HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Tuesday, October 23, 2018) - The 2018 World Surf League (WSL) North America season will culminate in the Caribbean that includes a Longboard Championship Tour (LCT) qualifier in Puerto Rico following the Men's Qualifying Series (QS) and Men and Women's Pro Junior at Soup Bowl, Barbados. It's an exciting finish to the year as Barbados will determine the Men's Regional QS Title, as well as determining final qualifiers for the World Junior Championship, before Puerto Rico hosts the first North America Longboard Championship in three years -- an event to help decide World Longboard Tour qualifiers.
One of the world's most revered reef breaks known as Soup Bowl will host the Men and Women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro in Memory of Zander Venezia from November 6 - 11. Last September, the surfing community of Barbados and much of the world was rattled by the untimely death of Zander at age 16. But, his father Louis' steadfast determination alongside Christopher Clarke have helped secure this event's return once more.
"It really means the world to me to have this event back," Louis said. "Zander and I had a special bond traveling to all these events since he was 8-years-old and I know he'd would want me to keep doing them, and I will keep doing them as long as I can. Zander's loving attitude touched and inspired many lives and to carry on this event in his memory is a great honor to him. This will keep his legacy alive for years to come and pave the way for future generations of young surfers."
Also, the Venezia family, including Zander's mother Lisa and older sister Bella, have started the Zander Venezia Trust with contributions going to children in need around Barbados to further Zander's work he started.
Defending event winner Kirra Pinkerton will miss this event and opens the door for a new winner, an honor that Rachel Presti is hoping to accomplish after recently winning the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro. But, for Presti and many of the athletes, this event is much more than another win to focus on.
"I loved this event last year and loved that it was honor of Zander," Presti said. "Its so nice to get together and share fun stories about him and remember him by the loving, funny, kind person he was. Its very important to have this event back and I think about Zander all the time. He inspires me to work hard and push passed my fears. He was fearless and found so much joy in surfing. In Barbados, I feel as if he is still there enjoying every session with me and I get this warm feeling that makes me really happy."
Coinciding with the Live Like Zander Junior Pro, the Thomo QS 1,000 in Memory of Bill Thomson honors another one of Barbados' fallen surfers from November 6 - 10. Earlier in 2017, Thomson died due to unexpected health complications and the community rallied in his memory throughout the year. Alan Burke, alongside a big support system, ensured the event would be back to provide a world-class opportunity for competitors and they did just that.
"Thomo was the father of modern competitive surfing in Barbados and in particular international surfing," Burke said. "He played a major role of implementing the Caribbean Cup to our region back in November 1985 with the Orchard International and pretty much every year since then. To have a WSL event in his memory is a perfect fit. Having the Thomo QS 1000 coincide with the Live Like Zander Junior Pro is a match made in heaven, they will be for sure watching over the event. With the event window larger this year, expect Soup bowl to light up during this time."
Following the QS and Pro Junior finales, a momentous occasion awaits at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico for the Men and Women's Rincon 50 Surf Fest November 15 - 18. It marks the first North America Longboard Qualifying Series event in two years since hosting the North America Longboard Championship at Huntington Beach in 2016 -- giving competitors the opportunity to qualify for the World Longboard Tour. With the support of Puerto Rico's Tourism Company and longboard legend Barry Church they are bringing back a part of the island's history by celebrating the 50th anniversary of hosting the 1968 World Championships.
"For those of us who were at the 1968 World Championships, it is very exciting to return to waves that changed many of our lives and witness another Surfing Championship with the legends of tomorrow," Church said. "But Rincon 50 Surf Fest is not only about history, it's also about today and and the future of the ever-growing sport of surfing."
Those legends of tomorrow include a talented men's field such as LCT competitors Tony Silvagni and Kevin Skvarna, alongside the likes of women competitors Kaitlin Mikkelsen. All of them know the significance of this event and what it means to their fellow surfers, but it holds a special place for East Coast native Silvani, 31.
"I am stoked to have another regional qualifier to compete in for North America to secure a position on the World Longboard Tour," Silvagni said. "Puerto Rico is one of my favorite destinations to surf at and to have a competition there is special to me since it's a place I go to every winter. This event is giving a great opportunity for new surfers to join the tour after not having a qualifier for three years."
It's not only a big opportunity for North America surfers. The island is finally back on its own two feet enough to host this event following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and Irma last year.
"The anticipation is amped up because it's the first major sports tourism event in Western Puerto Rico since last year's hurricanes," Aviles said. "Tourism operators and businesses are ready for business and are really looking forward to the arrival of the many visitors that will arrive in the area. The area welcomes a new pre-winter season event to bolster its economy and hopes that it becomes an annual event."