The World Surf League (WSL) Barbados Surf Pro, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 5,000, and Live Like Zander Junior Pro presented by Diamonds International powered back into action with three-to-four foot, occasional plus sets, filling into Soup Bowl.
Men's junior contenders completed their Round of 48 battles before the women's QS made their big debuts in stunning form to complete the Round of 40 and 32.
Powerful performances and near-perfection highlighted a big day of competition as the men's QS and women's Pro Junior were called OFF for the day.
Pictured: Defending event victor and Queen of Soup Bowl, Chelsea Tuach (BRB), wasted no time finding the wave of the day. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
The women’s QS made their highly-anticipated debuts with top seeds entering the water in the Round of 32 after Round of 40 performances from the likes of Lilie Kulber (USA) and Zoe Chait (USA) stood apart.Kulber continued her success, before Chait's elimination, with a clutch heat win over current No. 1 Sawyer Lindblad (USA), also advancing, but it was defending event victor, and Barbados’ own, Chelsea Tuach who debuted in phenomenal fashion, posting a near-perfect 9.17 (out of a possible 10) and 15.67 (out of a possible 20) - both an event best so far.
The former Championship Tour (CT) competitor is eyeing down a repeat performance to catapult herself into Challenger Series (CS) qualification and made her way into the Round of 16 alongside fellow Barbadian Chelsea Roett.
“It's a pretty unbelievable way to start the event off,” said Tuach. “I feel like, in that first round, you always have a little bit of those nerves and you want to start off strong. The wave came to me and I couldn't believe how perfectly it set up. I just knew I had to do it justice. I'm stoked we have such an important event here in Barbados. It's really special and it's really special for our surfers, and everyone to have such great waves to make that last push before the Challenger Series."
From the cold waters of Santa Cruz, California, to the island nation of Barbados, Autumn Hays (USA) found her rhythm right away to post a solid 7.33. Hays arrived to put her time in at the world-renowned wave and that effort already paid dividends as she looks to finish the season strong.
“It's so much fun and definitely a little more tricky than I thought, I couldn't tell if I was far enough out but once I sat there for a second I just tried to calm my nerves,” said Hays. “I was nervous hitting the first section. I just wanted to smash it, but I just thought I needed to complete the wave since I two three's at that point. I definitely want to make the Challenger Series and it's my goal to do so.”
Former Live Like Zander Junior Pro victor and Challenger Series threat Kirra Pinkerton (USA) who dropped a 7.00 on her powerful forehand. Pinkerton, 20, has her ambitions set for another Final at Soup Bowl, knowing she needs a big result to overtake a Top 4 position.
“I’ve always loved Soup Bowl, my first time coming here I was 11 and I’m still trying to figure this wave out,” said Pinkerton. “But, every heat I kind of find my rhythm and just hope I can bring it to the Final this time. This morning I had a specific spot, on a specific set wave I wanted, and when I got there it was pretty different than earlier and so I had to change my plan to move to the inside a bit more.”
Taj Lindblad (USA) enters the Soup Bowl arena with a mathematical opportunity to overtake a Top 2 spot, while also sitting with the Top 7 of the men’s QS, and showcased his familiarity with the reef break brilliantly. Lindblad’s forehand attack led to a pair of six-point rides, including a round-best 6.73 (out of a possible 10), and 13.06 (out of a possible 20) heat total.
“It was kind of slow so I just tried to get started on a couple of insiders,” said Lindblad. “But, it was nice to get a little rhythm with the free surfs being pretty tough so this was a nice way to get some sets. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself and just surf some heats, and just one wave at a time.”
Fellow San Clemente, California, competitor Nicholas Coli also earned a clutch victory in his junior debut following a tough, early loss in the QS.
Also notching impressive, debut wins, Costa Rica duo Darshan Antequera and Nadav Attar join Will Deane (USA), Cole McCaffray (USA), and Panama's Kai Gale Grani (PAN) all moved into the Round of 32 with plenty of momentum.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. EDT to determine a possible 8:00 a.m. EDT start to competition.
The Barbados Surf Pro and Live Like Zander Junior Pro pres. by Diamond International will open on March 27 and hold a competition window through April 2, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.