Chills could be felt around Soup Bowl on opening day of the Thomo Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 in Memory of Bill Thomson and Live Like Zander Junior Pro event window as a prayer and moment of silence honored the late Thomson and Zander Venezia before action began with QS men taking to the water.
Building two-to-three foot, occasional plus, conditions provided plenty of action throughout the day that witnessed excellent surfing from competitors as Rounds One and Two were finished in their entirety. A few up-and-coming talents, as well as some of Barbados' own, steamrolled their way into the weekend's action and furthered their hopes of an inaugural Thomo QS1,000 win.
Nolan Rapoza returned to Soup Bowl as a full-time QS competitor after claiming the North America Regional Junior Title here last year and felt right at home. Rapoza earned a near-perfect 9.17 (out of a possible 10), the day's highest single-wave score, along with a Round One heat win. The Long Beach, California, native then carried that momentum into Round Two, where he stole a last-second victory over heat leader Asher Nolan.
"I really just wanted to make a statement for my first heat and get my surfing out there," Rapoza said. "It was definitely my best surfing since I've been here so far. That last heat was really diverse having Giorgio [Gomez] and Micha [Cantor], who are both my good friends, and then a veteran like Asher [Nolan], so I knew it could go anyway possible. It's great being back here now for the QS and trying to build my seed toward the QS10,000s next year -- which is what I'm striving for at the end of this year with China planned next."
East Coast native Gabriel Morvil garnered a huge Round Two victory over the in-form Barbados native Josh Burke, who claimed the day's highest heat total of a 16.04 (out of a possible 20) in Round One -- as well as Round One standouts Rey Hernandez and Chris Enever. Morvil's aggressive, forehand maneuvers earned him a 7.33 midway through the heat and propelled him to the front where he did not relinquish that lead. This also marks Morvil's first trip to the island nation and found his rhythm right away despite the shifting peaks.
"That was so fun and I didn't really go out there with any particular strategy since there's waves were everywhere," Morvil said. "It's not just the one dominant peak so you just had to be on the right one. I felt like I got lucky on that 7.33 with some open face that let me get some maneuvers in. It's a different kind of contest atmosphere and I like it a lot, just being able to relax and have fun."
Burke's fellow Barbadian competitor Che Allan came out in great form and earned victories in both rounds today. Allan's backhand attack continues to earn him results in 2017, after a win at the righthand pointbreak at Zippers earlier this year and here at Soup Bowl just last weekend for a local event. The 18-year-old is also the reigning Pro Junior winner and showed that dominant surfing once more for a spot into Round Three, though his mindset lies elsewhere.
"Of course there's some good prize money and points for this event, but I see this as more of a great warm-up for the Pro Junior event which is what I'm focused on," Allan said. "Being a local here helps since I surf [Soup Bowl] like this a lot, but there's so much luck that factors in. You just have to hope you have priority at the right time. I just wanted to stay busy and the win last weekend gave me more confidence heading into these events."
Another up-and-coming talent, Taro Watanabe, claimed wins in both Round One and Round Two after struggling on the QS front so far in 2017. But, the 15-year-old has plenty of time to find his way among the ranks and continues to build his form with each passing event. Watanabe will also be set for the Live Like Zander Junior Pro after being absent from the previous Junior Tour event in Newport Beach, California.
"I'm so stoked to make it through since I always lose in the second round on the QS," Watanabe said. "It feels so good to be back, this place is one of the best for surfing in the world and I'm just blessed to be out there with only three other people. I'm just trying to do these events for points and keep my seeding there so that I can really make a run for the QS10,000s in the next two years or so."
Event organizers will meet at 7:30 a.m. AST for an 8:00 a.m. AST start to begin the men's Live Like Zander Junior Pro.
The Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson event window begins November 9 through 11 and the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia will run alongside it November 9 through 12.