There's been a lot of great moments for women's surfing in previous weeks and the inaugural RVCA Pro Junior pres by Jack's Surfboards and Banzai Bowls only helped the cause that much more. It was only fitting that Samantha Sibley's first-ever WSL win coincided with it and the current No. 2 fought tooth and nail to claim her maiden victory over.
The 2018 edition of the RVCA Pro Junior will go down as a milestone after adding some of North America's top women 18-and-under to the mix, and fireworks ensued in the Final as Sibley's inspiring performance made it that much more spectacular.
The San Clemente, California, native had a similar finish to her amazing comeback, dropping a 7.43 in the final three minutes and went from fourth to first-place -- stealing the win from current No. 1 Kirra Pinkerton. Sibley leapfrogged event standouts Tiare Thompson and Makena Burke with her stunning forehand that notched her a 7.17 early on in the heat before finding the event-winning wave.
"It's so insane and I'm so excited to have this extra opportunity here, and I can't believe it," Sibley said. "I've been working hard and I'm glad to see it paid off like this. The waves were so fun and the girls were surfing so well, this means a lot to me. It was really cool being No. 2 and surfing against the No. 1 in the Final, and I just wanted to try and solidify my spot for Worlds."
This result helps put her closest contender, Thompson, in a must-win scenario at the Live Like Zander Junior Pro if she is to take the No. 2 spot from Sibley. The young Californian showed her nerves of steel as the clock wound down and will retain that confidence moving forward.
"It was pretty nerve-racking and I knew I only needed a 7 so I just had to calm down and land those two turns, not do anything crazy," Sibley added. "I just took a couple of deep breaths before that and felt pretty relaxed. It takes a lot of the pressure off heading to the next event because it's a huge goal of mine to qualify for Worlds and this really helps me."
New North America Regional Champion, Kirra Pinkerton
It was a bittersweet finish for Pinkerton as she looked for an astonishing third win of 2018, but her runner-up performance did not go unnoticed. Her incredible backhand attack ripped into a 56th Street Jetty lefthander and garnered the event's single-highest wave score of 9.17 -- overtaking third-place Burke's insatiable 9.00 in the set prior as Thompson finished out in fourth-place.
"It felt pretty good to get that 9 and just knew I couldn't get fourth to stay ahead on the ranks, but I felt like I was set for the rest of that heat just needing a 5 so I'm bummed to not get it," Pinkerton said. "I'm so stoked for Sam (Sibley), she worked really hard for it and we've both surfed here a lot growing up so it's great to see this event happen at the Pro Junior level. I'll just have to focus on putting two waves together in a heat and work on wave selection in the next one."
But, while a third victory eluded the San Clemente native, Pinkerton still hoists the North America Regional Pro Junior Title after a remarkable season and heads into the final event of 2018 with a feeling of relief.
"Knowing I got the title here feels so good and I might still do Barbados anyway, but now I don't have to wait to the last minute of a heat of the last contest which is amazing," Pinkerton added. "This year has been so crazy good and I'm just so thankful. All these events are super fun, but they're so hard and this is the best feeling ever."
Two Finals In A Row for Burke and Thompson
Fresh off a Final against each other at the WRV Outer Banks Pro QS 1,000, Burke and Thompson were back at it on the Pro Junior stage -- and Burke still holds ground over Thompson with her third-place finish. The Ventura, California, found a 56th Street Jetty bomb, bypassing the first wave of the set, and unleashed a critical forehand turn that earned her a near-perfect 9.00. This was a milestone event for Burke and the 15-year-old is well on her way to becoming a future threat to North America contingent.
"It was so fun and I was not expecting to get a 9, but that section was right there and I just had to hit it," Burke said. "This is my first junior Final so I just wanted to surf my best and have fun. Kirra and Sam are amazing surfers and I've just been trying to get to their level -- I've looked up to them since I started competing and they're good friends now. It's really cool to head back to Barbados, it was my first event ever so now I'm stoked to go back there with a little more confidence."
Thompson continues to showcase her dominant backhand in the jersey, but will now need to rely on her forehand for a chance at the No. 2 spot heading to Soup Bowl. The 17-year-old looked in great form on opening day with a big Quarterfinals win and carried that momentum all the way to the podium. While she didn't put together a complete heat on finals day to showcase her capability of near-perfect scores, Thompson will have everything to fight for at the final event of 2018.
"I am really stoked and full of confidence to keep earning spots in the Finals in challenging conditions with so many of the best girls surfing so well," Thompson said. " It's incredible being in third-place going into the final event of the junior tour at the Live Like Zander event and still have a shot to qualify for the World Junior Championships. I know I will have to surf my best for a chance at the Worlds and I am looking forward to the challenge. I am feeling energized by making two finals this season and I look forward to continuing to improve my performance by hopefully taking my first win in Barbados."
The next North America Pro Junior event will be the season's last -- the Live Like Zander Junior Pro in Memory of Zander Venezia at Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, Barbados, from November 6 - 11.