The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) returns for its 2016 start at the Shoe City Pro QS1000 on the Southside of the Huntington Beach Pier January 12 through 14. Taking place at the prestigious venue once more, the event has an extended contest window to three days of action for an expanded field of competitors. In addition to the Men's field growing from 80 to 96, the Women will also be joining them for the first time at this event with a Round of 32.
Nathan Yeomans (USA) finished his 2015 QS season at No. 20 on the rankings and is looking to begin his new year with a kick-start close to home. The San Clemente surfer thrives off the opportunity to compete down the road from his hometown and see the event return once more.
"It's a great way to start the year and get back into the swing of things in addition to giving the lower ranked surfers an opportunity to start chipping away at improving their seed for bigger events," Yeomans said. "My personal goal this year is to win events and the Shoe City Pro is a great opportunity to work on achieving this goal. I can't wait to get back in the water and get the season underway."
Contest Director Scott Waring is elated to bring the Shoe City Pro back to the iconic surf break of Huntington Beach Pier and help get 2016 underway. Working with Shoe City and bringing contests back to the U.S., Waring has his eyes set on continuing to help supply stages for future generations of competitive surfers.
"It's a great event for these guys to get back into jerseys and we always get some good surf in January so it's an amazing time of the year," Waring added. "The Southside of the pier is a great arena, it's kind of like the Times Square of surfing with Main Street and the pier. We're just trying to help push the future of our sport, it's a 1,000 point event so it's great for the local pros and up-and-coming kids along with the seasoned veterans."
With the Men's field expanding from a Round of 80 to now hosting a Round of 96, and the addition of a Women's division, Waring is already looking forward to seeing it grow even more.
"My vision has always been to grow events here at home so we continue to see the future," Waring added. "Hopefully next year we can get it to 128 even. All my other events I've always had a Women's division and this year the guys at Shoe City wanted to bring them into this one. We're actually having to turn away some Women competitors now because we're only able to hold a Round of 32. So hopefully that'll grow next year as well."
Brett Simpson (USA) is a perfect example of what these contests represent and he is looking to get his competitive edge back as he fell below the cutline for the Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour (CT) - and will have to earn qualification through the QS. The Huntington Beach representative is set to get his year started a bit earlier than previous seasons and come away with a win.
"I haven't done this contest in the past, just because I was on tour and trying to get a break, so this year's obviously a little bit different being off tour, but I'm pretty excited to compete," Simpson said. "Not being on the CT has freed me up a bit and I'm looking forward to getting back to when I felt like I had success, which was when I was doing a bunch of contests and could built rhythm off that. It's right in my hometown and where I surf pretty much every day so that's really exciting along with a promising forecast."
"I still want to compete a lot so I'll still do all the major QS events and try to find some rhythm there but really just try to surf well," Simpson added. "I feel like I have moments when I do well but in terms of doing that on a consistent basis I've been lacking there so now I just want to go for it."
Another Californian eager to get her 2016 QS campaign started amongst a talented field of competitors is Meah Collins (USA). At age 16, the Huntington Beach surfer has a promising future ahead of her and a win at the Shoe City Pro would be something special in her hometown.
"I was so happy to see the addition of the Women's event this year," Collins said. "It feels awesome to have a contest at my home break. Huntington is one of my favorite places to have a contest with all the fans lining the beach and pier. There are more and more talented girls surfing comps every year, so it'll be a great opportunity for all the girls to showcase their ability. My confidence level is at its best with my hometown crowd backing me and I'm going to do my best to make Huntington proud."
Surfline, the official forecaster for the Shoe City Pro, are calling for:
Tuesday: Sizeable five-to-eight foot, new/solid West-WNW swell peaks. Light AM wind. Incoming tide through early to mid morning, then deep high tide through second half of AM will hinder most spots.
Wednesday: Solid four-to-seven foot, West-WNW swell backs down some. Incoming tide through first half of morning helping most spots. Weak front looking to swing through, winds still light, especially in the AM. Likely some rain in the PM.
Thursday: Remaining four-to-seven foot, West-WNW swell continues as reinforcing energy moves in. Wind conditions looking generally favorable at this time. Incoming tide through the morning helping most spots.
Competition will start at 8:00am Tuesday, January 12 with Men's Round 1, followed by Heats 1 through 8 of Men's Round 2 to finish the day. Women's competition will begin on Wednesday, January 13 with Round 1, followed by Heats 9 through 16 of Men's Round 2 and Men's Round 3 to finish the day. Both Men's and Women's competition will finish on Thursday afternoon.
Check www.worldsurfleague.com for daily updates and photos of all the action as it unfolds.folds.