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 Pro Junior in the world and the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia is on the receiving end. The seventh annual event, renamed in 2017 in honor of the island's own 16-year-old, is now joined by the Thomo QS 1,000 in Memory of Bill Thomson 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.
SwierkockiSmashes the Bowl
Ventura, California's, own felt right at home with the pulsing windswell delivering sections for the 17-year-old to showcase his powerful forehand. Swierkocki eclipsed his 2017, first-ever showing at Soup Bowl, with the day's first excellent score of an 8.83 and 16.33 heat total. With no stake toward a Top 2 spot to finish the season Swierkocki comes in with nothing but enjoying the event on his on mind.
"I came here two years ago and it's great to be back, and actually get some waves in a heat," said Swierkocki. "The first heat was a tough loss being slow so this one I just wanted to get a bit looser in the water and have more fun. There's nothing to lose here anymore and this is great to get experience here again. Just figuring out the travel and piecing it all together so I can really go after it next year and it's nice to feel that level of comfort coming."
Early Momentum and Reflection for Malakai Martinez
The Costa Rican talent was one surfer who shared a special bond with Venezia, spending time together from a young age and competing against each other in Costa Rica. Martinez took some fire from his early loss in the Thomo QS 1,000 and left nothing in the water during Round 1 of the Live Like Zander Junior Pro - earning a 7.17 in the process. Now Martinez prepares for the top seeds in Round 2 and a chance at edging closer to a win that goes beyond just an event victory.
"I hadn't surfed this wave enough and couldn't really figure it out during the free-surfs with so many people and having to sit super deep so I'm glad it came together," said Martinez . "As a backhander you have to find a different kind of wave that gives you a more vertical section for the better scores so it's tricky but I had fun once I relaxed more."
I never got to come here when Zander and I were close but when he came to Costa Rica to train we used to have some good battles before we became good friends (laughs)," added Martinez. "I have a lot of good memories with him, especially our last surf together on the East Coast before the accident, and I know it's tough for Lou (Venezia) but hopefully he sees us as his kids as well because we will always carry those memories with us."
Ledee Brothers Start Strong
Noe Ledee and Thomas Ledee hail from the French Caribbean, Saint Barthelemy "Barts," to be exact and both brought the heat in their Round 1 debuts. Noe was on the receiving end of a buzzer-beater from defending Thomo QS winner Chauncey Robinson but was quick to respond in his Pro Junior heat with a solid 7-point, backhand attack. His brother, Thomas, also earned himself a 7-pointer of his own and both are looking to charge through top seeds when competition resumes.
"I started competing four years ago but I mostly do the Europe regional events," said Thomas. "This is my first time here and it's so good to make it through my first heat. It was tricky but when you got a good one you just had to attack it. Hopefully I can do even more in the next one and give it my all."
Event organizers will reconvene at 8:00am AST to determine a possible 8:30am AST start to either Round 2 of the Thomo QS 1,000 or Live Like Zander Junior Pro.