A heavy day of competition got underway at the World Surf League (WSL) BTMI Barbados Surf Pro, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000, presented by Diamonds International with Challenger Series qualification scenarios unraveling each heat in three-to-four foot swell.
Pictured: Noah Klapp (DEU) pulled off one of the upsets of the event so far with a massive Round of 16 victory. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
The women returned to the water in their Round of 16 match ups as the men battled through their Round of 32 and 16 bouts. Men’s and women’s Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Loving Memory of Zander Venezia competition was called OFF for the day with a likely start when the event resumes.
Women’s Round of 16 opened up with arguably the heat of the event featuring current North America No. 1 Sawyer Lindblad (USA), No. 4 Leilani McGonagle (CRC), former Live Like Zander Junior Pro victor Kirra Pinkerton (USA), and emerging threat Noah Klapp (DEU).
Klapp wasted no time getting her campaign underway and posted an excellent 8.00 (out of excellent 10) to start the heat and took control of the heat. Lindblad’s backhand attack locked her into an advancing position as McGonagle and Pinkerton couldn’t find the scores required as Klapp claimed a massive victory.
“I’m very happy to win and get an 8.00 right away which is probably a dream scenario for me,” said Klapp. “All those girls rip. Leilani, Sawyer, Kirra, are all gnarly surfers so I definitely felt like the underdog and happy to come out on top. It gave me confidence just because I haven’t been doing too well on the QS so I’ve been feeling down losing a lot so it’s great to get a win.”
Turning in one of the upsets of the event so far, Malibu, California’s, Talia Swindal (USA) took down defending event winner and Barbados’ own Chelsea Tuach. Swindal’s powerful forehand overpowered the small conditions with 2022 Challenger Series contender Havanna Cabrero (PUR) advancing behind Swindal as both advanced into the Quarterfinals with plenty of momentum.
“It feels so good and going into that heat I wasn't thinking about who was in there too much,” said Swindal. “I knew I had the champ from last year, but I was just going to focus on myself and my surfing. I just want to keep the rhythm going and I'm so stoked to be in the Quarterfinals, it's going to be so fun with a [head-to-head] heat.”
Also earning clutch Round of 16 heat wins, current No. 3 Zoe Benedetto (USA), who eliminated Tuach’s fellow Barbadian Chelsea Roett, and event threat Lilie Kulber (USA) kept their Soup Bowl dreams alive with head-to-head duals awaiting.
The men’s competition ignited with Challenger Series qualification on the line with more elation and heartbreak unfolding.
2022 Challenger Series Jett Schilling and Nolan Rapoza joined Sam Coffey as Round of 32 standouts before all-important Round of 16 battles ensued.
The opening Round of 16 heat featured Rapoza taking on defending event victor Michael Dunphy (USA), current No. 2 Evan Geiselman (USA), and North America threat John Mel (USA).
Rapoza’s backhand attack led to a last-minute, 7.17 to overtake Mel’s advancing position and go into the lead as reigning North America QS Regional Champion Dunphy faced elimination, and pushed him out Challenger Series qualification contention.
“Michael [Dunphy] won this contest last year, Evan [Geiselman] is always in the Top 10, and I surf against John [Mel] every single day,” said Rapoza. “It's all stressful, everyone surfs good and it's all about the tactics, and just want to keep my head down. I haven't had too much stress knowing I'm lower in the rankings after getting dealt a bad hand with injuries, so whatever happens happens, but this is my career.”
One of North America’s standouts, Crosby Colapinto (USA), turned in an excellent 8.67 to take a commanding lead in his Round of 16 affair after fellow San Clemente, California, competitor Jett Schilling (USA) earned a near-perfect 9.00 in their Round of 32 bout before going on to earn a respective Round of 16 win. With Schilling currently pushing the pace, Colapinto’s Quarterfinal berth helped push him away from the Top 7 bubble, but there’s still plenty of work to do.
“I was surfing against Cole [Houshmand], Dimitri [Poulos], and Kade [Matson], so I knew I was going to have to surf hard and that wave just came to me” said Colapinto. “I did my best surfing on it and got my mid-eight, so I was happy and the other boys dropped hammers so it was a good heat. I felt like I did pretty well to tune out the noise and now into the Quarterfinals so hopefully keep it going.” The sole Barbadian remaining in competition, Josh Burke (BRB), put on a showcase for his local crowd with an aerial assault and soaring into the Quarterfinals. However, Burke’s eyes are now laser-focused on his Quarterfinal match up with Geiselman knowing he must post a big result to keep his Challenger Series qualification hopes alive.
“What's going through my head is the Quarterfinals and that's the next thing I'm thinking about,” said Burke. “The rhythm switched around it feels like, all my other heats this event so far has been a struggle to get into rhythm with the heat and sometimes the waves. But, that heat definitely felt good. I want to go to big, that's why I like being on the Challenger Series, you have to go big. I'm going to keep doing my thing and hopefully get rewarded.”