Stab Magazine | Is The US Open Pro Jr. Where Tomorrow's Mega Stars Are Born?

Is The US Open Pro Jr. Where Tomorrow’s Mega Stars Are Born?

If you’re looking for prodigies, the base of the Huntington Beach Pier’s a good place to start.

news // Jul 27, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Does anyone pay attention to Pro Junior events?

Generally, no—but the U.S. Open Pro Junior is different.

In 2011, Filipe Toledo won the US Open Pro Junior as an unknown Brazilian kid.

In the final, the upstart was able to send heavy favorites Kolohe Andino, Connor Coffin, and future world champ John John Florence, all packing.

Not quite capable of sprouting a neck beard yet, he was so unaccustomed to standing atop the podium that he had no idea what to do with the oversized check he was handed at the awards presentation. Kolohe Andino had to tell him to hold it up over his head before Pat O’Connell just gave up and hoisted the check up for him.

On the ladies’ side, Lakey Peterson beat Malia Manuel, Laura Enever and Coco Ho. All of the surfers involved in the 2011 U.S. Open Pro Junior final, both men and women, have long since graduated to the Championship Tour and made their presence felt. Today, Filipe’s fronting the race for the World Title and Lakey’s right on Steph Gilmore’s heels hoping to win a title of her own.

Which is to say, the US Open Pro Junior is a really good barometer of who’s hot and who’s not. So, what can looking back tell us about what we may expect in this year’s US Open Pro Junior? A lot.

Diving into the men’s draw, the first thing that stands out is the abundance of talent percolating up from San Clemente. Cole Houshmand, Kade Matson, Crosby Colapinto, Jett Schilling, Max Beach and Taj Lindblad are all regulars at Lowers.

Don’t be too surprised if one or two of them ends up in the final. Colapinto’s been super inspired by his brother, Griffin, and is coming off his first WSL win earlier this year. Matson has steadily been maturing and has added a lot more power to his game recently. Either one of them could win the contest.

For the first time in forever, San Clemente’s also producing a couple young ladies that could end up on the global stage sooner rather than later. Kirra Pinkerton and Samantha Sibley have been cleaning up in the amateur ranks over the last year and a result in Huntington seems like the next logical progression.

Pinkerton’s sits atop the North American Junior ratings; both girls are ranked in the top 50 on the QS.

San Diego’s Alyssa Spencer is Pinkerton’s biggest rival and is going into the Open as the top seed. Pinkerton’s gotten the best of her in two finals in the last year, but the bigger stage may play more into Spencer’s favor as she has a little bit more experience at this point in her career.

Local flavor Keanu Igarashi, younger brother of defending champ and CT Kanoa, has to be considered a favorite. He might surf HB pier more than anyone else in the draw, and with a dire surf forecast, a keen appreciation for the current state of the sandbars is sure to pay off. We also expect Tyler Gunter and Nick Marshall to go long.

A couple sneaky picks? Max Beach and Taro Watanabe have both been blossoming under the tutelage of Brad Gerlach. Gerr’s sure to have them tuned and ready for the Open; the question is, can Gerlach’s fluid, stylish, technically driven “Wave-Ki” approach translate into the spontaneous, point-scoring bursts required by the Huntington shore break? We’ll find out.

Hawaiians Barron Mamaya and Finn McGill also have to be considered threats. McGill’s the 2017 World Junior Champ and rips in surf of any size. He also has some local roots, which may help him feel a bit more comfortable during the Surf City experience.

The jury’s still out on Mamaya. A result at the Open would help him break out of being typecast as exclusively a North Shore performer and aerial huckster.

There’s no shortage of entertainment at the Open, a lot of it has nothing to do with surfing. But when it comes to scouting future stars, the Pro Junior’s a good place to look, and closely: you can bet the next Filipe will be there.



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