The highly-anticipated Nor'easter delivered at the Vans Pro Virginia Beach, VA, a Men's Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000-level and Pro Junior event, just in time for the top seed's debut -- and they did not disappoint. Two-to-three foot, windy conditions provided the stage for some of the QS elite to put on a clinic of power-surfing and stun those in attendance to complete Round 3. The Pro Juniors also got their competition back underway and the Semifinal draws await some of the top competitors in North America.
Nat Young Shows The Fire Is Burning With Near-Perfection
Former event winners, including a few former Championship Tour (CT) surfers looking to find their way back, took over the lineup and decimated their debuts. Santa Cruz, California's, former CT athlete put on an immaculate performance to post a near-perfect 18.60 heat total, including a 9.67. The 28-year-old showed he has the fire to rejoin the world's best and left nothing in the water at the end of his heat as he looks for a third win in 2019.
Young's memories of Virginia Beach go back to the inaugural event in 2011 when the waves were all-time and a pulse in swell helped invigorate the veteran competitor.
The Community's Champ Comes Out Swinging
Hometown hero Michael Dunphy started his run toward a second Vans Pro title with a brilliant 16.10 (out of a possible 20). Dunphy hasn't had the result he'd like at this event in the last two seasons following his runner-up in 2016 but remains motivated to find his rhythm and move deeper into the Top 100. The 26-year-old remembers what this win meant better than anyone and hopes to reignite the sands of Virginia Beach.
Crosby Colapinto Takes Over North America No. 1
With Noah Schweizer eliminated in Round 3, the San Clemente talent claims the North America Regional QS Rankings lead heading out of Virginia Beach.
Cam Richards: From Tahiti to Virginia In No Time Flat
Patrick Gudauskas Returns To His Dojo
Gudauskas, Evan Geiselman and Keanu Asing all thrived in their debuts as they make their way to another vital finals day in search of a second title alongside Dunphy. Gudauskas' taste of re-living life on the CT came to a halt after missing the re-qualification cut line in 2018. Both Gudauskas and Asing join Young with the drive to return to the elite stage.
"It was just nice to see waves to get heats going and so fun out there so I'm hoping that tomorrow gets even better," Guduaskas said. "I'm stoked to just get to the end zone and make it to the end of this thing. This place is kind of my dojo (laughs). I've made three finals out of five events and I think it's because I enjoy these waves and this place. There's a good lineup of guys here and it's great to have the domestic energy up."
Talented International Field Remains
The international front wasn't lacking and New Zealand's Billy Stairmand put on a show that included an impressive 8.00 buzzer-beater to overtake the lead from third-place. Stairmand made his first appearance to Virginia Beach last season and is hoping for a redemption result after bowing out in Round 2 last year. The 31-year-old made a big run toward qualification in 2010 and is right back in the mix this year after a devastating 271 rank on the QS last year now finds him at No. 63.
"I just couldn't find a good one and was pretty lucky to get that last one in the end," Stairmand said. "I've had a pretty good year just grinding the smaller events and now I'm back into the QS 10,000's so I'm hoping to gain some momentum. There was a lot of excitement walking up to the beach today and seeing waves but I've been enjoying my time here and seeing a lot of the area which is great."
Finals day awaits a 7:30am EDT start beginning with Round 4 of the Men's QS 3,000.