The World Surf League (WSL) men's Qualifying Series (QS) competitors on hand at Huntington Beach Pier's southside blitzed through a big, opening day at the Shoe City Pro QS 1,000 pres. by ZEVN. In tough, two-to-three foot windswell, surfers showed their grit and battled through Rounds 1 and 2 to set up finals day draws.
Though conditions proved difficult with a few upsets scattered throughout the day, a handful of competitors rose to the occasion and put on dominant performances.
San Clemente, California, native Crosby Colapinto looked unstoppable in his current form with an incredible, Round 2 debut performance. The 16-year-old unleashed on both his backhand and forehand, earning an excellent 8.83 (out of a possible 10) and 8.17, to accrue the day's top heat total of 17.00 (out of a possible 20) despite tough conditions.
Colapinto's win marked one of the day's superheats that featured fellow North America Pro Junior standouts Eithan Osborne and Cole Houshmand, who now has his eyes set on another finals day -- with the confidence to back it up.
"It's funny because we grew up surfing against each other all the time in amateur events so to have them in my heat felt right at home," Colapinto said. "It's good bragging rights [laughs]. I just want to keep the momentum going through this contest after the last week. Now I'll just get a good night's sleep and drink a lot of water for a long day tomorrow., but I'm psyched."
Solid Start for Nolan Rapoza
2016 North America Pro Regional Junior Champion Nolan Rapoza had a tough introduction to the QS ranks last season, finishing No. 229, but is on track for a great 2018. The 20-year-old currently sits at No. 116 heading into a busy summer of competition and started his Shoe City Pro campaign with a brilliant 16.00-point heat total. Rapoza knows the stakes are high at this point in the year.
"I felt like I haven't done a contest in a long time since my last one was Japan, but I spent some time in the Mentawais not really thinking about the jersey which was nice," Rapoza said. "I've mainly been trying to do all the North America events this year and I feel like it's going better than my past few years on the QS. I'm getting more consistent and the heat scores are going up, so I definitely feel a lot better. A result here would be a huge help, especially with Ballito happening and those guys getting some points, so I'm really looking for a win."
Dimitri Poulos Continues Brilliant Form
Dimitri Poulos kept his competitive form intact after a Finals appearance in Mexico last week, and is into Round 3 here at Huntington Beach. Poulos posted an excellent 8.17 in his Round 1 debut on his dominating backhand, and advanced behind former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Nathan Yeomans in Round 2. The 15-year-old's light-hearted approach is beginning to show in his performances as he builds a growing resume.
"Competing's really fun and I like the challenge so it's good to keep the ball rolling," Poulos said. "It's a little intimidating to surf against guys like Nate, who are full-grown men and I'm just a teenager still. But, the more experience I get, the more confidence I'm getting in those heats which is good. Every WSL contest I do, I'm building up that confidence which is nice and I like it a lot."
Upsets: Wyatt McHale Takes Down Simpo
In a wave-starved, Round 2 Heat 9 battle, Wyatt McHale came out with a big heat win -- helping eliminate two-time Vans US Open winner and Huntington Beach's own Brett Simpson. The 17-year-old's impressive air-reverse was the clutch factor he needed to secure a place in Round 3 alongside Chase Modelski. Now, the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, surfer will have a crucial day of competition tomorrow for his chance to leave with 1,000 points.
"It was good to get that left at the beginning and open up before seeing that air section," McHale said. "I saw it and it was the only maneuver on offer in my mind so I went for it. After that I just tried to hold priority since there weren't a lot of waves coming through so I'm glad it worked out. It's crazy to surf against Brett [Simpson], he's one of the best out here. It feels really good to surf against him and then go on to beat him is pretty cool."
Some other early exits included a plethora of red and blue jerseys, signifying a higher-seeded surfer, including 2017 North America QS Champion Jordy Collins, Austin Neumann, Ryland Rubens, Taichi Wakita, Chauncey Robinson, Noah Beschen, Cole Houshmand, Kairi Noro, Tommy Coleman, and Colt Ward.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. PDT for Round 3's 8:00 a.m. PDT start.