NewsShoe City ProSamantha Sibley

Women's Qualifying Series Set to Kick Off 2017 at Shoe City Pro

Day 2 of the Shoe City Pro received more beautiful, four-to-six foot conditions as the Women got competition underway. WSL/ Baptista The ever-iconic Huntington Beach Pier plays backdrop to the Qualifying Series opener once again for the women beginning tomorrow. WSL / Nilton Baptista

After her debut on the Samsung Galaxy Women's Championship Tour (CT) last year as the first Bajan to represent her country on the elite stage, Chelsea Tuach is returning to the Qualifying Series in hopes of finding her way back to the Dream Tour. The 21-year-old has her sights on a big start with a new perspective and knowledge gained from her time as an elite competitor.

Tuach finished with an Equal 5th as her best result on the QS last year, something she knows will not be enough to earn a CT worthy Top 6 QS rank by season's end.

"I can't wait for the season to start back up again," Tuach said. "I feel like I've had a good amount of time to work on my surfing in the offseason and I'm definitely itching to put that jersey back on. I learned what it took to be one of the best and it gave me new determination, to improve and fight and get back to the Championship Tour. I'll be taking that desire and all of the competition knowledge I gained last year into this new season."

Chelsea Tuach placed third in Heat 3 of Round One at the Roxy Pro France. Tuach's mental game has only grown stronger and poses a big threat to the QS ranks as she looks to rejoin the Elite Tour. WSL / Kelly Cestari

"I think I realized how much I loved what I do," Tuach continued. "I focused a lot on my technique in the off season and just enjoyed being home surfing my own waves for a while. It will be awesome if I can start the year with a great result and carry some confidence into the Australia events and through the rest of the year."

Runner-up at last year's inaugural women's Shoe City Pro event, Tia Blanco returns to Huntington with some unfinished business and a renewed vigor for another crack at the QS. 2017 may hold more for the San Clemente surfer as she works out the winning formula in her Sophomore season.

"Last year was a really fun event and we had some fantastic waves," Blanco said. "I have confidence coming into this event, but I know I will have to strive to surf my very best because there are some really talented girls that have entered. It would be an awesome confident booster to have a win going into these next big events in Australia. I have pretty much kept my same routine [from last year] and have tried to be consistent with it."

Earning runner-up behind winner Maud Le Car (FRA), Tia Blanco (USA) fell just short of taking the lead in the final minute. WSL/ Baptista Blanco's explosive backhand will be one to watch for when Saturday's competition begins. WSL / Nilton Baptista

Just 14-years-old, Caroline Marks is a rising talent who's also had experience at the CT level as a wildcard in the Hurley Lowers Pro in 2015 -- at the age of 13. But, the surfing world has barely scratched the surface of this Florida-raised, now San Clemente-native as she prepares for a brand new year with the same motivated mindset.

"It's good to be home now and I'm really stoked for the first competition of this season," Marks said. "This will be my first time doing this event since I missed it last year, but I know Huntington so well and I feel like I have a special connection with it. I still always have that competitive mindset and even though it's a new year I'm still super hungry, motivated, and just wanting to compete."

"I'll still be doing the amateur events since I'm just turning 15 this year and I'm always focused on the Junior Tour. This year I'll also put more effort into the bigger QS events and try to do well in some 6,000 level events which I'm super excited for."

2016 Vans US Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, California Marks has two Pro Junior titles at the Vans US Open and a number of amateur titles at the NSSA level all at Huntington Beach -- a special connection indeed. WSL / Jackson Van Kirk

The women's wildcard is represented by North America Junior Tour competitor Samantha Sibley who is beginning to get her experience at the next level. Sibley finished with an impressive fourth-place at the Soup Bowl Pro Junior to conclude her 2016 season and now looks ahead to new opportunities in 2017. The San Clemente surfer is all too familiar with Huntington Beach and will look to use that to her full advantage.

"That last result on the Junior Tour left me with a lot of confidence so I'm testing the waters with the QS, but my main focus is still the junior events," Sibley said. "I definitely want to try more of the QS events in the North America region, but just being 14 I'm still taking it in baby steps. It's cool to be starting these QS's so young and I'm just so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel at this age."

Samantha Sibley (USA) before her Quarterfinal heat at the Soup Bowl Pro Junior Sibley's career is one that is also just beginning at the age of 14 and continues to gain nothing but vital experience as she heads into a new season. WSL / Andrew Nichols
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