Crunch time gets underway this weekend, September 27 - 29, as the beginning of the end to 2019 starts with the RVCA Pro Junior presented by Jack's Surfboards, the third stop for women and fourth stop for men, at Newport Beach, California's, 56th Street Jetty.
Last year marked the inaugural women's event after joining the fourth-consecutive year for men and both are ready to vie for valuable points once more. The North America regional rankings are currently being dominated by Kade Matson and Caitlin Simmers, each with two wins in 2019, heading into Newport Beach as they look to continue their hold atop the rankings. The RVCA Pro Junior will coincide with the 31st annual City of Newport Beach Surfing Championships once more to showcase local legends and the next generation within the community on Saturday, September 28.
Matson and Simmers Look for Three Wins in 2019
San Clemente, California's, current reign on the Pro Junior ranks is apparent with Matson, Crosby Colapinto, and Jett Schilling sitting No. 1, 2, 3, respectively. All three just represented their hometown at the Freshwater Pro presented by Outerknown with current No. 1 Matson earning himself a shot at the bonus waves in the early goings. Now, the 17-year-old comes in to Newport Beach with plenty of leeway - currently 810 points ahead of Schilling - as Colapinto takes on Europe and gives Matson the opportunity to all-but solidify his place in WSL World Junior Championships.
"That was probably one of the best weeks of my life surfing with my favorite surfers and made me want to get to that stage that much more being able to see what it's like," Matson said. "I'm super excited for Newport and think we should get some waves so it should be really fun. I feel pretty comfortable but I also know there is people behind me wanting big results as well so these next couple of events should be interesting. I definitely want to win the season to get the wildcard for the US Open next year so if I can hold on to that I'd be really stoked."
Simmers breakthrough onto the WSL scene has taking the Pro Juniors by storm with back-to-back wins in 2019 after making her debut in just one event at the Los Cabos Open of Surf last season. The 13-year-old recently took part in the Rising Tides last weekend at the Surf Ranch and showcased more of her ability to surf world-class waves. Now, the Oceanside, California, native comes to Newport with a chance to solidify her dominance over a remarkable season.
"I'm pretty excited for this one because Newport Is a fun wave," Simmers said. "Some waves are trickier to figure out in which case it helps a lot to have surfed it as much as possible but if it's a basic beach break, which I Surf just about every day then it doesn't matter as much. There's always pressure because it's a contest and I don't think being No. 1 changes that pressure very much."
Contenders Prepare for Showdown on 56th Street
While Simmers currently holds down the No. 1 spot comfortably, the women's No. 2 spot still has plenty of contenders as the Top 2 are guaranteed a place into the WSL Junior Championships. Floridian, currently living in Costa Rica, Bree Smith currently holds that spot but must fend off the likes of former North America Regional Pro Junior titleholder Alyssa Spencer, defending event winner Samantha Sibley, and many more. The 13-year-old has her focus dialed in heading into a new competitive venue and looks for a second Final appearance in 2019.
"It's always fun to surf new breaks, especially one close to home and I'd love to make the Final," Smith said. "But the competition is heavy, so I'm going to focus on one heat at a time. I like competing and any opportunity to surf a spot with only three other people in the line up is always good. Being able to hold onto that No 2 spot would be pretty cool. I put a lot of time and hard work into it, and it would be awesome if it all came together."
Current men's No. 3 Jett Schilling holds a 225 point lead over No. 4 Tommy Coleman but with that difference only a matter of one heat, the opportunity for Coleman and those just behind him isn't a longshot. For Newport Beach's own Jojo Whelan this notes a massive window to capitalize on home turf toward putting his name in the mix of WJC qualification. Whelan also has the chance to keep the event title in Newport Beach after Tyler Gunter's second event title last season before moving onto the QS full-time.
"The RVCA Pro Jr is my favorite event on the tour," Whelan said. "Performing at one of my favorite spots in the world in front of my friends and family is super exciting for me. All of the boys right there supporting me really stokes me out. This is the event that I want to win the most out of any event of the Pro Juniors. I love the spot and would love to share the win with the community who supports me the most.
"This season is my first year surfing every event on the tour," Whelan added. "Making World Junior Championships is definitely a goal, as well as improving my surfing life in every area, small waves and big wave surfing. I want to master my abilities in one-foot Virginia up to 40-foot Peahi."
Action is set to get underway at 8:00am PDT beginning with men's Round 1.
The RVCA Pro Junior presented by Jack's Surfboards will begin September 27 - 29 at Newport Beach, California's, 56th Street Jetty.