A dreamed realized and job done for Josh Burke, Ava McGowan, Noe Ledee after claiming their first-ever WSL wins at the world-renowned Soup Bowl for their respective Thomo QS 1,000 in Memory of Bill Thomson and Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia.
Burke fulfilled a major part of his competitive career by winning a maiden Thomo QS 1,000 and bringing the event title back to Barbados. The 22-year-old had to overcome defending event champ Chauncey Robinson (USA) in what proved to be an electrifying finish. The two stayed patient in the early goings as Burke found a 7.17 (out of a possible 10) start before Robinson followed with an excellent 8.00. Robinson maintained a slim lead before Burke smashed two critical maneuvers and finished off the wave strong to earn an excellent 8.10 of his own and 15.17 (out of a possible 20) heat total.
The Barbadian had to overcome fellow compatriot Bruce Mackie in a stout Semifinal matchup after facing Giorgio Gomez in the Quarterfinals - who had the eventual winner in need of a score heading toward the end of their battle. Burke now prepares for a big 2020 season with renewed vigor and pushes him to No. 121 on the QS rankings.
"I knew I was going to need scores, Chauncey (Robinson) has made three-straight Finals out here which is an incredible achievement," added Burke. "It felt like I only made one heat properly, the rest I barely made so it's nice to feel my luck turning around heading into 2020 and hopefully it's a good year."
This notes three-straight Final appearances in the Thomo QS 1,000 for Robinson who dealt with uncharacteristic, near-elimination in multiple heats throughout the event. But, the 21-year-old moved through the diversity and took down event dark horse Owen Moss in the Quarterfinals before narrowly overtaking an in-form Nick Marshall.
"Coming up against Burkie I think that's the grand finale everybody here could've asked for and that's a dream finish for him," said Robinson. "I'm so psyched for him and he's just so deserving of a win out here. This event was super tricky looking back just not quite being the right swell for the Bowl and had some challenging heats. Just to make it to the Final I'm so psyched."
McGowan Strikes Back, Earns Maiden WSL Victory
The women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia contingent put on a powerful display, none moreso than eventual winner McGowan.
The 14-year-old from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, finished runner-up last year in the dying seconds and gave everything to ensure that scenario didn't play out once more. McGowan overpowered Sawyer Lindblad, Eva Woodland, and Ella McCaffray with a 15.00 heat total right out of the gates to put her contenders in a combination situation, meaning they needed two new wave scores to overtake McGowan, before closing the door with a 7.43. Only Lindblad, who secured a spot to WSL Junior Championships with her runner-up finish, could catch McGowan when the final horn sounded.
"It's more than amazing to win this event and I'm just excited to call my dad back home (laughs)," said McGowan. "I just knew I needed two good waves. Last year I was pretty devastated, not too upset just because it was my first time here, but this year I just wanted to win so bad. I was so nervous before that heat just telling myself to calm down but after those scores I felt really good. I'll look at doing a few more events next year but just see how it all goes."
First WSL International Soup Bowl Winner Crowned
The WSL Pro Juniors crowned its first international Soup Bowl victor with Ledee taking down a formidable Final, utilizing both the rare left and iconic righthanders to claim his victory. The St. Barthelemy, French Caribbean, native stole the show against Malakai Martinez, Micha Cantor and Dimitri Poulos. Ledee followed McGowan's performance in similar fashion with a stellar start, earning 7.17 to take an early lead, but nearly faced defeat heading into the dying minutes with Martinez throwing everything he had into his final wave to garner an 8.67. But, Ledee's final effort earned a 6.60 to overtake the Costa Rican and his first-ever WSL win.
"It's so exciting to win my first Pro Junior and winning here is amazing," said Ledee. "My brother (Thomas) won the U16 local event and for me to win this, there's nothing better. It's good to surf against competitors from North America since I compete in the European region. It's a really good level of surfing and this wave is just amazing."
Following the Pro Junior results, both Lindblad and Alan Clelandsecured their place into the WSL Junior Championships beginning November 26 - December 1 in Taiwan.
"It feels amazing to qualify for worlds," exclaimed Lindblad. "I tried not to think about it in my heats and just give it my best shot every heat. Soup Bowl is such a fun wave and all of the locals are super nice. It was such a great end to the year and I'm just so excited."
The Thomo QS 1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson and Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia will run November 7 - 10 at Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, Barbados. The event is supported by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Tourism Development Corporation, Eco LifeStyle and Lodge, Infra Rentals. Lynch insurance Brokers, The Atlantis Historic Inn, BHTA, TSL Barbados Glacial Pure, Sun,Group Hotels. Drive a Matic Car Rentals, Garbage Master, Peg Farms Container Services, Zander Venezia Trust, Thomo Charity, Barbados Surfing Association, Creative Junction, and Ry's on the Beach.