Even when conditions prove difficult at a world-class wave such as Soup Bowl it still proves as one of the best venues on the Qualifying Series (QS) and the Thomo QS 1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson is on the receiving end. The third annual event, paying homage to the "Father of Barbados Competitive Surfing," joins the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia and opening day witnessed moments that stunned those in attendance.
Heavy winds looked to plague opening day affairs but not without the four-to-five foot windswell that provided those who could negotiate it's trickery a chance of true scoring potential.
Josh Burke Leads Local Charge
The island's top QS threat dealt with a tough year of injuries that set his promising QS campaign back but delivered a jaw-dropping performance, the day's best, that included a 7.50 (out of a possible 10) and 14.33 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Burke's variety of major maneuvers and extra flair into his airs separated the 22-year-old from the pack as he's found the right mindset after the difficult run in 2019 and had a game plan different from his fellow contingent.
"I waited about seven-minutes for the first wave so I was getting a little nervous but I was just hyped to get the water and surf," said Burke. "It's all east swell which means it's coming sideways down the beach and breaks out further than people may realize. You're just looking for a wall out there and when you get that pocket turn that's something the judges take notice of."
I've just been trying to keep a good mindset and been using this year to reset - that injury was a lot of time and money so I've been working a lot and just taking some pressure off myself mentally to come back ready for next year."
Bruce and Dane Mackie continued the island's jump-start, started by 2017 event winner Che Allan, with the brothers taking big wins in their respective Round 1 debuts. The younger of the duo, Dane, overpowered defending event winner Chauncey Robinson (USA) with a strong showcase of backhand surfing to start with a 6.17. Robinson nearly faced elimination but his last effort garnered the score he needed by .10.
"I'm always nervous in that first heat, especially with conditions like this - it's the most current I think I've seen at a contest here," said Dane. "That score settled me down a lot knowing the other guys had three's and four's to start. I've just competing close to home but this one is at home and there's nothing better than being here, getting this opportunity and trying to do my best in every heat."
When complimented, "Not a bad way to end the heat," the eldest Mackie quickly replied, "Yeah, not a good way to start it though," with a laugh. The 27-year-old, who posted a 7.33 to end the heat and take an early win, knew what he needed to change before coming out of the water and now looks to improve while enjoying an event at home.
"It definitely feels better to get those heats out of the way early and helps my confidence later on," added Mackie. "It just reassures me that all I need to do is get on the right waves and my surfing's there. I haven't done events this year and it's nice to get one at home and hopefully I can get a result here to help the campaign next year."
Allan and local charger Jordan Heaselgrave are also through to Round 2 with clutch performances of their own.
Noah Schweizer Starts Strong, John Mel Keeps Pace
Before Burke dropped the day's top performance, it belonged to current North America No. 1 Schweizer and fellow New Smyrna Beach, Florida, native Daniel Glenn. This marks Schweizer and Glenn's QS debut at Soup Bowl with both finding success in the Pro Junior, Glenn earning his maiden WSL victory in 2014, as Schweizer looks to keep his place atop the rankings.
"I was a little worried after the free-surfs being so crowded and not catching a proper wave but going into the heat was a lot easier without fifty kids out (laughs)," said Schweizer. "It feels so good to be back. There's just a good energy here with the locals and this wave has a great push behind it. I'm just comfortable here and feel right at home."
"This is one of my favorite places in the world, it's really close to home and the waves are just phenomenal - you can't ask for more," said Glenn. "I missed Mexico trying to give my shoulder some time to heal so it's great to be back. It's pretty fun to get the jersey on and push the boys up the point a little bit (laughs). Just with this swell you have to be a bit further up there and it was great to finish strong."
Mel survived a near-early elimination which started the event in Round 1 Heat 1 as he looks to bounce back after smashing his final opportunity to earn a heat win.
Surprise Threats Emerge
A crop of threats is ready take on the Soup Bowl notables including the likes of Blake Speir, Kalum Bruhwiler Temple and Alan Cleland all matched Burke's 7.50 throughout opening day. Though far from a surprise threat after his Final appearance last year in the Live Live Like Zander Junior Pro, Cleland returns to hold onto his No. 3 spot on the North America Pro Junior ranks and showed he's ready after today. However, for Speir it put his competitors on notice with one of his best performances of a growing career.
"I love this place so much, it's pure power and you can just lay into turns which one of the reasons why I love coming here," said Speir. "Getting an early start like that here just feels like it builds momentum and you just have to keep it going."
Tofino has a bit different climate from the warm waters of Soup Bowl and Temple doesn't take it for granted. The Canadian hopes to improve upon his equal 25th at last year's event in his first full year of QS events and showed he's been headed in the right direction with a brilliant debut.
"It's really hard to pick which ones were good and if you get on one you get that push which you can just push right back at," said Temple. "We usually get more groundswell, but we do have really long and shallow beach breaks that can be pretty weak so you need winds like this for those. Last year was my first time here and the biggest difference is not wearing boots and a wetsuit (laughs). It's great having friends here who come up home and then have them show me around here is the best."
An 8:00am AST call will determine a possible 8:30am AST start. Tune in LIVE throughout the event window for all the action.