While Nolan Rapoza claimed North America's Pro Junior title with another solid performance at the Soup Bowl Pro Junior, it came as no surprise. He had the North American region locked before his toe even hit the water in Barbados. So the bigger issue that needed solving at the final stop of the six-event season was who would would qualify for the upcoming World Junior Championship in Australia.
With each region sending four men and two women to compete Down Under, the Soup Bowl Pro Junior proved pivotal. In the end, local boy Che Allan pulled a huge win to make the cut. Here's a closer look at North America's Final Four on the men's side.
Rank:1 Points: 3,775
Hometown: Long Beach, California
The Long Beach native took command of the North American tour by appearing in five-of-six finals. He notched his maiden victory and three runner-up finishes along the way, and is hoping to parlay that success into a World Junior Title down in Australia in January. It will be his first and last time in the event. Rapoza will be graduating to a full time QS role in 2017.
"It means a lot to claim this title because it shows me that I can be consistent if I put my mind to it," says Rapoza. "I've tried to mature my technique and heat strategy this year which I think will help me a lot more in the future."
Rank: 2 Points: 2,680
Hometown: San Clemente, California
Kobayashi held the No. 1 spot for the first half of the season thanks to his first-ever WSL Pro Junior win early in the season. But after a few Semifinal finishes he slipped to No. 2 heading to Barbados, and he wasn't able to catch Rapoza.
"My first WSL win was amazing," Kobayashi said. "That gave me so much confidence for every event that I could beat the best. I'm really happy I accomplished my goal of qualifying this year, so looking forward to representing my country at World Junior's this year."
Rank: 3 Points: 2,430
Hometown: Encinitas, California
Marshall has been touted as one of California's best up-and-comers for some time, but he struggled early in the season. Fortunately a solid second-half push, including a Finals appearance at the Vans US Open propelled him to No. 3. Marshall will also be jumping into a full time QS role in 2017, with his dad right there by his side.
"I'm super excited to have an opportunity at world's because it's a great chance to compete against all the best kids my age and see where your level is at compared to the rest of the world," he said. "I feel like my small wave surfing got a lot better which is good because a lot of the events we surf happen to be in tough waves. I love having my dad at the events because we've been doing events together for so long now. It doesn't matter if the event is a local event or a major QS it always is comforting to have him with me."
Rank: 4 Points: 2,290
Hometown: St. Michaels, Barbados
It was a dream scenario for Allan coming out of the water atop the shoulders of his friends as the Soup Bowl Pro Junior Champion. The kid from St. Michaels, Barbados, needed to make the Final for a chance to qualify for the WJC and he did just that, only to find out he still had to win the whole thing to keep Chauncey Robinson at bay. The best part is he still has one year still remaining in his Junior Tour career.
"I'm so excited to go to Australia for the first time and surf against the best juniors in the world," says Allan. "It's going to be really hard but I feel mentally and physically ready after taking the win at the last event. It took a lot of ups and downs to get me to this point."