The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) is gearing up for a return to Barbados’ south coast for the second consecutive Barbados Surf Pro Men’s and Women’s QS 3,000 at the Drill Hall Beach.
2017 was a breakout year for the island as it hosted three QS events alongside their long-standing Pro Junior contest. But, event organizers are working non-stop to bring the highest level of surfing to Barbados and the Barbados Surf Pro proves as their benchmark event toward that goal.
Louis Venezia and Christopher Clarke of Barbados Surf Promotions continue to be the driving force behind WSL’s return to Barbados each year since the inaugural Soup Bowl Pro Junior in 2013.
“It means the world to me [to bring this event back,” Venezia said. "My outlook for the future is to increase the level to 6,000 or 10,0000 – and possibly even a WSL CT event. We have a good crop of young surfers in Barbados who are making a definite mark on the QS and Pro Junior scene worldwide. We have even had a female Barbadian reaching the CT level. This is a great accomplishment for Barbados. Our main goal here is to showcase our local talent amongst some of the world’s best competitors in good waves in which they are familiar with. It also encourages and inspires our local groms to follow in their footsteps and witness how rewarding the sport of surfing can be while either competing or just free surfing.”
Barbados’ proud surfing history garners more accolades each passing year with a few local surfers competing around the world. But, travelling to the ends of the earth in hopes of earning points and a healthy cash prize to finance their competitive future can be a heavy burden. Che Allan finished his Pro Junior career with a second-consecutive appearance at the World Junior Championship and now becomes a full-time QS competitor.
"After being on the other side of the world for three months doing QS events, it’s so good to have a big event at home where you’re sleeping in you’re own bed,” Allan said. "Surfing your home breaks and surrounded by your family and friends is hard to beat. There’re a lot of young surfers coming up in Barbados and watching the best surfers in the world compete really inspires them to keep improving to get to that level. I feel a lot of pressure performing in front of my home crowd, but having a few points in the bank early definitely takes away some stress. Hopefully, I can perform and take advantage of the opportunity to get some points.”
One of the island’s top candidates for making a run toward Championship Tour (CT) qualification is 20-year-old Josh Burke. Burke finished at No. 128 on the International QS rankings and will be vying for a chance to crack the Top 100 this season. The Barbadian knows the importance of these events at home and what it can do for not only his generation but for all those coming up behind him.
"It helps Barbados and the Caribbean so much to have these events, it’s a must,” Burke said. "Not only does it cut cost for the underrated Caribbean surfers, but it gives them opportunity to watch some of the world’s best. Since the QS 3,000 last year, there’s been more groms psyching to surf and in the water at home. A solid generation is coming up in Barbados and it’s so good to see. It was great to start the year off with a third-place at the Florida Pro and then getting some fun waves during the Pipe Pro which adds to my confidence. I grew up surfing ‘Brandends’ so I’m really looking forward to performing there again in front of the local crowd.”
While the men have a few potential candidates in the making, Chelsea Roett and Chelsea Tuach remain the island’s female favourites to make that leap onto the elite stage. Tuach realized her dream of qualifying for the CT in 2015 but was left on the outside looking in by season’s end in 2016. The 22-year-old has spent the last two years on her quest to re-qualify but took a step back last season to gain a broader view.
"Having the Barbados Surf Pro QS 3,000 back on schedule this year is a huge opportunity for the locals,” Tuach said. "There’s myself and the other Bajan surfers who are competing full-time on the QS and looking to gain crucial points in our backyard. I think taking some time to just focus on my surfing and have fun was one of the best things I’ve done for myself — I feel like I’ve got my confidence back and I’m really excited to compete.”
"There’s also the up-and-coming juniors who have some of the best surfers in the world performing on one of their favourite waves – showing them what can be done,” Tuach added.
"I’ve already seen a mood change in some of the groms since the event last year. They’re inspired and it’s showing in their surfing.” (WSL)