Spectators and competitors were treated to more beautiful Soup Bowl conditions on opening day of the Men and Women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro for their opening affairs. Three-to-four foot, occasional plus sets streamed into the world-class reefbreak with competition pushing through Round 1 and 2 of the men's, as well as Round 1 and Quarterfinals of the women. The Thomo QS 1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson was called off for the day.
World Junior Championship spots are on the line for both men and women, and rare mistakes were made from those in contention to continue their hunt.
Job Done for Samantha Sibley
The women got their first taste of Soup Bowl this year following men's Round 2 as Samantha Sibley took care of the task at hand brilliantly and secured her place into the World Junior Championship with a Quarterfinal win. Sibley built her foundation throughout the heat before taking a victory lap in the final seconds and earning a near-perfect 9.50 (out of a possible 10) to earn a 16.00 (out of a possible 20) heat total.
"With a slow start to the season, I'm really happy that I was able to keep focused and fight my way back to a World Junior qualifying position," Sibley said. "I was definitely nervous and my game plan was just to surf the first two waves on the safer side to make sure I got through. After I got those two 6.5's I just sat out the back and waited for the big one which was exactly what I wanted to do in that heat. All the pressure is off and I did what I came to do so now I just want to do well in this last event and have fun in this event."
Ava McGowan Starts Flawless at First-Ever Soup Bowl Debut
Thirteen-year-old Ava McGowan took the event by storm, topping recent ISA Gold Medalist Rachel Presti, and eliminating one of 2018's top threats Kayla Coscino with a 12.27 heat total. The New Smyrna Beach, Florida, native matches her best result so far after earning a Semifinal result in Cocoa Beach earlier this year, her only other WSL contest she's attended.
"It was really good out there and I just had so much fun," McGowan said. "This is my second WSL event, but it's my first time in Barbados and I love it here -- this wave is so awesome. I got a chance to surf in the Independence Pro before which was nice to get real feel for the wave since the freesurfs are so crazy with everyone out. It's a great opportunity to surf this wave at a young age, it's like a surfer's playground."
Pro Junior Men Relish in Pristine Soup Bowl Conditions
Taro Watanabe may be in a win-all situation, but he put that aside and unleashed the men's highest single-wave score of the day -- a near-perfect 9.50 under priority to secure a Round 2 win. Watanabe has the opportunity to capitalize if one of the Top 6 competitors falters, but understands it's a heavy order.
"It was a little slow in our heat, but it's still really fun out there and it felt good to get a score like that right away," Watanabe said. "You just had to be patient because there were some super clean ones coming through to unload on. Last year was pretty small so it's great to see more swell and I'm so excited to be here. It's pretty hard for me to get into Worlds having to win it if anything so I'm not even thinking about it and going out to have some fun while I'm here."
Guadalupe Raised, Soup Bowl Ready: Thomas Debierre
Round 1 witnessed fireworks in Heat 2 with Guadalupe's Thomas Debierre posting a 16.67 heat total and carried that momentum into an advancing spot behind Crosby Colapinto in Round 2. The European competitor revels in the opportunity to contest near home, particularly with prime Soup Bowl on offer and frequents the island on a regular basis.
"It's pretty cool to get that kind of result to start off being my first time in this event since I usually compete in the Europe events," Diberre said. "I love the opportunity to compete against new guys and get used to it since I'll be seeing these guys a lot in the future. Especially here, this wave is world-class and it's so good all the time even when it's smaller or has some wind, it's still fun. I hope it only gets better and we see the big barrels it's really known for."
Race for the Top 4 is ON
North America's premier talents are locked in a battle for the remaining Top 4 spots with Soup Bowl providing the perfect canvas for their bouts. The race resumed in Round 2 as No. 2 Colapinto, No. 3 Kade Matson, No. 4 Bo Raynor, No. 5 Eithan Osborne and No. 6 Cole Houshmand all made their debuts count.
Both Raynor and Osborne survived with clutch performances in the final minutes of their respective heats as Colapinto, Houshmand and Matson decimated their Pro Junior debuts.
Osborne's success away from the Pro Junior season unknowingly set him up in a great position as he's only adding points after getting to experience the Stab High, winning highest air, and participating in the Redbull Airborne France.
"I'm not going to surf a five-minute heat again (laughs), but there were no real sets in that heat so I figured I'd wait for the best waves after seeing some eights," Osborne said. "It helps mentally to know I can make heats when it comes down to situations like that even though I don't want to be in those positions. This is such the perfect wave for rail surfing just having so much power coming back at you. I haven't really thought too hard on what I need to do, but I know I'll need a big result."
Only Chase Modelski fell short of an advancing place as an outside contender with Tommy Coleman and Alan Cleland still in the running. But, an all-important Quarterfinal draw awaits with contenders still in the mix unless they secure a spot into the Semifinals.
A 7:30 a.m. call will determine an 8:00 a.m. start for Quarterfinal Heat 4 of the women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro and Round 2 of the Thomo QS 1,000.
The Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia will run November 6 - 11 at Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, Barbados.