With autumn officially upon the Aloha State and the first big swells of the season soon to line Oahu's North Shore, the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region begins its six-month competitive window on October 12 with the WSL Hawaii Pro Junior at Turtle Bay Resort.
The men's and women's Pro Junior event will be held on the best day of surf between October 12 and 18 and feature Hawaii's top 18-and-under talent. Along with event winners, the 2019 Regional Junior Champion titles and five influential slots (3 men, 2 women) into the World Junior Championship in Taiwan this November are up for grabs.
For the fourth consecutive year, the WSL Hawaii Pro Junior will be hosted by Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu and will conclude the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional Pro Junior circuit - which begins every January at the Sunset Pro Junior - and carry the weight of qualification for those anticipating representing Hawaii in Taiwan. Last year's winner of the WSL Hawaii Pro Junior women's division, Kauai's Keala Tomoda-Bannert, earned a spot into the 2018 World Junior Championship and went on to become second in the world, a model for Hawaii's up-and-coming talent.
Athletes as young as twelve years old are registered to compete in this final Pro Junior event and will mix with top-tier teenagers like reigning Regional Junior Champion from Kauai, Gabriela Bryan, who earned back-to-back wins at the Sunset Pro Junior in 2018 and 2019. Bryan also went on to win the Papara Pro Junior in Tahiti this year, which means if she can win at Turtle Bay Resort, she will sweep the 2019 Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Pro Junior series and earn her second Regional Junior Champion title.
Another confidence boost came for Bryan after winning the Heroes de Mayo Iquique Pro Junior in Chile in May and at just 17 years old, she has steadily continued to accumulate surfing accomplishments, including the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional QS Champion title in 2018. But perhaps the biggest achievement to date is her appearance at the Freshwater Pro CT event after winning the Rising Tides Trials in September.
Now Bryan looks to keep climbing and end 2019 on a high note: "Heading into Turtle Bay Resort I don't have too much expectations, but it would be really cool to win this last one and do a clean sweep for the Hawaii Pro Juniors this year," she commented. "I have been very busy this year and am looking forward to competing back in Hawaii at Turtle Bay and getting ready for this upcoming winter!"
Leading the rankings on the regional junior men's side is Robert Grilho, 16, who earned a fifth-place finish at last year's WSL Hawaii Pro Junior and is tallying a list of results on the international QS. When the Northwest Pacific winter storms deliver, Grilho's power surfing will be a solid match for Turtle Bay Resort's right-handed reef break - Pool Bars - which is known to pull swell from most directions including N, NW and NNW, and can handle wave face heights up to fifteen feet.
Another surfer who has proven to handle the strong surf at Pool Bars is progressive aerialist and defending event winner Eli Hanneman, 17. Hailing from Maui, Hanneman will return to Oahu for the competitive surf season after focusing squarely on qualifying for the 2019 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the preeminent surf series that spans six weeks on the North Shore beginning November 13 - December 20.
"WSL gives the Hawaii regional QS surfers a huge opportunity by allowing a handful of us into the Triple Crown based on regional rankings," said Hanneman. "This year my goal was to be in the Triple Crown and right now I'm hoping to stay within the cut off to make it in. The Triple Crown is a big deal in Hawaii and I would be stoked to be in it."
Regarding his mindset heading into the WSL Hawaii Pro Junior at Turtle Bay Resort, Hanneman is concentrated and confident. "I plan on winning again," he said. "But all jokes aside, I'm just going to take it step by step and surf my best and hope things go my way. I'm hoping to qualify for the World Juniors again, but if I get into the Triple Crown, I'll have to pick one over the other [due to conflicting event windows]. Both would be great opportunities. Nothing is set in stone yet so I guess time will tell!"
High-performance surfing will be on display as other notable athletes like 2017 WSL Hawaii Pro Junior winner Ocean Macedo, Maui standout Cole Alves, 2017 Regional QS Champion Savanna Stone and 2018 WSL Hawaii Pro Junior finalist Luana Silva take to the waves at Pool Bars. Guests of Turtle Bay Resort and fans of surfing can enjoy the action LIVE from the point or visit WorldSurfLeague.com and download the free WSL app for LIVE results.