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Sawyer Lindblad and John Mel Win Jack’s Surfboards Pro presented by Hydro Flask

Sawyer Lindblad (USA) and John Mel (USA) claimed victories at the 2023 Jack’s Surfboards Pro presented by Hydro Flask, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000, respectively, to start the 2023/24’ North America QS season.

Pictured: (L to R) John Mel (USA) and Sawyer Lindblad (USA) emerged victorious over some of North America's best at Huntington Beach. Credit: © WSL / Nichols

A dream run through Finals Day culminated with a back-to-back victory at this event for Lindblad as Mel returned to the podium for the first time since Pismo Beach in 2021, marking his third-career QS win. Both catapult to the top of North America’s rankings to start the 2023/24’ season with Bella Kenworthy (USA) and Cole Houshmand (USA) earning runner-up finishes, respectively.

The women’s Final kicked off with Lindblad taking the edge over confirmed 2023 Challenger Series athlete Bella Kenworthy (USA) in the early goings. Inconsistent conditions didn’t provide a response for Kenworthy before Lindblad unleashed her signature, backhand attack on multiple sections to post a near-perfect 9.50 (out of a possible 10) and hold a 15.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total heading into the halfway mark.

Kenworthy’s patience was rewarded with an inside wedge that she was able to connect with and post a 5.67 to get out of a combination situation, but Lindblad wasn’t done and followed up with a 7.33 and put the Final out of reach once more heading into the final horn with Lindblad emerging victorious.

“It feels really good after I was bummed getting second in Barbados and after that I just put my momentum into this event, and wanted to come away with a win,” said Lindblad. “I’m just really excited for this year. I feel like I’ve had a long break from the Challenger Series so I’m excited to get out of the country again. I feel like being No. 1 gives you more confidence and I’m really excited for this new season.”

This marks the reigning North America QS Regional Champion, Lindblad’s, back-to-back victory at this event as she now prepares to rejoin the world’s elite on the Challenger Series beginning at Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia.

An all-goofy footed affair in the men’s Final unraveled with John Mel (USA) and Cole Houshmand (USA) going head-to-head.

The opening exchange witnessed Mel’s backhand attack garner an impressive 6.50 on a running righthander that provided the Santa Cruz, Caifornian multiple opportunities as Houshmand’s fell just under with a 6.00. San Clemente, California’s, powerhouse, Houshmand, then followed up quickly with a 5.60 to take over the Final as Mel’s attempts to catch the 2022/23’ No. 4 fell just shy of the requirement.

But, in the dying minutes, an opportunity came to Mel and he did not squander it, posting a 5.10 as he needed a 5.00 and held the lead until the end, notching his first win since 2021.

“This feels good and it feels like hard work paying off,” said Mel. “I felt like I worked so hard last year and didn’t get the results I wanted so to start off with a win is the best feeling ever. It’s so nice to start off the year with 3,000 points and it was just a really quick reset from not qualifying for the Challengers straight into this event. I didn’t have too much time to think about anything, just time to get back to work. It’ll be good to relax and I’m excited for whatever’s next.”

A brilliant Finals Day campaign from Santa Cruz, California’s, Mel began with an impressive showing over Florida’s Ryan Huckabee in their Quarterfinal battle before Mel’s back-and-forth clash with an in-form Alan Cleland (MEX) gave way to a last-minute gem that provided Mel a 7.67 and passage to the Final.

The now 23-year-old sets his eyes on a big season ahead after falling short of his Challenger Series qualification goal in 2023.

A bittersweet runner-up for Bella Kenworthy (USA) marked her second Final in three events as the San Clemente competitor overtook fellow San Clemente standout Kirra Pinkerton (USA) in their Semifinal bout.

Kenworthy’s form continues to prove she’s one of the region’s newest threats at age 16 as she now sets her eyes on a full year among the Challenger Series elite after finishing No. 3 on the North America rankings in 2022/23’.

"I'm happy to start the year with a Final and I almost lost all my heats yesterday so it was good to make the Final," said Kenworthy. "It's so nice to get a QS 3,00 out of the way, this was such a fun event and a big thank you to Jack's for putting it on. My goal is just to my best on the Challenger Series, I've never been to any of these spots so I'm excited for these new places and hopefully I can get some results."

