NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Florida/USA (Friday, March 9, 2012) – The second annual ASP 1-Star DNA Energy Pro Junior presented by Western Atlantic Surf kicked off in peaky three foot surf at Florida's New Smyrna Beach Inlet and quickly narrowed the field down from the Round of 64 to decide the event's 16 Quarterfinalists.
Stop No. 3 on the 2012 ASP North America Pro Junior Series, the DNA Energy Pro Junior's 1-Star status offers the perfect opportunity for up-and-coming surfers to establish a seed on the regional rankings.
Kanoa Igarashi (Huntington Beach, CA), 14, opened his DNA Energy Pro Junior campaign in sharp form despite having minimal knowledge of the New Smyrna Beach lineup and dominated three heats to advance to the Quarterfinals amidst the consistently changing conditions.
"I'm super tired because I just got back from three weeks in Australia," Igarashi said. "So, to surf three heats, I'm super tired, but that's how it is. It was almost like I was getting used to the wave over those last three heats. I've never surfed here. I only surfed here once before and the conditions change so much. For my first heat it was small and fun with good sections, and my second heat it was dead low tide and it's a whole different wave again."
Igarashi has already found success at the ASP Pro Junior level, but had decided to focus on his amateur career over the previous seasons and is now taking a more serious approach towards ASP Pro Junior events.
"This is actually my third or fourth Pro Junior event, I did a couple when I was really young, about two years ago, when I was coming with my friends and I made the Quarters in one event, but I knew I was still too young," Igarashi said. "I decided to take time off and here I am again, starting over from scratch and it's really fun."
Igarashi, who has been extremely successful in the amateur ranks, is focused on a top-notch result at the DNA Energy Pro Junior and is hoping a strong finish in Florida will help kick-start a successful run on the 2012 ASP North America Pro Junior Series.
"It'd mean a lot to win this thing," Igarashi said. "I really want to do well in Pro Juniors and make a little bit of money. I love doing contests, that's what I do. It'd really mean the world to me to win this contest, because it's the first one that I've really focused on in my career."
Chris Tucker (Satellite Beach, FLA), 20, got off to a slow start in his Round of 32 heat, but eventually found his feet, notching a 7.5 (out of 10) and quickly found a backup score to launch from the back of the pack to advance to the Quarterfinals.
"I just did a little check turn and threw my tail a little bit and went backwards," Tucker said. "I felt like I was in last because I didn't even know what that wave was going to be. I heard the score and then I got a second one and luckily ended up winning the heat."
Tucker, who has been out of competition for a few months, is hoping to carry the momentum from his early round success into the final day of competition.
"I haven't done a contest since Hawaii, since December and I was a little nervous because I hadn't surfed a heat in awhile, so it was good to get out there," Tucker said. "I had a horrible start. I couldn't find a wave and it's just wind swell. You just pick a peak and hope it hits the bar and hopefully it has a good reform."
Evan Thompson (Jacksonville, FL), 20, the top seed in the DNA Energy Pro Junior, also advanced through to the Quarterfinals and is hoping to put in convincing performances this year, his last on the ASP Pro Junior Series.
"This is my last year so I want to try and make it count and go out with a bang in the juniors," Thompson said. "I want to do all of the events and hopefully try and qualify for the World Juniors again, that's pretty much my goal. I know this event's only a 1-Star, but I figured it's right down the street from my house, so why not come down and do it."
Upcoming DNA Energy Pro Junior Quarterfinals Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Evan Thompson (USA), Nathan Behl (USA), Cameron Richards (USA), Scott Weinhardt (USA)
Heat 2: Chris Tucker (USA), Luke Marks (USA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Nic Hdez (USA)
Heat 3: Andrew Jacobson (USA), Cory Howell (USA), Noah Schweizer (USA), Knox Harris (USA)
Heat 4: Ryan Croteau (USA), Colin Richardson (USA), Daniel Glenn (USA), Jake Marshall (USA)