The Junior men initiated Day 1 of the Papara Pro Junior Tahiti today with Hawaii dominating the competition and the region's top athletes finding their place in the Semifinal in both the Men's and Women's divisions. Oahu's Barron Mamiya, who is competing for the first time in Tahiti, had an impressive showing and posted the highest single wave score of the event, an excellent 9.60.
"It was the first wave, get the feet in the wax," said Mamiya. "My board felt a little slippery, but I surfed it good, I was stoked." Mamiya linked together multiple turns to garner the near-perfect score and was committed and powerful in the punchy surf. He advanced ahead of Ryder Guest (HAW) and the two will go head-to-head in the second Semifinal once the division's competition resumes.
Mamiya currently leads the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional rankings after winning his first professional event at the Sunset Pro Junior in January, and looks to sync up a second victory.
"That would be super sick, I would be stoked," he said about the possibility of taking the Title. "It's cool to win any event and I'm here for both comps so hopefully I do good. It's just all about making heats."
The North Shore local dominated his heat against Sacha Levy-Agami (PYF) and Keanu Taylor (HAW) with a 17.10, but was initially sick upon arriving in Tahiti and had to spend a few days recuperating before preparing for the event.
"I'm 100 percent now," he continued. "It's been pretty cool, we got to check out a few things, we're staying with Matahi (Drollet) and he's the local around here so he shows us everything, we're stoked." Mamiya will compete in both the Junior division and the men's QS1,000, and also surfed last week in the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro.
Another North Shore notable, Finn McGill (HAW), advanced to the Semifinal today after churning out some of the best backside turns of the men's division. Normally seen tackling extra-sized surf in Hawaii, McGill swapped out for smaller boards and shifted gears into a beach break mindset.
"It's so nice having the right board, it just floats over everything," McGill said. "I think if you have the right board and the right mentality, anyone can win here…The waves are fun, really rippable. Some nice air wind too, although I haven't really done an air yet. It's super glassy, almost like a mini Lowers."
McGill will go against Wyatt McHale (HAW), another North Shore surfer who earned a spot in the competitive limelight this past winter. McHale surfed in his first **Vans Triple Crown event and also the Volcom Pipe Pro QS3,000, where he made a mark as the youngest competitor in the 112-man field of Pipe specialists.
In the women's division, defending event winner Summer Macedo of Lahaina, Maui advanced from the first two Rounds for a slot in the Semifinal against local Tahitian Vahine Fierro. The two battled it out last year in the Final, with Fierro placing runner-up, and continued this year by putting on a great performance in the last heat of the day.
"I felt pretty good," said Macedo. "It was pretty nerve-wracking knowing that there's some wedgy ones that could sneak underneath and the girls could get an 8 on, but I just tried to be confident in my ability and surf the best that I could."
Macedo scored a 7.17 on her opening ride of Round Two and backed it up with a 7.10, dominating the 20-minute heat from the start. "I would definitely like to win," she continued. "I'm just trying to keep my head on straight and surf my best and we'll just see what happens."
Fierro looked at ease in the fun-sized beach break and was close behind Macedo with a combined heat total of 12.73.
"I was kind of stressed out before my heat because I knew it was a hard heat," said Fierro. "Luckily I got the good ones and it went well at the end."
Zoe McDougall (HAW), current regional frontrunner and recent winner of the Sunset Pro Junior in January, advanced to the Semifinals as well with the second highest two-wave total of the women's division, a 14.90, next to Kauai's Gabriela Bryan (HAW) who scored a 15.10 in Round One. McDougall is one of the top junior women in Hawaii and returns to Tahiti for her second year to chase her dream of joining the world's elite on the WSL Championship Tour. When competition resumes, she will surf against Oahu's Leila Riccobuano (HAW) in the first Semifinal.