Some of North America’s top-tier competitors took control of proceedings at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, a Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and Pro Junior.
A slight drop in swell from early morning conditions still provided four-to-six foot set waves pulsing into the Pismo Beach Pier arena that challenged surfers’ wits and strategy during lulls.
The remaining Round of 96, Heats 14 - 16 and Round of 64, Heats 1 - 13 finished with women’s QS, men’s and women’s Pro Junior competitions called off for the day.
Pictured: Alan Cleland (MEX) continues his competitive tear into the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Mexico’s emerging threat Alan Cleland proved he was one to watch after his SAMBAZON World Junior Championships performance and brought that bravado to Pismo Beach, accruing a 14.66 (out of a possible 20) heat total on his forehand attack. The 20-year-old spent a year among the Challenger Series elite and now looks for a big result to kickstart his back half of the 2022/23 season.
“It feels good to get the jersey back on and to get more waves for a contest so I'm stoked,” said Cleland. “I've been in California for a couple weeks and staying in the wetsuit. It's good to get some scores and hopefully keep it going.”
Cleland’s fellow 2022 Challenger Series contender Cole Houshmand (USA) looks to earn his place back among some of the best qualification threats in the world and showed that desire in his SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach debut. The 22-year-old earned a 14.54 heat total on his forehand attack as he looks for a breakthrough result in his 2022/23’ season.
“I've been coming here pretty much since I started competing and it's been fun coming back for this QS,” said Houshmand. “I'm super stoked that WSL North America and the event organizers got this event to a QS 3,000 to help level the playing field.”
Dimitri Poulos (USA) posted the first excellent score of the top-seeded, Round of 64 utilizing a critical opening section on his forehand before finishing a hefty closeout with his backhand attack for an 8.33 (out of a possible 10). The Ventura, California, competitor found early success at the O’Neill Cold Water Classic, but now looks to go deeper into the event with 3,000 points on the line and his goals locked in.
“I was little nervous with the first heat jitters but it was good to get that first heat done,” said Poulos. “It's been a good trip, I'm staying with Ryan [Huckabee] and watching all of his heats the last few days just getting more and more amped.”
Pictured: QS veteran and perennial event threat, Michael Dunphy (USA), came out firing on all cylinders. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Reigning North America QS Regional Champion Michael Dunphy (USA) looked in-form as he battled with wildcard threat Jackson Dorian (HAW), alongside emerging talents David O’Keefe (USA) and Luke Wyler (USA). Dunphy’s backhand proved too much for the event standouts, posting a 13.90 heat total in the process, as he looks to solidify his spot toward the top of the rankings.
“The Central Coast is beautiful and I'm so happy to be back and making it through the first heat," said Dunphy. "I was watching that last heat and saw Crosby [Colapinto] almost go a whole heat without a wave so I thought I'd rather lose riding waves instead of not if I were to go down. Definitely glad it worked out and felt good to get the board moving for a couple scores."
Pictured: Defending event victor John Mel (USA) picked up right where he left off in winning form. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
While many of the top seeds flourished, including deafening event winner John Mel (USA), a few fell in their debuts as former North America QS Regional Champion and event wildcard, Jordy Collins (USA) and Kai McPhillips (USA) eliminated top seeds in their respective heats.
Also notching big, Round of 64 wins, Kade Matson (USA), Kai Kushner (USA), Jabe Swierkocki (USA), Ryland Rubens (USA), David Do Carmo (BRA), and Taro Watanabe (USA) all move into the Round of 32 in great form.
Event organizers will convene at 7:00 a.m. PST to determine a likely 7:30 a.m. PST start to competition men’s Round of 64, Heat 14.