The World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope, a men’s and women’s North America Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, was treated to brilliant opening day conditions with three-to-five foot swell providing high-performance moments throughout the men’s Round of 96 and Round of 64, Heats 1 - 8, with women's competition called OFF for the day. Scattered upsets gave way to dominant displays from the top seeds as the rest await their start.
Pictured: San Clemente, California's, Taj Lindblad surged toward opening day's best performance. Credit: © WSL / RunAmuck Photography Scherer
Top seeds came out firing with Taj Lindblad (USA) leading the charge, accruing an excellent, 16.33 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The San Clemente, California, competitor surged through his debut on a decimating forehand attack, showcasing his variety and power, to earn a day’s best 8.65 (out of a possible 10). Lindblad looks for his breakthrough result here at Morro Bay and kickstart the back half of his 2022/23’ season.
“There a little nerves, but I’m stoked to get a few waves,” said Lindblad. “The rights were really fun going into the [rocks], I watched Kade Matson’s heats and he was ripping so it got inspired to do the same. It’s so sick, I love the boys and there’s too many to name (laughs), but it’s really fun and everyone’s down for everyone’s heat.”
Fellow San Clemente standouts Kade Matson and Cole Houshmand added to Lindblad’s success with dominant displays of their own, respectively. Houshmand’s forehand lit up the running lefthander to earn an excellent 8.25 and 7.50 as he hopes to rejoin the Challenger Series elite for the 2023 start later this year with big results to close out the season.
“Big shout to all the SC boys running strong and I really wanted to go left out there so I’m stoked it worked out,” said Houshmand. “My main goal is to get on the Tour and get back on the Challenger Series this year. I feel like my surfing is ready for the Tour but just have to get through the grind and work on my heat strategy, and those little things.”
Top seeds also notching clutch Round of 64 heat wins, current North America No. 1 Dimitri Poulos (USA) made his way into the Round of 32 alongside Jabe Swierkocki (USA), and Wheeler Hasburgh (CAN) as Hagan Johnson (USA) led the upset of opening day, besting John Mel (USA) and eliminating Tyler Gunter (USA).
One of the Brazilians in attendance, residing in California and competing for the North America region, Alcides Lopes, delivered the Round of 96 stunner with his explosive backhand attack. Lopes earned the first excellent score of the event, unleashing three backhand turns with two critical maneuvers to garner an 8.00, and 13.00 heat total.
“It’s been a fun journey traveling with the other Brazilian guys here, we train together too and it’s a great time with them,” said Lopes. “I’m happy with how much space there is to surf up here and it reminds me of my hometown back in Brazil. At this point I’m just trying to have fun, but I do want to win a QS. That’s my biggest dream right now and I’ve worked hard so hopefully I can make it happen.”
Also notching clutch Round of 96 wins, awaiting their Round of 64 debuts, Tony Nunez (HAW), Keanu Igarashi (USA), Remy Juboori (USA), Luke Guinaldo (USA), Jake Davis (USA), Max Beach (USA), and Tao Rodriguez (PAN).
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:00 a.m. PST to determine a likely 7:30 a.m. PST start to competition.
The SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope will open on February 23 and hold a competition window through February 26, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.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.