Year in and year out competitors battle across the world on the Qualifying Series (QS) that culminates towards earning their spot toward the Championship Tour (CT). But, within those battles comes the opportunity to also claim one of the seven Regional Titles and secure a place into the highest-rated QS events to start the following season.
These same competitors are also groomed for the spotlight in the regional Pro Junior Tours that begin when they feel fit to mix it up with the best from their respective region as they contest for their own regional title that helps lock in their spot toward the WSL Junior Championships featuring the best juniors from around the world.
North America's first set of these Regional Titles belong to Caroline Marks, Kade Matson, and Caitlin Simmers as all claimed their respective titles in dominant form with dynamic performances at each stop.
An historic feat culminated in the Outer Banks with Marks earning a three-peat of the North America Regional Qualifying Series Title. The 17-year-old continued to bring her world-class form to the QS at both the Florida Pro QS 3,000 and Super Girl Pro QS 6,000 presented by Nissan. Three Regional Titles in a row has set the bar for her fellow up-and-coming competitors as Marks looks for a different kind of Title in coming years competing against the world's best on the Championship Tour (CT) for a second year.
"I'm really stoked to win it three years in a row just with a lot of great girls going for the same title," Marks said. "It's awesome to still be ahead of the curve a bit and luckily I'm having a great year on Tour so I haven't had to do as many of the QS events and I was able to stay home more. It's incredible to have won two years in a row then do it again this year and I want to next year and the next year as well. Any time you win something is awesome and gives you that confidence and I'll be going for a bigger Title next year - and even this year but I'm just having fun with it."
Marks' success has fast-tracked her to world's best after claiming her first Regional Title in 2017 when she joined the CT elite as the youngest female ever. The now San Clemente, California, resident qualified without a QS win but emerged victorious at the 2018 Florida Pro QS 6,000 - an event title she successfully defended this year near her hometown of Melbourne Beach, Florida. Marks took her early 2019 momentum into a maiden CT victory at the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast and became the youngest competitor to be No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard this season as well as the first woman to receive equal prize money atop the podium. Stepping back into the QS jersey, Marks nearly made back-to-back Super Girl Pro Finals but fell just short - though the Semifinal appearance all but solidified her third Regional Title.
"I'm just focusing on my love for surfing and I've been having the time of life," Marks added. "The Florida Pro is one of my favorite events all year just being right where I grew up, it's where I learned to surf. My whole family's there, my schoolteachers are there, just everyone I grew up was there. It was just special to win at home and a really special moment overall."
Matson and Simmers Complete Dominant Runs in 2019
The next generation of North America competitors continue to shine bright and two stood apart from their fellow contingent in 2019. Simmers and Matson each solidified their spot atop the rankings in dominant fashion with one event remaining and completed a third-straight Southern California sweep of the Pro Junior titles.
This marked a breakthrough year for Matson, 17, after earning two Finals appearances last season that fell just short. The San Clemente native left nothing to chance this year and showcased his off-season work that paid dividends with a masterful win at the Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Matson then took that confidence and carried it directly into Huntington Beach, California, for an incredible Vans US Open of Surfing victory to solidify himself as the one to beat. A slight stumble in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for a Semifinal result sparked the flame heading into the RVCA Pro Junior and his runner-up finish was enough to claim his first Regional Pro Junior Title.
"This was definitely my best year competing from my first Pro Junior win to being in a CT, it's been crazy," Matson said. "And I also had my first real injury which overall led to better things so I had a lot going on. I think my biggest moment was the US Open win because I had a really hard injury before and wasn't sure if I would compete. That gave me a lot of confidence coming back from that injury. I kind of knew what I needed to do in Newport but I wasn't thinking too much on it, just surfing my own contest and trying to do my best. Being able to compete in the Vans US Open next year is a huge opportunity as my first QS 10,000 and hopefully I can make some heats."
Matson's year was also highlighted with his first CT wildcard at the Freshwater Pro presented by Outerknown alongside fellow Pro Junior standouts, and San Clemente competitors, No. 2 Jett Schilling and No. 4 Crosby Colapinto. The 17-year-old now prepares for the Oaxaca Pro QS 1,500 presented by Corona to carry this momentum into the QS.
Oceanside, California, has a new Regional Title courtesy of Simmers after a remarkable breakout year. The 13-year-old notched three Finals in her first full season on the Pro Junior Tour, winning two of three and earning a third-place to finish her run. Simmers' first win at the Ron Jon Roxy Junior Pro put her competitors on notice that she was bringing her amateur success to the WSL. But, a victory at the Vans US Open of Surfing brought that notice to the world as she stole the win in the dying seconds over former North America Regional Pro Junior titleholder Alyssa Spencer (USA). Finally, the Californian completed another California sweep of the Regional Titles with a third-place finish in Newport Beach and now prepares for a momentous event at the WSL Junior Championships later this year.
"At the beginning of the year I never thought I would get the title and I'm super excited to get to go to Taiwan," Simmers said. "It's somewhere I've never been and I love to travel and surf different waves. Making the consecutive finals gives me confidence and momentum towards worlds - especially the US Open win since there were a lot of competitors from other regions. I wasn't keeping up with what I needed going to Newport Beach and was just going with it. But the RVCA contest was probably the best moment this year because the surf was so fun and I got barreled during the free surfs."
Simmers was a part of the major women's Rising Tide movement at both the Vans US Open of Surfing and Freshwater Pro that inspires young women like herself to get in the water and empower them. Now, both Simmers and Matson await to see who will join them in Taiwan beginning November 26 - December 1.
The Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia begins November 7 - 10 at Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, Barbados, and will determine the final spots for North America with the Top 3 men and Top 2 women earning their place to the WSL Junior Championships.
Up next for the men's QS contingent, the Oaxaca Pro QS 1,500 presented by Corona will take place October 17 - 20 before the Thomo QS 1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson decides who takes the North America Mens QS Regional Title coinciding with the Pro Juniors in Barbados.
Also, the second annual Rincon Surf Fest WSL North America Longboard Championships taking place November 15 - 17 will determine the Longboard Regional Titles.
Caroline Marks' Counting Results:
Florida Pro - 1st Place 1,000 points
Super Girl Pro - 3rd Place 560 points
Kade Matson's Counting Results:
Ron Jon Quiksilver Junior Pro - 1st Place 1,000 points
Vans US Open of Surfing - 1st Place 1,000 points
Vans Pro - 5th Place 420 points
RVCA Pro Junior - 2nd Place 750 points
Caitlin Simmers Counting Results:
Ron Jon Roxy Junior Pro - 1st Place 1,000 points
Vans US Open of Surfing - 1st place 1,000 points
RVCA Pro Junior - 3rd Place 560 points