Conditions may have dwindled slightly at the Jack's Surfboards Pro men's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500-level event but performances did not. Moving day at Huntington Beach, California, unfolded as top seeds made their debut to determine the finals day draw with a few surprises that awaited from even threats.
But, the highly anticipated debut of Huntington's own, and one of the world's best, took center stage within the day's action and Kanoa Igarashi got his 2019 competitive year underway.
This marks the start of Igarashi's competitive year as he prepares for his fourth year among the Championship Tour (CT) elite after also finishing No. 1 on the QS rankings last season and moves right into finals day. The 21-year-old has the opportunity at hand to be one of the winningest surfers in Huntington Beach with three QS titles already to his name.
Japanese and Brazilian Contingent Remain Strong
A few of Igarashi's fellow Japanese competitors flourished and Kairi Noro lead their charge with an excellent 8.67 toward the end of Round 3 to seal a big day after winning his Round 2 heat. Noro is joined by former Shoe City Pro runner-up Takumi Nakamura and Kazuma Miyagi to try and take home a piece of hardware for the land of the rising sun ahead of next year's Olympic games.
On the Brazilian front -- recent Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro winner Matheus Navarro remains locked in for another finals day alongside fellow countrymen Phillippe Chagas, David do Carmo, Julio Cardoso, and Magno Pacheco.
Noah Schweizer Keeps His 2019 Form Intact
One of the event threats got his campaign underway in Round 2 and Noah Schweizer (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) carried that fire into Round 3 with a brilliant performance. Schweizer finished off with an excellent, meaning an 8.00 (out of a possible 10) or higher, 8.17 to continue his finals day form in 2019 --already winning the Florida Pro QS 1,500 and Quarterfinal appearance at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro QS 1,500.
"My whole family surfs and I always looked up to my older brother, he's kind of a big wave guy, and he's been pushing me since I was a kid," Schweizer said. "I haven't seen Huntington this good too often. We rent a place in Newport during the winter and we've seen it get like this but this is the best I've surfed it in a contest."
From Florida to California: John Mel Locks In Another Finals Day
Two-time Vans US Open winner Brett Simpson (Long Beach, Calif.) made his debut despite a troubling back injury but it was John Mel (Santa Cruz, Calif.) who stole the show in their Round 3 Heat 13 bout after competing earlier in Round 2. The 19-year-old earned an excellent 8.17 opening ride.
"It felt so good to get a start like that," Mel said. "Conditions were tough so it was important to get a good start and I feel pretty lucky to have gotten that wave. This year I'm focusing on staying calm and being present after wanting to win everything the last few years so now I'm just having fun with it and keeping my composure."
Early upsets were scattered throughout Round 3 with multiple top-seeded competitors eliminated from competition. Pismo Beach, California's, Braden Jones and Brazilian Phillippe Chagas accrued one of those upsets after helping send Torrey Meister and Matt Passaquindici out of the event. Jones' aggressive backhand attack paved the way for him and led to a brilliant finish to find his way into a stacked finals day.
"The last few minutes were super stressful so I'm pumped to make it out of that one," Jones said. "I've surfed here a bunch in my amateur career. I feel like I always do pretty well and there's always a wave here that's like back home so we have fun here. I didn't know if the last wave was going to count so I'm stoked."
Finals day will start Sunday, March 24, at 8:00 a.m. PDT. Tune in LIVE to see who is crowned the 2019 victor.