One of the world's premier reefbreaks showed more glimpses of its tenacity, yet fickle tendencies in finals day of the Thomo QS in Memory of Bill Thomson and women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro. But, Chauncey Robinson and Tiare Thompson rose to the occasion and claimed maiden WSL victories, respectively, among some of the top event threats.
Tiare Thompson Breaks Through With First-Ever WSL Win
Just before Robinson's incredible finish, Thompson earned her maiden WSL victory in dramatic fashion against No. 2 ranked Samantha Sibley, an in-form Ava McGowan, and Serena Nava. McGowan stole the lead from Sibley, forcing Thompson to third midway through the heat, but Thompson was able to reclaim first-place -- earning a 7.00 - heading into the final minutes.
However, it wasn't done yet as McGowan answered back one last time with a near-excellent 7.83 just under two minutes and Thompson was gifted one last opportunity which she capitalized on brilliantly.
"It's just amazing and it feels so good to get the job done," Thompson said. "To know I can win every heat and then take out a competition just helps my confidence so much moving forward. I was a little worried when Ava (McGowan) got that score with only a few minutes left, but after starting with nothing I just reminded myself to stay calm. Last year Samantha (Sibley) beat me in the Semifinals here so it also felt good to get a little revenge (laughs)."
Now, Thompson prepares for her last year as Pro Junior after going flawless at this event with a similar spark to 2018 North America Pro Junior Champ Kirra Pinkerton - who also claimed her first-ever WSL win at this event last year before going on a tear this season.
Newcomer McGowan Shakes Up Final Proceedings
Thirteen-year-old McGowan made a remarkable run throughout this event, only her second-ever WSL contest, for a first-time Soup Bowl competitor. The New Smyrna Beach, Florida, native nearly made a triumphant feat of claiming her maiden victory until the dying seconds and out of reach. But, the newcomer showed a bit of her potential and a bright future looks to be in store.
"That was pretty fun and I knew I could get the score, then I got it, and can't believe it came down to the last seconds," McGowan said. "It's amazing to make a Final my first time here and I couldn't be happier. Tiare (Thompson) was ripping and the other girls were surfing really well so I knew it'd be tough, but I'm excited with this event."
Before all the finals day drama ensued, a definitive day of surfing ensued for the men's Live Like Zander Junior Pro Quarterfinal bouts. World Junior Championship selections are still on the line and each of the top 3 contenders are into the Semifinals.
Everything Left to Surf For in Men's Pro Junior
Alan Cleland started action off with a big Quarterfinal Heat 1 win despite a bothersome knee injury along with Jett Schilling advancing, but it was a stacked Quarterfinal Heat 2 that held all the consequence.
Current No. 6, and defending event winner, Cole Houshmand came out firing right when the horn sounded and posted a 9.77 on his backhand. Houshmand had to face his fellow Top 4 contender, No. 5 Eithan Osborne, along with 2018 North America Pro Junior Champ Tyler Gunter and an in-form Tommy Coleman. In the end, Osborne got the job done behind heat winner Houshmand and both are into a vital Semifinal.
"That was probably one of the most insane Pro Junior heats I've ever had," Houshmand said. "This is the competition where it matters most for me and I knew I'd have to lay it all on the line. I wasn't really positioned for that wave and I knew I'd have to just go top-to-bottom on it, but it took the pressure off a lot. It's so important to stay in the moment and not get caught up in the points, but I love that side of things knowing what I need or what they need so it'll be a fun finish tomorrow."
Bo Raynor's clutch surfing earned him an excellent 8.50 after shaking nerves off at the start of his affair knowing what was at stake and is into the Semifinals where he'll face current No. 2 Crosby Colapinto and No. 3 Kade Matson after a last-second runner-up finish.
The women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro awards ceremony will be held alongside the men's Sunday afternoon.
A 7:30 a.m. AST call will determine a possible 8:00 a.m. AST start to men's Semifinal action.