For the second year in a row, Qualifying Series (QS) competitors were treated to picturesque Huntington Beach conditions for the opening of the Shoe City Pro.
The men's event opened in pristine post-rain conditions, and surfers ignited the lineup throughout the first day of competition as top seeds took to the water in Round Two in decimating fashion.
Longtime QS threat Peterson Crisanto left nothing in the water in his opening Round One performance. Crisanto opened with a near-perfect 9.27 and 7.40 to earn the day's top performer. Winner of the Reef Pro El Salvador QS6,000 event in 2013, then an ASP 6-Star, Crisanto is back from a two-year hiatus and ready for a new year.
"I'm so stoked to be back. I know what I can do, but after two years away with no sponsors I had to start off on the right foot and elevate my confidence."
Just a fraction behind the highest heat total of the day, Cory Arrambide took to his backside and found a pair of excellent scores to tally a 16.63. The Ventura-native comes into this year with a new perspective after spending the winter months at home before gearing up for the 2017 season.
"It's been a nice break, I didn't go to Hawaii for the first time in five years and I felt the nerves this morning. But, right after my first surf the nerves were out and I was just stoked. I've just changed my whole head space and talked with Channel Islands on boards, and really taking on this year with a fresh start."
Straight from a World Junior Championship appearance in Kiama, NSW, Australia, Jake Marshall opened up his first heat as a full-time QS competitor in terrific fashion. Marshall showcased his vicious backhand as he prepares for a vital year of competition.
"I can't believe the waves we've gotten for this one. It's super fun, which is always great for a competition to start off," Marshall said. "I was just in Australia and thought about taking a break until the QS6,000's back there but got back early and this event's right down the road so I wanted to get going."
Hometown-hero Kanoa Igarashi got a jumpstart on his season with a brilliant end of the day performance to round out the competition. Igarashi posted an excellent 8.83 to lock a win over Braden Jones. The Championship Tour (CT) competitor isn't feeling any pressure, which could make for a serious threat to win this event for a second time.
"This is good Huntington and it's no surprise being that it's winter time and that's when it gets good," Igarashi said. "This is how I know Huntington rather than most people's one-foot, mushy outlook on it. It's a better wave than most QS's so it's great to be surfing and be at home. I didn't feel like I held back or anything and surfed how I wanted to and hopefully my head stays in it and I go all the way in this contest."
But, just prior to Igarashi's showcase, Matthew Pagan came out firing on all cylinders with a Round One victory and backed that up with a near-perfect 9.00 in Round Two. Pagan is a name the competitive surfing world did not see at all in 2016, but is back in a jersey once more. The South Bay-native looks forward to regaining some of that fire towards competing and doing so in great form.
"It's super fun out there and this is probably the best I've seen Huntington in a long time so this timing is a blessing. I'm feeling super comfortable after the year off to focus on myself, financially, and I've got a good sponsor now that's been doing some video work. At the end of the day we're just surfing. I've been able to put the pressure I felt as a kid off and just enjoy it."
Also moving on, Kilian Garland, Ian Crane, Parker Coffin, Matt Passaquindici, and Taylor Clark have secured their spot into Round Three with victories.