NewsRincon 50 Surf FestMaria Fernanda Reyes

Newcomers Shine on Opening Day at Rincon 50 Surf Fest

Style, steeze, and poise took center stage at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico, for opening day of the Rincon 50 Surf Fest with a dose of progressive maneuvers thrown in to mix things up.

Now, the opening jitters are out and surfers prepare to continue their charge for a spot in the upcoming World Longboard Championships at Jinzung Harbor, Taiwan. Both men and women's Round 1 affairs were completed before the island's ill-tempered tropical storms began with increased south winds ending competition for the day.

Newcomers Takeover Domes

Brooke Carlson (USA) winning her Round 1 heat at the Rincon 50 Surf Fest. Brooke Carlson looked right at home on her fist trip to Puerto Rico. WSL / Darren Muschett

The women took on tough, higher tide conditions as the increased south winds made reading the wave more difficult, but still provided moments of brilliance to determine Quarterfinalists.

15-year-old talents Brooke Carlson and Avalon Gall both earned Round 1 victories in their WSL debut. Carlson grew up on one of longboarding's meccas in Malibu and feels the sense of community away from her own.

Brooke Carlson (USA) Carlson all smiles en route to a heat win. WSL / Andrew Nichols

"That was super fun and I'm just stoked to be here competing at this level with these girls for the first time," Carlson said. "I was pretty nervous and was probably shaking on my board, but it's great to make it through. It's pretty great to surf at Malibu and I've been surfing for about three and a half years, but the locals brought me in which is amazing. I knew they'd be proud of me no matter what."

It marks both young competitor's first trip to Puerto Rico and maiden WSL event as they move into Round 2 and Gall started off with a solid 7.10 in her score line. The San Clemente, California, native has grown up surfing among the town's World Champions and now hopes to join the elite soon.

Avalon Gall (USA) winning her Round 1 heat at the Rincon 50 Surf Fest. Avalon Gall WSL / Darren Muschett

"It's really good to get through that heat even though the waves got tough, but I still had fun with a few of my friends out there," Gall said. "At the beginning I wanted to stay busy and get a few, then wait for the sets even though you end up just figuring it out when you're in the water. I see Rachael (Tilly ) and Tory (Gilkerson) out there a lot, and they're always happy so I just try to bring that kind of positivity into my heats."

Veterans Not to Be Outdone: Maria Fernanda Reyes Shuts Down Competition

Maria Fernanda Reyes (PER) winning her Round 1 heat at the Rincon 50 Surf Fest. Reyes may not be heading to Taiwan this year, but she's eager to get her 2019 started. WSL / Darren Muschett

But, Peruvian Maria Fernanda Reyes came out looking like the surfer to beat and garnered a brilliant 14.75, posting the event's highest heat total and single-wave score, a 7.75 (out of a possible 10), in her debut. The former World Longboard Championship competitor is on hand to prepare for a big 2019.

"I was a late entry for this one with our crew coming up last-minute so I'm glad to get into it and keep the jersey on," Reyes said. "It feels great to compete against this level of competition and get ready for next year. We're preparing for the ISA Pan American Games and I really want to get to back to the World Longboard Championships so this is a great stepping stone toward that."

Mikkelsen's Not Shying Away

Kaitlin Mikkelsen (USA) winning her Round 1 heat at the Rincon 50 Surf Fest. Opening day nerves done for Mikkelsen. WSL / Darren Muschett

Current World Longboard Championship competitor Kaitlin Mikkelsen is looking to back herself up here in Puerto Rico before moving into Taiwan and did just that with a clutch Round 1 win. The Californian embraces this opportunity to soak in the Puerto Rican atmosphere before really dialing in, but she isn't backing down from the task at hand and still desires a win.

"You can't complain about warm water, a pointbreak, and some really cool girls to compete with," Mikkelsen said. "It's so exciting because you never know what you're going to get at a place like this, but no matter what it's still fun even when it's small. It takes a little stress off knowing I'm still going to Taiwan, but you still want to win. You want to stay focused and be ready to give it 100 percent every heat."

An 8:00 a.m. AST call will determine a possible 8:30 a.m. AST start for men's Round 2 or women's Quarterfinal action.

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