Cole Houshmand’s (USA) incredible form provided a dream finish to the 2022/23’ season, including a maiden QS victory, and the San Clemente, California, competitor carried that momentum into the start of this season. Houshmand’s Finals Day run began with a clutch victory of one of North America’s rising talents Taro Watanabe (USA) before facing off with one of the region’s most decorated QS veterans, Michael Dunphy (USA), in their Semifinal battle.

“I’m super stoked, making a Final is always great even though it sucks not to win, but I’m stoked on my consistency and it’s been a great run,” said Houshmand. “I always love surfing Huntington and a little warm up for US Open. It’s good to start the year off with a second and hopefully I don’t need it. I’m hoping for a good year on the Challenger Series. I’m stoked to have some of the boys [from San Clemente] going and I think we’re going to do some good this year.”

Houshmand now prepares for the Challenger Series beginning May 6 at Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia as he takes on the world’s elite in search of CT qualification.

Noteworthy Finishes For Semifinalists McCaffray, Pinkerton, Cleland, and Dunphy

An incredible run for the likes of Kirra Pinkerton (USA) ended with a Semifinal result after three heat wins on Saturday’s action before falling to eventual runner-up Kenworthy in a stout battle. Ella McCaffray’s (USA) No. 5 finish on the 2022/23’ rankings marked a career best and she now starts the season tied at No. 3 with Pinkerton as she locks in for a big season ahead in hopes of joining the Challenger Series elite.

A buzzer-beater finish for Alan Cleland (MEX) in the Quarterfinals over former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Lucca Mesinas (PER) pushed him into the Semifinals where he clashed with eventual winner John Mel (USA), and starts his season with 1,825 valuable points. A Semifinal showdown between Michael Dunphy (USA) and Cole Houshmand (USA) went back and forth until the final horn which witnessed Houshmand’s 7.00 turn the heat as the ocean didn’t provide Dunphy another opportunity to respond.Dimitri Poulos, Ella McCaffray Take Hydro Flask Fu Wax Airshow Wins

The Hydro Flask Fu Wax Airshow provided entertainment for spectators as Ella McCaffray (USA) and Dimitri Poulos (USA) claimed wins, respectively. Criteria included biggest air or best single maneuver as McCaffray’s speed run to an impressive, forehand blowtail garnered and Poulos’ jaw-dropping air-reverse were enough to claim the win and $1,500 prize courtesy of Hydro Flask and Fu Wax.

Jack’s Surfboards Pro pres. by Hydro Flask Men’s Final Results:

1 - John Mel (USA) 11.70 3,000 points

2 - Cole Houshmand (USA) 11.60 2,340 points

Jack’s Surfboards Pro pres. by Hydro Flask Women’s Final Results:

1 - Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 16.83 3,000 points

2 - Bella Kenworthy (USA) 10.00 2,340 points

Jack’s Surfboards Pro pres. by Hydro Flask Men’s Semifinal Results:

Heat 1: John Mel (USA) 14.00 DEF. Alan Cleland (MEX) 12.77

Heat 2: Cole Houshmand (USA) 12.77 DEF. Michael Dunphy (USA) 11.76

Jack’s Surfboards Pro pres. by Hydro Flask Women’s Semifinal Results:

Heat 1: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 11.46 DEF. Ella McCaffray (USA) 6.50

Heat 2: Bella Kenworthy (USA) 11.33 DEF. Bella Kenworthy (USA) 8.87

Jack’s Surfboards Pro pres. by Hydro Flask Men’s Quarterfinal Results:

Heat 1: Alan Cleland (MEX) 12.97 DEF. Lucca Mesinas (PER) 12.17

Heat 2: John Mel (USA) 12.50 DEF. Ryan Huckabee (USA) 11.07

Heat 3: Michael Dunphy (USA) 13.17 DEF. Crosby Colapinto (USA) 10.16

Heat 4: Cole Houshmand (USA) 12.66 DEF. Taro Watanabe (USA) 10.16


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