An all-important start for men's top-seeded competitors to the World Surf League (WSL) BTMI Barbados Surf Pro, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000, presented by Diamonds unfolded in beautiful, four-to-six foot swell pulsing into Soup Bowl.
The Round of 64 finished in its entirety with jaw-dropping performances throughout the day including multiple excellent scores and near-perfection. Women’s QS, men’s and women’s Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Loving Memory of Zander Venezia were called OFF for the day.
An amazing day of competition began with Jabe Swierkocki (USA) setting the tone with a near-perfect, 17.00 (out of a possible 20) heat total, including a 9.00 (out of a possible 10). The Ventura, California, competitor felt right at home on the pristine right hand reef break on his powerful forehand as he unleashed it on multiple, critical sections. Currently No. 6 on the North America rankings, Swierkocki looks to hold his place among the Top 7 and moves forward with plenty of momentum.
Pictured: Jabe Swierkocki (USA) built upon his score line with each new wave, starting with a 6.17 shown and finishing with a 9.00. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
“That was the best case scenario for the first heat of the contest and drop some solid scores and start the momentum going,” said Swierkocki. “It's dreamy. Free surfing you don't really have the pick, but in a heat with priority and surfing good waves felt really good. This is just fun now, it's not about winning the heat, it's just about picking good waves and letting your surfing do the talking.”
2022 Challenger Series contender Kade Matson (USA) returned to action in 2023 following his back injury and hasn’t disappointed with multiple, big performances, and added another with a Soup Bowl debut. Matson’s timing and power accounted for a pair of excellent, 8-point rides to accrue a 16.94 heat total and push the standard as the afternoon began. Matson’s looking to conclude his season with a big finish to rejoin the Challenger Series elite in 2023.
“That was insane and it felt like we were just by ourselves out there because the free surfs have super hectic” said Matson. “It was sick to finally have a good wave to just open up on and I had a really fun time. It's huge just because I'm outside the cutline right now so to have this as the last event and a 5,000, and couldn't have asked for anything better."
Fellow Californian, Santa Cruz’s Shaun Burns, added his name to the near-perfect list with a brilliant 9.00 of his own over top-seeded competitors Taro Watanabe (USA) and Tommy Coleman (USA). While Burns may be further back on the rankings, but a mathematical chance still looms for the QS veteran as he now continues to build each new round.
“I was just under water screaming to myself [after that wave],” said Burns. “It's hard to get excellent scores on the QS, sometimes conditions aren't the best, but here in Barbados the waves are fun and emotions just overran me. My goal is to just hopefully the Top 30 so I have a high seed next season, and just enjoy this Barbados weather."
Barbados’ own Josh Burke (BRB) started his redemption campaign in excellent form in front of the local community as he looks for a dream finish to the season. But, the 26-year-old has just begun after a tough start to his debut before his brother, wildcard Jacob, joined him into the Round of 32 with a win over Evan Geiselman (USA), also advancing, as the sole Barbadians left in competition.
“I would've definitely liked to get 16-points, that was the goal and I got the one 8.00, but I fell on the other turn that would've been my other excellent score,” said Burke. “That was what I manifested, and I'm just happy to make the heat with a win. I wasn't really nervous and not taking pressure into consideration, just trying to surf my home break and get eights (laughs). This community treats me like family and I consider them my family too."
Also notching impeccable wins, defending event victor Michael Dunphy (USA), current No. 1 Dimitri Poulos (USA), No. 4 Cole Houshmand (USA), No. 8 Crosby Colapinto (USA), No. 5 Jett Schilling (USA), Tyler Gunter (USA), Lucas Owston (USA), Wesley Santos (BRA), Owen Moss (USA), Ryan Huckabee (USA), and Malakai Martinez (CRC) moved into the Round of 32 in excellent form.