The stage is set for the third stop of North America's Pro Junior Tour August 20 - 25 at the Vans Pro Junior in Virginia Beach, VA and a promising field of 48 competitors is lined up once more.
Last year Cole Alves restored Hawaii's claim to the event title after its dominance from 2012-2015 before Nolan Rapoza emerged with his first-ever WSL victory in 2016. The international and Hawaii contingent return to challenge mainland North America's top-tier talents 18-and-under for bragging rights -- and taking away valuable regional points on offer to those looking for a WSL Junior Championship spot.
Here's just a few competitors among the next generation of surfing's professionals to keep an eye out for in Virginia Beach:
Current North America Rank: 1
San Clemente, California's, talent continues to have a lock over regional standings with Matson firmly in the No. 1 spot following his Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Junior win -- making it back-to-back wins in 2019. The 17-year-old looks well on his way to another WJC appearance but cannot take anything for granted with field around him. This event was Matson's Achilles heel last season but has shown his improvements in small-waves with a win earlier this year in Florida and now the US Open.
A win at the Vans Pro Junior would also make him the first North America to earn a three-peat in the same season and set a precedent for what's possible from the next generation alongside a possible third-straight Finals appearance for fellow San Clemente native Jett Schilling.
Current North America Rank: 3
Following just behind Schilling at No. 3, Mexico's newest top-rated contender comes into this event looking to make up lost ground at the US Open following a terrific showing in Acapulco -- accruing his first Semifinal appearance at the QS level. Cleland must maintain this kind of momentum if he's to hold down a Top 3 spot toward the WJC at the end of the year as he already has a throwaway result. But, the Pascuales native has also been working on his small-wave attack and can have it on full display next week.
Defending Vans Pro Junior Winner
Last year Alves put on an absolute clinic in the swell on offer and closed the heat with a jaw-dropping 9.17 to overtake the win from Tyler Gunter. Currently No. 2 on the Hawaii Pro Junior ranks, Alves looks for similar success as well as another big run through the QS 3,000 that ended with an equal 17th. But, Alves' humble approach and modesty make him a danger man in the water where he lets his surfing do the talking and poses a threat once again at 1st Street Jetty.
East vs. West, And Beyond
The Vans Pro Junior brings back the series to the East Coast after its first stop in Florida and renews the classic East vs. West battles that can ensue. Tommy Coleman earned the only East Coast's Finals appearance so far in 2019 with a fourth-place finish at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro and looks for more following a disappointing showing at the US Open. But, Coleman is joined by an onslaught of East Coast talent such as Laird Myers, Micha Cantor, Blake Speir,and Logan Kamen.
However, the North Americans must look beyond the East vs. West and recognize the international talent looking to keep the title in their possession with Japan's Joh Azuchi, Basque Country's Keoni Lasa, and Brasil's Eduardo Motta to name a few. Hawaii's Robert Grilho joins Alves for a shot at keeping the event title on the islands as well.
See who emerges victorious at the Vans Pro Junior Virginia Beach, VA, August 20 - 25 at 1st Street Jetty.