Today, Sawyer Lindblad (USA), Dimitri Poulos (USA), and Levi Slawson (USA) claimed respective wins at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, a Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and Pro Junior, in great fashion.
A flawless run for Lindblad ended in exaltation, winning both the QS and Pro Junior events, as one of the event standouts, Poulos, earned his breakthrough WSL victory, and Slawson put his name atop the North America Pro Junior rankings to start his 2023 campaign.
The women’s QS Final featured 2020 event winner Lindblad taking on an in-form Bella Kenworthy (USA) in an all-San Clemente, California, battle. Lindblad took control of the Final with a quick, minimal start before building on her foundation with a solid 6.33 (out of a possible 10) an 5.83. Kenworthy continued to swing for the fences with her dominant backhand, but couldn’t ride out as Lindblad upped Kenworthy’s requirement to an excellent 8.03.
As time dwindled down, Lindblad held firm and took down her second QS 3,000 of the season, after already claiming the Pro Junior win just two heats prior, and earning the day’s highest heat total of 16.03 (out of a possible 20) in her Semifinal bout with Leilani McGonagle (CRI).
“It was definitely my goal to win both events,” said Lindblad. “Coming off a second at the World Juniors I just really wanted to win and show people I don’t break down in Finals, and I can win them. [This win] means I can focus more on the Challenger Series and try to work toward Qualifying.”
For Kenworthy, this marks three-consecutive QS Finals as she holds her place at No. 2 on the rankings heading into the final events of the 2022/23' season.A back-and-forth battle ensued for the men’s QS Final with Evan Geiselman (USA) taking on one of the event standouts, Poulos.
The two traded waves from the first horn through the first 10-minutes of their bout, with Geiselman earning the upperhand of 12.07. But, an exchange toward the halfway mark witnessed Poulos garner a 6.70 on two powerful, backhand turns and overtook the Floridian. Geiselman tried to respond, but couldn't find the right wave to allow him back to the lead and Poulos emerged from the victorious for the first time in his WSL career.
"I'm over the moon right now," said Poulos. "I just put my head down and did my own thing. I really just had to bank on getting my own waves and see how it went. The Challenger Series was a goal of mine last year and I fell short so that was a bummer, but I still want to get there."
Poulos’ incredible run through the event included an event-best, single-scoring wave a 9.50 in the Quarterfinals before taking control of his Finals Day start with a Semifinal victory over North America powerhouse, Crosby Colapinto (USA). Now he moves atop the North America QS rankings heading into the final stretch of events on schedule.Slawson, Lindblad Kickstart 2023 Pro Junior Season With Big Wins
The men’s Pro Junior Final kicked off with Tao Rodriguez (PAN) earning a quick start in the first ten minutes over Levi Slawson (USA), Reed Platenius (CAN), and Luke Wyler (USA). But, Slawson, fresh off a stinging loss in the QS Semifinal, answered back with a 6.67 and 4.83 to steal the lead. The Encinitas, California, competitor then went on to find a running lefthander and garnered a near-excellent 7.50 and left Platenius, Wyler, and Rodriguez all needing excellent scores to catch him.
Pictured: Slawson's ability to unleash his aerial assault led to multiple heat victories on the way to his Finals win. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Platenius made a charge for the win and fell just shy with a runner-up, as Slawson claimed his first WSL North America, winning a Pro Junior in Australia already, chair-up to start 2023 toward the World Junior Championships qualification.
“I’m slowly starting to find my feet in contests and it feels really good to win this one,” said Slawson. “I’ve been working with Matt Myers a lot and really just trying to dial in my competition surfing. I know my free surfing has been there and I’m confident in that, but it’s been more of a challenge for me to work on heats. It’s great to feel some momentum and even though I lost in the QS Semifinal, overall it’s been a great couple of weeks.”
Pictured: Lindblad unleashed the day's first excellent score in her QS Semifinal after carrying that confidence from the Pro Juniors Semifinals win. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Lindblad’s incredible Finals Day started with the women’s Pro Junior Semifinals which she powered through with ease alongside eventual event runner-up Noah Klapp (DEU).
The Pro Junior Final featured some of North America’s best up-and-coming competitors including 2022 No. 2 Rubiana Brownell (CRI), Ella McCaffray (USA), and Klapp. Lindblad kicked off the Final with a quick lead, earning an 11.03 within the first few minutes of their 30-minute Final, and headed into the second half of the heat still ahead of her competitors with Klapp in a close second. But, Brownell’s hammering forehand took her to second with ten minutes remaining.
In the end, Lindblad took down her first Final of the day before going on to win the QS 3,000 and sweep the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach.
“It was really tricky in that heat so I was really happy to get a couple and get a win to give me some confidence into the QS Final,” said Lindblad. “Now it’ll be good to relax and figure out what I want to do this season for the QS, but I want to get back to the World Junior Championships.”
The next North America QS event will be the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope QS 1,000 beginning February 23 - 26.
Women’s QS SemiFinal Results
1 - Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 12.76 3,000 points
2 - Bella Kenworthy (USA) 9.03 2,340 points
Men’s QS Final Results
1 - Dimitri Poulos (USA) 13.27 3,000 points
2 - Evan Geiselman (USA) 12.06 2,340 points
Men’s Pro Junior Final Results:
1 - Levi Slawson (USA) 13.70 1,000 points
2 - Reed Platenius (CAN) 10.00 800 points
3 - Tao Rodriguez (PAN) 9.74 650 points
4 - Luke Wyler (USA) 8.23 600 points
Women’s Pro Junior Final Results:
1 - Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 11.70 1,000 points
2 - Noah Klapp (DEU) 10.00 800 points
3 - Rubiana Brownell (CRC) 9.80 650 points
4 - Ella McCaffray (USA) 7.40 600 points
Women’s QS Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 16.03 DEF. Leilani McGonagle (CRI) 9.27
Heat 2: Bella Kenworthy (USA) 11.53 DEF. Zoe Benedetto (USA) 10.44
Men’s QS Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Dimitri Poulos (USA) 12.66 DEF. Crosby Colapinto (USA) 10.87
Heat 2: Evan Geiselman (USA) 13.56 DEF. Levi Slawson (USA) 11.83
Women’s Pro Junior Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 11.17 DEF. Noah Klapp (DEU) 9.77, Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (CAN) 6.67, Talia Swindal (USA) 6.57
HEAT 2: Rubiana Brownell (CRC) 12.64 DEF. Ella McCaffray (USA) 11.14, Candelaria Resano (NIC) 7.04, Sierra Downer (USA) 6.27
Men’s Pro Junior Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Levi Slawson (USA) 13.63 DEF. Luke Wyler (USA) 12.00, Jett Schilling (USA) 9.73, Ben Brantell (USA) 7.60
Heat 2: Tao Rodriguez (PAN) 10.67 DEF. Reed Platenius (CAN) 9.77, Ryan Huckabee (USA) 9.37, Dane Matson (USA) 6.66