The Van’s US Open of Surfing’s road to the Junior men’s Title has been a long journey for the 4 left standing in the finals. Starting a week ago 64 young men started the journey and throughout the week here in Huntington Beach they fell until there were 8 Surfers left in the semis surfing for a coveted spot in the finals. Australian Ethan Ewing, Yuji Mori from Japan, Canary Islands Luis Diaz all joined Americans Nolan Rapoza, Kei Kobayashi, Ryland Rubens, Jake Marshall, and Chris Kervin made up the semi final round, and with swells steadily building they put on a show!
Moving through the semi finals and setting the stage for the championship round would be Yuji Mori leading the way for the Japanese Storm, Luis Diaz representing the Canary Islands, along with Jake Marshall and Nolan Rapoza of the United States.
The heat would be a back and forth affair with several lead changes, and tight scores. In fact it would end up being one of the closest championship finals in event history! Drama was high and with time winding down it was anyone’s title to take. When the final horn sounded the Canary Islands would have its first ever surfing champion, as Luis Diaz orchestrates an amazing finals round to come back and claim victory. His 14.90 would edge out runner up Jake Marshall by a slim margin of .27. Marshals 14.63 score would be just enough to get past hard charging Yuji Mori’s 13.57 and Nolan Rapoza would put in a competitive 11.64 in what will go down as one of the most intense and drama filled finals in Van’s U.S. Open of Surfing history, regardless of level.
On the Junior Women’s side the field of semi finalist was stacked, even with some upsets from the quarters. With a Caroline Marks and Brisa Hennessy having competed in CT events and Macy Callaghan, Alyssa Spencer, Leilani McGonagle, Maddie Patterson, Bethany Zelasko, and Kirra Pinkerton, all having scored heats in the QS, this is as loaded a junior women’s semi final round as you will find and in some cases would rival any QS event.
Two exciting Semi finals set the stage for a loaded finals match up. Caroline Marks, Alyssa Spencer, And Bethany Zelasko represented the United States while Brisa Hennessy represented Hawaii as its finalist.
Inconsistent conditions and wind would play a part in the heat. Ability, strategy and who ends up with priority would be the determining factor, as solid waves would be few and far between. Wave selection is key, especially with inconsistency and Caroline Marks would prove that all of the big events she has competed in prepared her for this moment. At 14 years old, Caroline Marks would become the repeat champion of the Van’s U.S. Open of Surfing woman’s junior. Alyssa Spencer would finish a solid second in a heat where she went for broke and tried to make the most of every opportunity. Hawaiian Brisa Hennessy would take the third spot just edging out an up and coming Bethany Zelasko. All four of these ladies will be a major factor in the coming years. Everything points to a new era in surfing and these young ladies are leading the way.