The World Surf League (WSL) is prepared for another year on the beautiful island of Barbados November 9 through 12 as the Pro Junior and Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) are set to return. The weekend before, on November 3 through 5, the Barbados Surfing Association’s Hyundai Independence Pro will also offer up $15,000 in cash and prizes at Soup Bowl.
The island nation fell on unimaginably hard times this year, losing one of its original fathers of surfing, Bill “Thomo” Thomson, earlier this spring and most beloved sons, Zander Venezia (BRB), just three weeks ago in heavy surf. Barbadians have come together stronger than ever to support one another and will honor their legacies with the Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson and Live Like Zander Junior Pro In Memory of Zander Venezia. The BSA’s Hyundai Independence Pro will also include a division in Thomson’s memory.
Although the two events will be run by separate entities this year, two back-to-back weeks of pro competition in Barbados is a big deal. This marks the first QS event on the famed righthand reefbreak of Soup Bowl in nearly a decade and will run alongside the fifth annual Pro Junior contest as it continues to provide the capstone event for the men’s and women’s North America Pro Junior Tour.
The surf community has been mourning the untimely death of Venezia, who was 16 when he died earlier this summer. WSL event director Christopher Clarke was one of many who witnessed the Barbadian grow up within the competitive surfing world. “It is very important to us to keep the event running because Zander [Venezia] was one of the very reasons we started events like this in Barbados,” Clarke said. “We all found joy in expressing ourselves through surfing contest for one reason or another and I think Zander did just that in his surfing. To have this event in Zander’s honor is a privilege to be a part of. He always had time to share with all the visiting surfers and showed the true Barbadian way of life. To be able to celebrate his life with bringing together some of the best junior surfers in the Americas to showcase their talent and love for the sport are very fitting. Zander would have wanted the event to go on.”
After Zander’s death, there was an outpouring of love for the Venezia family — Zander’s father, Louis, mother Lisa and sister Bella — from around the world. Jacob Burke (BRB) grew up alongside Venezia and spent countless hours in the lineups around the island with him. The 17-year-old’s memories of his friend remain close to him as he prepares for the final events of this year.
“When it happened, me and another friend Andrew Rose were talking about all the memories with him and bringing up stories of all the good times,” Burke said. “I’m looking forward to Soup Bowl and hopefully I do well there for Zander. I surfed more toward South Point as a kid, but Zander was always at Soup Bowl. Anytime I went there, he was there and we always had sessions there. Zander and I gave each other confidence when it was bigger and always paddled out together when it got sketchy. Now moving forward in surfing, I’ll just try to keep him in mind always and remember the good times with him.”
Earlier this year, Bill “Thomo” Thomson also passed unexpectedly due to health issues and the Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson is set to honor one of the island’s original surfers. Thomson helped shape the youth of Barbados surfing into what it is today — strong, passionate, and talented. Alan Burke, father to Jacob and competitive surfer Joshua, and his colleagues got preparations underway shortly after to honor Thomson and add to the success from Barbados’ first-ever QS earlier this year — the Barbados Surf Pro Men and Women’s QS3,000.
“The drive really started after the passing of Bill Thomson, who I consider to be my ‘surf dad’ as he was the one that was there for me every step of my surf career days,” Burke said “’Thomo,’ as I affectionately called him, was also one of the fathers of competitive surfing in Barbados and played an integral part in its development not only in Barbados but the Caribbean. He touched many lives, especially in the local surf community. Bob Packer, Sean Chandler, Andrew Lewis, all of whom Bill touched through surfing, agreed basically within seconds to form an alliance to make this tribute to Bill Thomson happen. Then the Zander tragedy occurred and we obviously agreed to do whatever it takes to assist the event organizers Surf Promotions ltd., which is Lou [Venezia] and Chris Clarke, with whatever necessary for the event to come off smoothly.”
The Live Like Zander Pro Junior In Memory of Zander Venezia will run November 9 through 12 alongside the Thomo QS1,000 In Memory of Bill Thomson November 9 through 11 at Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, Barbados.
For more information, please visit www.worldsurfleague.com or download the WSL App to receive updates on your mobile device.