVCA Pro Junior will run September 21 - 23 in Newport Beach, California.