- WSL / Andrew Nichols
- WSL / Andrew Nichols

Spectators and competitors were treated to more beautiful Soup Bowl conditions on opening day of the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In M 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

Samantha Sibley (USA) Sibley with all pressure off after locking in a spot to Worlds. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

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

Ava McGowan (USA) winning her Round 1 heat at the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia. McGowan may be new to the reefbreak, but she didn't hold back in her debut. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

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."

Molly Kirk Continues 2018 Success

Molly Kirk (USA) winning her Quarterfinal heat at the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia. Molly Kirk - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Molly Kirk and Audrey Presti also earned spots into the Semifinals as the remaining Quarterfinal heat awaits tomorrow's start. For Kirk, this marks a bittersweet occasion being her last Pro Junior event in beautiful Soup Bowl conditions and didn't let it spoil. The Floridian has put in the work this year and it continues to show after notching her career-best result at the RVCA Pro Junior recently.

"That was so close and so scary," Kirk said laughing. "At Soup Bowl you can never really tell where it may break with different swells. You could be too far in or too far out, you never know and you can get smoked. It's my favorite contest by far and I'm kind of sad it's my last one, but I've built some amazing memories here -- it's the best vibe of our season. I've been working really hard to end my last year as a Pro Junior well and it's tough with all the younger girls just blowing up."

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.

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