The World Surf League (WSL) 2016 Qualifying Series (QS) season opened in great fashion at the Shoe City Pro with glassy, 5-to-8 foot conditions on the south side of Huntington Beach Pier. Reeling A-frame sets offered a morning spectacle for surfers and spectators alike, as well as plenty of scoring opportunity in which competitors were able to take full advantage -- blistering through Round 1 in its entirety before finishing the day with heats 1 through 8 of Round 2.
Quinn McCrystal (USA) found that opportunity in both of his Round 1 and Round 2 heat wins. The 25-year-old earned the first heat win of 2016 and continued that form into Round 2, posting the day's highest heat total, 14.80 out of a possible 20. McCrystal also posted the day's highest single-wave score with an 8.67 out of a possible 10 during that performance and was excited to put his mental preparation to work.
"I've just been trying to visualize everything and I imagined a wave like that before even going out there," McCrystal said. "What the section would like and how I'm going to react to it -- so when that section popped up I really just opened up on the first turn, got two more turns that felt really good, then the end just squared up so nice and I was able to finish it. It's great to have good heats and all but I want to make the next one so my mind is already into that next heat."
Keeping his head in a competitive place, McCrystal will look to build off each win at this event and learn as much as he can through that experience -- including what may have been considered an error that paid dividends in the long run.
"I always have that mindset of wanting to get the two best waves, doing some good maneuvers and just complete them," McCrystal added. "It just changes on what the conditions are doing and if they're different that's what you base your strategy on and what you choose to do out there. I got one and I should've come in and ran down the beach but I didn't because I was still outside, but it was a huge mistake that ended up costing me some time. However, that put me into position for my best wave so it worked out for the best."
Malibu local Andrew Jacobson (USA) enjoyed success on the opening day of his QS campaign, earning an 8.00 en route to his Round 1, Heat 14 victory. Joining McCrystal as the only other excellent scoring wave of the day, Jacobson took to his backhand and unloaded on a multiple-maneuver wave. He will face off against a stacked Round 2 heat of Manuel Selman (CHL), Lucca Mesinas (PER) and Jeremy Carter (USA).
"When I first took off I almost thought it was a closeout, but knowing Huntington it was going to back off and luckily it did," Jacobson said. "I just started with a big floater and then cut it back to stay with the wave and hit it again but then it had a nice end section to finish on. Going backside is easier to get more vertical since the waves have a good slope and you could really throw into it. But I think going right will be the gameplan, they are shaping up better and I'm able to attack it more backside. To start off the heat well felt really good, grabbing the six before that was great for my confidence so hopefully I can keep that going."
Igniting his year as a Round 1 standout with a 13.50 heat total victory, Jake Kelley (USA) earned his way to Round 3 behind Derek Peters (USA) and dealt with both conditions opening day offered. Kelley stuck with a working formula upon his return to a fresh season and with good reason after a great start to the Shoe City Pro.
"I went into the first heat just trying to shake the jitters with it being the first contest of the year and just get the groove going for the rest of the contest," Kelley said. "There was a lot of water moving and the wind picked up a ton this afternoon. I went to my car to go change and came back to some heavy winds onshore but it was still a lot of fun, there were waves so hopefully they keep coming. I've just learned to expect anything out of Huntington right now -- it was glassy in the morning and then just went to really windy and harder to find waves but it's great to have some waves on the first day."
"I'm really stoked to get the whole year rolling and there's been a lot of waves lately so hopefully that's a good trend for the rest of this event," Kelley added. "I didn't make any changes over the break and still have the same equipment with Roberts boards - they've just been working so well for me."
The women will begin their 2016 QS season tomorrow with an 8 a.m. start, followed by the completion of men's Round 2 at 10:40am and then into Men's Round 3 to finish the day. Look for live scoring and updates at www.worldsurfleague.com.