The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event got started with a bang Monday in fun conditions at the Vans US Open Of Surfing. Competition ran through Heats 1 - 12 of Round 1 in three-to-four foot (1 meter) surf at Huntington Beach.
The event marks the fourth of nine QS 10,000 events on this season's calendar and offers crucial points towards qualification for the 2016 dream tour. QS standouts delivered big upsets today, eliminating six Championship Tour (CT) surfers who were unable to match the high-performance surfing of their opponents.
Patrick Gudauskas (USA) started his day off in the best way possible, taking out CT rookie sensation Italo Ferreira (BRA) with the day's highest heat total of 16.36 (out of a possible 20). The Californian was excited to get this event underway in the conditions on hand and took full advantage of each wave, posting an 8.33 and 8.03 (each out of a possible 10).
"I've been coming up to Huntington the past two weeks and just frothing out," Gudauskas said. "The sandbars are super fun right now so it's been a real pleasure. I was psyched to see the charts this morning and see some south on it. It's really good on these rights when the wind blows up the face."
Taking out two members of the 'Brazilian storm' along with second place finisher Santiago Muniz (ARG), Gudauskas has been spending time further south preparing with a lot of them and that work paid off with a Heat 1 win.
"Those guys are all-time," Gudauskas said. "We've been surfing with them a bunch in San Clemente -- I think pretty much the whole storm lives down there now. It was definitely inspiring to see what those guys have been doing and I tried to do a couple 'tricks-for-kids' out there so I was stoked on it."
A shock upset in Heat 12 saw former CT surfer Mitch Crews (AUS) take out current no. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Adriano de Souza (BRA) in the tougher afternoon conditions. Crews found a Huntington Beach Pier gem and launched for a full rotation, earning the day's highest single-wave score, an excellent 9.33, despite some Round 1 jitters.
"I felt shaky the whole heat," Crews said. "I was probably more nervous after I got the 9 than before because I only needed a backup, but I got freaked out and the waves got a bit worse. Adriano's number one in the world -- the guy doesn't ever make a mistake but I think the waves just let everyone down in the end. It's a shame because the waves were great this morning but I'm not too worried about it -- looks like we'll get waves all week so it should be fun."
Putting on a show for the spectators on the beach and pier alike, Davey Cathels (AUS) ripped apart his waves and had the field comboed until Ramzi Boukhaim (MAR) earned a buzzer beater to advance behind the Australian. Cathels made a last-minute equipment change that proved to make all the difference in his Heat 11 victory.
"It's probably the most relaxing heat I've had for a while," Cathels said. "Just got two waves at the pier bowl and two good scores right away so I was just smiling and cruising around. I'm stoked to be moving on. My shaper from home Brett Warner made me a couple good boards and they felt really nice, but I got on this one last night and it just felt ten percent better. The shapers here know the waves really well so it was great and I just want to keep moving."
In a stacked heat, Huntington Beach local Kanoa Igarashi (USA) took down current CT rookie Keanu Asing (HAW) and former CT ripper Nathan Hedge (AUS). The 18-year-old was composed and looked strong surfing at home despite the powerhouses alongside him.
"This year I've been surfing against a lot of CT surfers and it's something I'll have to get use to," Igarashi said. "You can't make it on tour if you don't beat those guys and you don't deserve to be there unless you're making heats against them. The fact that it's here at my home break gave me so much more confidence."
Trailing behind Hedge in the final minutes, Igarashi took off on a wave under priority and blasted a score worthy of surpassing the Australian veteran.
"I knew if a good wave came he was going to go so I used my local knowledge and went down the beach to look for a left," Igarashi said. "It came and he could've come across me where I would've gotten a two on it instead, but I saw something in the wave he didn't. I guess that's where knowing this break really helps."
To end the day, the Junior Women took to the water and completed Round 1 and the Quarterfinals with an impressive showcase of surfing. A huge upset in Quarterfinal 4 saw defending event winner Bailey Nagy (HAW) eliminated from the competition while the top two surfers from each Quarterfinal - Meah Collins (USA), Caroline Marks (USA), Zoe McDougall (HAW), Tiare Thompson (USA), Chelsea Tuach (BRB), Brisa Hennessy (HAW), Frankie Harrer (USA), and Holly Wawn (AUS) - advanced through and will surf again in the Semifinals on Saturday, August 1.
Competition will continue tomorrow from 7:30 a.m. with the remainder of Round 1 of the Men's QS 10,000 followed by Round 1 of the Women's Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour event.