Finals day is locked in at the World Surf League (WSL) Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro, a men's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500, Junior Pro and Roxy Junior Pro after competitors powered through critical battles in two foot, occasional three, swell. Men's QS Round 4 was completed in its entirety along with the women making their big debut for Round 1 and Quarterfinal action and men's Quarterfinals all finished. Three victors await their crowning and the fields remain stacked with some of North America's premier competitors.
All the momentum continues with Barbados' Josh Burke as he looks in unstoppable form after putting together the heat of the event so far of a 17.33 (out of a possible 20). Burke's ferocious backhand complemented his forehand, 8.33 (out of a possible 10), attack to earn yet another near-perfect 9.00 - both scores without priority. The Barbadian is looking to capitalize on points at this QS 1,500 and prepares for a big Quarterfinal matchup with an in-form Jabe Swierkocki who remains in both the QS and Pro Junior.
"I'm stoked to keep making it and hopefully keep putting up scores like that," Burke said. "That one was pretty tough at the beginning but then I ended up getting all the waves under priority which is nice to know I can do. I've noticed that north peak has been working really good on the higher tide and it paid off again today."
Floridians Surge into Men's Pro Junior Finals Day
Stout Quarterfinal draws awaited the Pro Juniors and the action didn't disappoint starting with Floridian duo Blake Speir and Ryan Huckabee taking over in slower, afternoon conditions. The pair took down one of North America's top junior talents Jett Schilling and New Jersey's Kyle Tester as Speir heads into just his second-career Semifinal appearance.
"I just out there thinking there's no way I'm ending this heat with a one as my backup so to get that last wave was great and you just have to grind through it," Speir said. "It's great when you and your buddy get through a heat, there's no better feeling. I'm really trying to hold it down this year and make a few Finals since it's my last year as a junior, prove to myself I can do it and just have fun along the way."
Adding his name to the list of surfing Floridians, Cocoa Beach's own William Hedleston continues to give his hometown crowd something to cheer about with a surge through this event. The now 16-year-old finished off his Quarterfinal affair against two of North America's best up-and-coming competitors Taro Watanabe, recent SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay QS 1,000 winner and also advancing, and 2019 No. 4 Alan Cleland.
"It's so fun and I'm stoked to match my best result so far in the Pro Juniors and to be at home doing it is great," Hedleston said. "It's a birthday week so I'm just trying to do my best and keep moving through. The waves went down a little compared to yesterday so you didn't have those bigger sections on the outside but if you could connect to the inside you could get finish strong. I don't even know what it'd mean to make the Final just with how amazing it is everyone supporting me and it's helped give me some confidence to be the local guy who isn't Kelly Slater or something (laughs)."
Reigning North America No. 1 and 2 Deliver in 2020 Debuts
Defending Ron Jon Roxy Junior Pro victor, and reigning North America Regional Pro Junior Champion, Caitlin Simmers picked up right where she left off with an excellent 16.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total on a dominant display of backhand surfing. Simmers, 14, started slow with Palm City, Florida's, Zoe Benedetto, also advancing, holding the lead until the Californian found her form and left the field in a combination situation - meaning each competitor needed two new waves to total Simmers.
"If you could get the double-up it was pretty fun and I found those lefts that kept running to do a few turns," said Simmers. "It would be pretty sick to win this event again. The waves are way better this year which is great and hopefully they keep coming for finals day."
Fellow Californian Bella Kenworthy and the East Coast's Bree Labiak eliminated event threat Ava McGowan before current North America QS No. 1 Sawyer Lindblad blasted a 14.67 heat total to finish off Quarterfinal battles. Lindblad finished runner-up on the rankings in 2019 with a trip to WSL Junior Championships here first year among the ranks and now looks for even more with her success from the QS after topping Round 1 standout, Abbie Yates - who hopes to bring an event win back to Florida alongside Smith and Benedetto.
"I was psyched to get that left after being a little a nervous," said Linblad. "This wave can be really tricky since it's completely different where I live in San Clemente. It'd be great to get a win to start making my way towards the WSL Junior Championships again. That's definitely the goal this year because if you win that you're into the big events the following year and I'm wanting to get to that level next season."
Event organizers will reconvene at 8:00am EDT for a possible 8:30am EDT start.