Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN) and Taj Lindblad (USA) emerged victorious at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, after taking down their respective, heavily-contested fields at Morro Rock.
Dempfle-Olin and Lindblad overpowered the two-to-four foot conditions on offer during their Finals Day campaigns as Dempfle-Olin earned a historic, maiden WSL win over her sister Sanoa, alongside Lindblad’s first-ever WSL victory against an in-form Nolan Rapoza (USA).
Pictured: (L to R) Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN) and Taj Lindblad (USA) earned their breakthrough, maiden WSL victories at Morro Bay. Credit: © WSL / RunAmuck Photography
A historic women’s Final unraveled with a sibling clash between Sanoa and Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN), the first time siblings have met in a North America QS Final since 2006, and the younger of the sisters, Sanoa struck first with a 4.50 (out of a possible 10). But, Mathea answered back at the 21-minute mark as Sanoa also found an opportunity to stay ahead with Sanoa earning a 6.00 and Mathea a 6.17. Mathea wasn’t done yet, unleashing her backhand attack once more to post an excellent 8.00 and push her sister to needing an 8.17 of her own.
“I'm feeling really good and it's definitely been a goal of mine for a long time so I'm over the moon to achieve this goal,” said .” It was just fun. Because she’s my younger sister she’s the last person I wanted to beat me, but I’m always supporting here and want to see her succeed. I think the QS is so challenging right now and even making it past Round 1 and 2 is so difficult so to make it to Finals Day was so good for me and Sanoa."
Mathea’s Finals Day surge began with a back-and-forth, Semifinal battle against proven North America threat Ella McCaffray (USA). A 7.33 start for Dempfle-Olin put her right behind McCaffray’s 8.66 total before finding a 4.70 as McCaffray’s last effort fell shy of the 6.53 requirement to surpass her Morro Bay Semifinal streak. The men’s Final featured two of California’s rising competitors Taj Lindblad and Nolan Rapoza and their opening exchange set the pace for what their battle would entail with Lindblad earning the upper hand on a 6.00. But, at the 20-minute mark, Rapoza fired back with a 7.10 and overtook the lead forcing Lindblad to earn a 6.71 as the San Clemente competitor dropped an excellent 8.67 in the exchange to regain the lead heading into the final minutes.
In the dying seconds, Lindblad utilized his priority to keep Rapoza off an opportunity, but one last wave came in to offer Rapoza an opportunity. Rapoza’s combination of a turn-to-air-reverse nearly garnered the requirement, but fell just short of claiming his second-career QS win and Lindblad emerged victorious.
“I'm just really stoked and it was a hard road for sure,” said Lindblad. “Finally paid off. I have a bunch of family friends here who are pretty much my family and if I'm not surfing T-Street or Lowers, I'm surfing here so it's pretty special. It was really special (to ride a horse for my first chair-up). This is a confidence boost just with the guys who were here will be at the bigger events left so I'm really excited to get going.”
Taj Lindblad overpowered an all-San Clemente, Quarterfinal affair against an in-form Kade Matson (USA) before unleashing his backhand attack to accrue a brilliant, 14.77 heat total in the Semifinals against another San Clemente standout Hagan Johnson. Now, the 19-year-old prepares for a big conclusion to the North America regional season for his opportunity to break into the Challenger Series.
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (CAN) broke through into Finals Day and made it count, making her first-ever QS Final after taking down Santa Cruz, California’s, Maddie Storrer in stellar form. The Tofino, Canada, competitor garnered one of the best scores of Finals Day with a 7.67 on her forehand attack to solidify the heat win. With her first Final now in her resume, the 17-year-old Dempfle-Olin looks to carry that momentum forward.
“Making it to the Final was so exciting and to see my sister make it to the Final was a dream come true,” said Dempfle-Olin. “I was going to be happy no matter what even though I definitely wanted to win, she got me in that one so hopefully we have more QS Finals together (laughs). I have a busy year ahead with Florida coming up and I'm not sure about Barbados just yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to starting next year off at the Jack's Surfboards event.”
Long Beach, California’s, Nolan Rapoza fought to the very end of his Morro Bay campaign and nearly walked away with his first-ever QS win on home soil, already earning a win in Arica, Chile. The 2022 Challenger Series standout had to overcome a hefty Finals Day draw including aerial threat Ryan Huckabee (USA) in their Quarterfinal bout before taking on Jake Davis (USA) in a stout Semifinal clash. Now, Rapoza sets his eyes on the 2022/23’ QS conclusion and requalifying for the Challenger Series.
“It feels really good and I wasn't nervous in the Final just knowing that Taj was going to put up a really good fight so I just wanted to try give him back a couple punches,” said Rapoza. “He had me against the ropes most of that heat and felt like that last opportunity wasn't quite it but it was a fun battle. My confidence has always been there, it's just about being physically and mentally prepared with the amount of events that go back-to-back. Now I'll recharge and get ready for the last few events.”
The North America QS season continues at the Ron Jon Quiksilver and Roxy Pro QS 1,000, and Pro Junior beginning March 8 - 12.
For more, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
Men’s Final Results:
1 - Taj Lindblad (USA) 15.34 1,000 points
2 - Nolan Rapoza (USA) 14.53 800 points
Women’s Final Results:
1 - Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN) 14.17 1,000 points
2 - Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (CAN) 13.17 800 points
Men’s Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Taj Lindblad (USA) 14.77 DEF. Hagan Johnson (USA) 9.00
Heat 2: Nolan Rapoza (USA) 15.33 DEF. Jake Davis (USA) 12.26
Women’s Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (CAN) 13.34 DEF. Maddie Storrer (USA) 9.84
Heat 2: Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN) 12.03 DEF. Ella McCaffray (USA) 11.23
Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Taj Lindblad (USA) 11.87 DEF. Kade Matson (USA) 9.73
Heat 2: Hagan Johnson (USA) 13.17 DEF. Dimitri Poulos (USA) 12.23
Heat 3: Nolan Rapoza (USA) 13.47 DEF. Ryan Huckabee (USA) 12.40
Heat 4: Jake Davis (USA) 11.83 DEF. Crosby Colapinto (USA) 9.63 About the WSL
The World Surf League (WSL) is the global home of competitive surfing, crowning the undisputed World Champions since 1976 and showcasing the world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves. WSL is comprised of the Tours and Competition division, which oversees and operates more than 180 global competitions each year; WSL WaveCo, home of the world's largest high-performance, human-made wave; and WSL Studios, an independent producer of unscripted and scripted projects.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
About Visit SLO CAL
Visit SLO CAL is the non-profit countywide destination marketing and management (DMMO) organization for SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County, CA). A destination organization often referred to as a destination marketing or management organization, convention and visitors bureau or tourist board, is responsible for promoting a community as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work. Through the impact of travel, they strengthen the economic position and provide opportunities for people in their community. We are mindful of our resources and seek to enhance the SLO CAL lifestyle.