Fireworks continued at the World Surf League (WSL) Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro, a men's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500, and Junior Pro with more two-to-three foot swell providing a platform for competitors to put on a showcase. Men's QS competition finished their Round 3 draws before the North America Regional Pro Junior season got underway with some of the nation's best competitors 18-and-under powering through Rounds 1 and 2.
Jackson Butler Makes His Impression
Starting his year off in amazing fashion, Jackson Butler came in firing on all cylinders with a near-perfect 9.00 (out of a perfect 10) and 16.93 (out of a possible 20) heat total in a battle for first with Floridian Blake Speir after the first exchange garnered an excellent 8.50 for Spier. Butler's been off to a busy start in 2020 and brought that momentum to Cocoa Beach with a big result in Pismo Beach, earning a Quarterfinal finish, before an early exit in the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro during Thursday's action. However, the 18-year-old brushed aside the result and now locks in for a big finish in the Pro Juniors.
"Those were the best two waves I've ever gotten in Cocoa Beach," said Butler. "That one wave was worth 17-points and just reminded me of a jam session after dropping scores that put us pretty far out ahead of everyone else. Blake's a good friend, we've been surfing against each other since we were 10 years old so that's a dream heat. This year I've been working on consistency and staying loose because that's how I know I can surf. This is my last year in the Pro Juniors so I'm hoping to get to Worlds and go for a win there so it all starts here."
"That wave was a diamond in the rough and the right gave me some great opportunity and then he ripped that left as well," said Speir. "It felt great to post some good scores and being home adds some confidence. I'm feeling really good going into the next round."
But the fireworks weren't done yet as Ventura, California's, Jabe Swierkockifound himself in another East vs. West Coast battle against Cocoa Beach's William Hedleston in the closing heats of Round 2 action. Swierkocki's 8.57 at the five-minute mark all but secured his heat win over the in-form Hedleston, after he fell short of Round 4 in the QS, as Swierkocki remains in both competitions.
"It's nice to be in warm water after the first few events (laughs) but that was such a good heat and I'm stoked to be part of that pack of Californians doing well today with Jackson and Jett both going big," said Swierkocki. "It makes you want to go even bigger and it's also a fun rivalry with the Central and Southern California feel. I like getting to surf against new faces as well and it's cool because you know who they are but you don't know what they'll do and William was ripping down the beach so I'm stoked to keep going. Hopefully get a good result to start the year."
Last year's third-place finisher Jett Schilling found redemption after a rough start in the men's QS event and facing elimination in his first heat. But the 17-year-old recovered brilliantly with his new mindset and put on a showcase of rail surfing along with aerial assaults to accrue an excellent 15.67 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The San Clemente, California, competitor returns to Cocoa Beach straight from Australia to kick off the Pro Junior season in dynamic fashion.
"Yesterday I had a completely shocker just taking off on every insider and rushing every wave so today I wanted to slow down and wait for sets," said Schilling. "If you get a good, steep one you can get a solid score and I could figure it out. I don't have an epoxy on me like everyone else but my board is working so good when I get the good ones. I'd love to win this event after getting third last year and start this year strong."
Yang Brothers Thrive in Cocoa Beach
Florida is known for one of surfing's most iconic brother duos, the Hobgoods, and one of the next generation of brothers is making an impression near CJ and Damien's stomping grounds this week with Kyan and Kaylib Yang charging through heats. Kaylib, 17, and Kyan, 15, both made their way into the Quarterfinals with big showings in Rounds 1 and 2 after Kaylib bowed out of QS competition. This marks both of their first-ever WSL events and show that they will be ones to watch in coming years.
"The ones that open up are the ones you want and you just had to stay busy while looking for those medium ones that give you more to work with," said Kaylib. "This is our first QS and Junior so it's nice to see all the training pay off. There are a few waves like this back home we can find to prepare so we came ready."
"It's so good getting a chance to compete with guys like Kei (Kobayashi) who we've watched at Lowers and I'm stoked to make some heats," said Kyan. "It's been a really cool experience so far. I'm definitely a little nervous but it's amazing to keep going."
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30am EDT to determine a possible 8:00am EDT start.
The Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro, Junior Pro and Roxy Junior Pro will run March 12 - 15 in Cocoa Beach, Florida.