Live Like Zander Junior Pro
San Clemente sweep marks first-ever wins for Houshmand and Pinkerton
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 13 November, 2017 - Soup Bowl - A special finals day crowned Cole Houshmand (USA) and Kirra Pinkerton (USA) the World Surf League (WSL) Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia its winners at Soup Bowl. The San Clemente, California, sweep earned both Houshmand and Pinkerton their first-ever Pro Junior wins in amazing fashion.
Also, Pinkerton’s win moved her up the rankings to No. 2 and clinched a spot into the World Junior Championships over Samantha Sibley (USA). Conditions proved tricky for competitors as Soup Bowl’s shifting peaks continued to surprise, but the best was saved for last.
The men’s Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia Final witnessed the waves turn on in the opening stages and offered one last flurry of waves at the end that ultimately earned Houshmand a massive win. It looked as though East Coaster Chase Modelski (USA) would run away with the Final after his first two waves accrued a 15.93 (out of a possible 20) in the first five minutes.
But, Houshmand spotted a wave with under a minute remaining, and in third priority, and took off on the left, needing a 9.60 (out of a possible 10) that went by both Che Allan (BRB) and Tyler Gunter (USA). The 16-year-old gauged the opening section on his forehand, then took to the air on the closeout and stomped a massive air-reverse for a near-perfect 9.67 as the final horn blew seconds later -- emerging victorious.
“That was such a crazy Final and to win my first Pro Junior event at Soup Bowl is amazing,” Houshmand said. “The people, this wave, this place as a community is incredible and I can’t imagine a better way to end this year. This win is so special just being in memory of Zander [Venezia] -- it’s a big honor to earn this one. I’m looking forward to returning next year and trying to defend this win, and see my surfing match where I’ve grown both physically and mentally.”
Modelski looked well on his way to the honorary win, but a few mistakes ended up being his demise. This marks the Floridian’s best result at the Pro Junior level and showcased a glimpse of the young surfer’s potential. Modelski now looks forward to another year among the Junior Tour ranks and a chance to mold his surfing even further.
“Those waves just came to me right at the beginning and I was so happy to get that start,” Modelski said. “I screwed up with priority a few times, but I wasn’t too worried about it -- I’ve never even made the Semifinals so this amazing. It’ll be great to work on my strategy a bit more since I haven’t really done that, but I’m more focused on just bettering my surfing. That’s the most important thing to me before I really get involved with all these contests, because you can end up losing a lot which can get you down so I want to be prepared.”
With Gunter and Allan both making the Final, each of them have punched their tickets to the World Junior Championships as Allan finishes ranked No. 3 and Gunter No. 4 -- joining North America Regional Junior Champion Ryland Rubens (USA) and No. 2 John Mel (USA).
The junior women had a remarkable Final of their own prior to the men's that witnessed Pinkerton take down No. 1 ranked Alyssa Spencer (USA), No. 2 ranked Samantha Sibley (USA) and an in-form Rachel Presti (USA).
Pinkerton’s incredible Finals performance earned her a maiden Junior Tour win at the Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia. The San Clemente, California, native opened up with a near-perfect 9.50 right away on her aggressive backhand and backed it up moments later on her forehand to apply serious pressure. A nail-biter ending witnessed Alyssa Spencer (USA) earn a 7.50 on her last wave in the dying seconds that would’ve given her the win, but Pinkerton responded one last time with an 8.33 to claim a huge victory.
It was no easy road to the Final and when Pinkerton took hold of her award, pure emotions took over. Thoughts of the late Zander Venezia were on everyone’s mind and the 16-year-old’s overwhelmingly kind gesture showed the true kind of winner she embodies.
“It feels amazing to win my first junior event and to do it here is extremely special,” Pinkerton said. “I saw a left that Rachel [Presti] got in her Semifinal heat and when that left came in the beginning I just had to give it a shot which worked out great. This event means everything to me and I’m donating my prize money to the Zander Venezia foundation. I miss him so much and this is for him. I'll start to get ready for Worlds and keeping training, but I'll enjoy this moment for awhile."
The win also propels Pinkerton ahead of Sibley for a bid into the World Junior Championships at Kiama, Australia, in January alongside the North America Regional Junior Women’s Champion Alyssa Spencer (USA). Spencer secured her place at No. 1 with a Finals appearance and received the Regional Champion’s Award that has been dedicated to Venezia. The Carlsbad, California, returned to Soup Bowl in great form after being eliminated in the Quarterfinals of last year’s event and losing the No. 1 spot, but the 14-year-old wouldn’t let that occur a second time.
“To get it this year is really special after I came so close, so it’s really cool to be going back to Worlds as the Regional Champion,” Spencer. “This event as a whole was extremely special and I wanted to get a win for Zander, but second isn’t too bad and I’m happy with that. But, it’s a great event to look back on and I just love it here. Overall this year I felt like I was just in a good rhythm and it was great to make a couple Finals, and the end goal is always to make Worlds so it’s incredible.”
In honor of the late Zander Venezia, the Venezia family founded the Zander Venezia Foundation to aid and assist disabled and underprivileged children throughout Barbados. Donations can be made here
"Zander's short, but incredible time here on Earth has had a ripple effect on so many people, crossing borders of nationality and age," Zander's father, Louis said. "All the donations will go directly to helping these children that Zander was touched so deeply by, causing that ripple effect to become a tidal wave of love for the less fortunate."
More information on all the North America Region Tour Champions will be sent after the final men’s Qualifying Series event at the Pismo Beach Open November 17 – 19.
Men's Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia Final Results:
1 – Cole Houshmand (USA) 16.00 1,000 points $2,500
2 – Chase Modelski (USA) 15.93 750 points $1,500
3 – Tyler Gunter (USA) 13.74 560 points $1,100
4 – Che Allan (USA) 10.50 525 points $900
Men’s Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Chase Modelski (USA) 11.17, Che Allan (BRB) 10.83, Taro Watanabe (USA) 10.33, Luke Gordon (USA) 9.16
SF 2: Tyler Gunter (USA) 14.53, Cole Houshmand (USA) 12.73, John Mel (USA) 11.50, Tommy Coleman (USA) 11.33
Men’s Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Che Allan (BRB) 14.84, Chase Modelski (USA) 14.40, Kade Matson (USA) 9.60, Ryland Rubens (USA) 11.76
QF 2: Taro Watanabe (USA) 16.20, Luke Gordon (USA) 13.04, Renan Grainville (FRA) 11.43, Micha Cantor (USA) 9.46
QF 3: Tyler Gunter (USA) 12.24, , John Mel (USA) 11.93, Eithan Osborne (USA) 9.96,Caleb Crozier (USA) 8.94
QF 4: Cole Houshmand (USA) 11.83, Tommy Coleman (USA) 11.17, Liam Murray (USA) 9.40, Dylan Hord (USA) 8.50
North America Men’s Regional Junior Final Rankings:
1. Ryland Rubens 2,730 points
2. John Mel 2,640 points
3. Che Allan 2,630 points
4. Tyler Gunter 2,470 points
Women's Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia Final Results:
1 – Kirra Pinketon (USA) 17.83 1,000 points $900
2 – Alyssa Spencer (USA) 16.33 750 points $400
3 – Rachel Presti (USA) 12.33 560 points $160
4 – Samantha Sibley (USA) 8.27 525 points $140