The first-ever Jack's Surfboards Pro Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500 is set for an 8:00 a.m. start tomorrow -- and the field of competitors matches that of any elite QS event. From a handful of former Championship Tour (CT) surfers, to the next generation of up-and-coming talent, the Huntington Beach Pier will be action-packed over the next three days of competition. The world will get to witness all the action with a live webcast starting with Round One, Heat 1, and running throughout the event window.
Former CT competitor and Huntington Beach, California-native Brett Simpson has a chance at hometown redemption after his Semifinal exit at the Shoe City Pro earlier this year. While Simpson's mindset has began to shift from the do-or-die mentality of qualifying, his competitiveness is still at an all-time high. Alongside his wife and two children, the 32-year-old looks stronger than ever in the water and will not take this event lightly.
"It's rad Jack's have stepped up and given us another event in Surf City, U.S.A.," Simpson said. "It's great for the up and comers and pros around the area to come compete here and gear up for the US Open too. I've got no pressure, re-qualifying is on my mind, but it's not the end all anymore. I just want to try and do my best surfing and I know that will lead to some great things. I'm in it to win, to be honest anything else is a let down. I wouldn't lose sleep over it and never have, but I'd love to snag another win at home."
Husband and father himself, Nate Yeomans joins Simpson, and a few others including Keanu Asing and Pat Gudauskas, as a fellow former CT competitor with the drive to still perform at the highest level. Yeomans had to pull out of the Shoe City Pro at the last-minute due to lasek eye surgery and began his year in Australia. But, now the San Clemente, California surfer is back and up to the task for a Huntington Beach title.
"My eyes are better than ever, but they were so bad after the procedure that the transition took a little longer so now I'm stoked to get back in there," Yeomans said. "There's not that many events domestically so it's a huge opportunity for the kids coming up looking to get good points and up their ranking. It also gives a chance to the U.S. guys who are looking to establish themselves and even some internationals. It's incredible to see Jack's give back in the form of a surf contest since they're involved with all the big companies -- should be really fun with good weather and a bit of a forecast on offer."
While the list of veteran surfers and QS elite is hefty at the Jack's Surfboards Pro QS1,500, they will still have to deal with up-and-coming talents such as Jake Kelley. Kelley has been plagued with injury that kept him out of Australia and Florida, but has returned with a renewed vigor. Also hailing from the surf-rich town of San Clemente, Kelley's roots are deep within the surf world and awaits his breakthrough performance in the competitive scene.
"It's great to have contests at Huntington -- growing up you have all the amateur contests there so you get used to competing [at this break]," Kelley said. "It also has the biggest QS event in California, the US Open, and it's nice to have other ranked QS contests at the venue. These events are huge to get a good seed before the re-seed to set yourself up for the back half of the year when there is a lot of higher ranked contests. A win here could be the difference between getting close to the top 100 or not for the reseed."
Nolan Rapoza has begun his career as a full-time QS competitor and big ambitions to guide him in the right direction. The 18-year-old, 2016 North America Regional Junior Tour Champion still has much to learn, but knows the process of what it takes to be a top competitor. With a shot at 1,500 points early on, the Long Beach, California surfer hopes to take full advantage and earn a jumpstart to his 2017 campaign.
"One of my goals are to win an event at home and a big result here would definitely help my run to qualify," Rapoza said. "I've learned to have confidence, keep my mind strong, and trust in my ability to get the scores needed to make heats. It's been fun learning and I am looking forward to all of this year. It feels good to surf at home, instead of surfing unfamiliar spots on the road. I am comfortable in Huntington and know the wave well."
Tune in live beginning at 8:00 a.m. for the first day of action that will see Round One and Round Two, Heats 1-8, contested by day's end.