Finals day. The climatic ending to an event that crowns an event winner. But when there are three events in one, the atmosphere of a finals day can be electric and Cocoa Beach, Florida, was not short on energy today to make up for its tough conditions on offer.
Navarro's Long-Awaited Taste of Glory
The men's Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,500 victory belongs to Brazil's Matheus Navarro after over seven years of competition on the QS level and finally claiming his maiden win. The 23-year-old had to take on an in-form Stevie Pittman and came out of the gates firing with an excellent, meaning an 8.00 (out of a possible 10) or higher, 8.77 to start strong. Pittman kept pace with the Brazilian after a mid-heat exchange between the two favored Pittman, who earned an 8.00 of his own, before opportunities became scarce and eventually crowned Navarro the winner.
"This is maybe the best day of my life, all thanks to God first," Navarro said. "I'm back on the QS this year after staying in Brazil for two years since I lost my sponsor (and couldn't travel to compete). Now that I have two more helping support me, I'm back to my real life. I don't have words for this moment."
Navarro started finals day strong, defeating Roi Kanazawa in the Quarterfinals convincingly before a scrapping heat with Crosby Colapinto -- who finished both the Pro Junior and QS with a Semifinal result. Now, the Brazilian looks to the horizon to continue his incredible form.
"I'm so happy with my performance in these waves, they are just like back home and this is every day in Brazil so I felt ready," Navarro added. "Now I go into Huntington with a lot of confidence after getting some good scores today, it's an incredible feeling. Hopefully I can get a result there as well and see what happens this year."
This marks Pittman's third Final after earning appearances at last year's Thomo QS 1,000 and 2017's WRV Outer Banks Pro, but still awaits his breakthrough win. The 18-year-old put on a solid display of surfing throughout this event, particularly on finals day after taking down event standout Jett Schilling -- who earned his spot into both QS and Junior finals days -- in the Quarterfinals and Robbie McCormick in a Semifinal battle. Pittman posted multiple excellent scores, including an 8.00 in the Semifinals, and now takes that momentum into the Jack's Surfboards Pro.
"This is my third runner-up in three years so I'm a little bummed, but I had a good event and surfed well which feels good," Pittman said. "I'll just have to hope for better luck next time. I just want to surf. It's always been what I wanted to do and I'm excited to put my best foot forward. Now I'll look to hopefully win an event, it's definitely on my list of goals."
Welcome to the Show, Caitlin Simmers
Simmers starts the North America Pro Junior season off in phenomenal form with her first WSL win in only two events she's contested. The 13-year-old powered through the Quarterfinals, attacking the tough conditions on offer to post some of the day's highest scores en route to the Final -- including her 15.90 (out of a possible 20) heat total in Quarterfinal Heat 3. Palm City, Florida's, own Zoe Benedetto looked to give Simmers a run with a 6.20 of her own, but couldn't find the back up needed as Bree Smith and Ella McCaffray both needed near-excellent scores to catch Simmers.
Third Time's the Charm For Matson
The men's Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro featured all of this year's top-seeded competitors and Matson stole the show in a hefty Final affair to earn his maiden Pro Junior victory. The 16-year-old took on fellow San Clemente native Schilling, Pascuales, Mexico's, Alan Cleland and Vero Beach, Florida's own Tommy Coleman. But, Matson nearly left them all in a combination situation right away after earning an 8.00 and 6.07 within the first minutes as he showcased his powerful forehand attack in the small conditions. Strategy was key for the upcoming talent which culminated in his first WSL win.
Take Note: Important Finishes For Pro Juniors
Cleland and Benedetto's runner-up in the respecitve men and women's Pro Junior also start them in a WSL Junior Championship position that they will look to hold onto after a brilliant run through the event this weekend.
Notable finishes also include Schilling and Coleman finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the men's junior event to give them a shot toward WJC qualifying -- only taking the Top 3 this season.
Also, Smith and McCaffray's respective third and fourth place result puts them in a great position moving forward to secure a Top 2 spot by year's end with three events still remaining.
The next men's QS event will be the Jack's Surfboards Pro QS 1,500 in Huntington Beach, California, beginning March 22 - 24.
The next North America men and women's Pro Junior event will be the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, beginning July 28 - August 7.