North America's first Qualifying Series (QS) of the season is ready for some of the nation's, and international, top upcoming talents alongside some familiar faces of Championship Tour (CT) veterans. The SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach returns after a brief hiatus and comes back with another full live webcast that will showcase all the action from start to finish beginning January 30 - February 2. A promising forecast looks to have pumping swell throughout the event that will test competitor's ability to deliver with waves predicted at head high to overhead all week.
2018 Runner-Up Samantha Sibley Back for More
Sibley comes in with some unfinished business as she gets set for her 2020 debut after an injury postponed her start. Sibley comes in alongside defending event winner Kirra Pinkerton as 2019's top regional threats in attendance and both prepare for big years ahead. This marks Sibley's last year as a Pro Junior and the 17-year-old already has a QS 6,000 victory to her name after stunning the field at the Super Girl Pro and takes that confidence into this season.
"I love competing in Pismo and the level of competition is so high for being a QS 1,000," said Sibley. "I'm feeling really good about this season. Being out of the water after breaking my wrist in several places has made me appreciate surfing at another level. Wear wrist guards kids (laughs). I also graduated high school with all the time I had on my hands. I'm feeling fresh and ready to go. Pismo is such a rad town, it is a positive way to start the year. Making the final in 2018 was a huge confidence boost for me.
2019 was a year of learning and exceeding my expectations," added Sibley. "Never in a million years did I think I would be so close to qualification. I think I really put my name on the map, I made myself a force to be reckoned with. I'm so excited to start this year with loads of confidence and knowledge."
But they will be joined by an experienced field of competitors including 2019 North America Pro Junior Regional Champion Caitlin Simmers, 2016 North America Regional QS Champion Meah Collins, an explosive Tia Blanco, as well as out-of-region contenders including one of Hawaii's standouts Zoe McDougall.
Formidable Men's Field Brings CT Veterans and QS Threats to Pismo
Sibley's fellow 2018 Pismo Beach runner-up Kevin Schulz returns in hopes of adding a second QS victory on Californian soil to his name. A breakout year for Schulz unfolded in 2019, following his success the year prior when earning his first-ever QS victory, that showcased his aerial potential and put him the Red Bull Airborne series competing alongside the likes of reigning WSL Champion Italo Ferreira. Now the 24-year-old makes his return to the QS jersey to bring that excitement factor back.
"Pismo's been good to me and when there's an event close to home and one I've had success at it's just a great opportunity to get amongst it ," said Schulz. "When I finished runner-up I had an 8 or 9 in almost every heat just going big and staying consistent which is key in events. The forecast could be really good. It' not often we get a QS that offers head high, overhead, swell. I just feel really good and I'm really excited no matter the outcome as long as I give it everything - it's all the way I know how to do it."
Local Contenders Look to Deliver at Home
The local contenders are relishing in opportunities all their own with a chance to compete in front of their home crowd including the likes of Braden Jones, Austin Neumann and David Economos - all growing up in San Luis Obispo. Jones made an impressive run that culminated into a Round 4 finish that helped build momentum into the following year. This event marked Jones' second-best result so far in his young QS career and the 20-year-old looks at building even more this year but will face off against former CT competitors Brett Simpson and Nathan Yeomans alongside a stacked field of upcoming threats.
"It means a lot getting to have a QS here in Pismo Beach," said Jones. "When we had it here a few years ago it was super nice not having to travel for a contest. There is a lot less stress going into it knowing that you aren't having to travel far. It also is helpful since this is the wave I grew up on and surf almost every day. Having such talented surfers come to this contest definitely gets you amped to surf better and hold it down for the hometown.
I think it's critical when it comes to being successful in QS's," added Jones. "I'm just trying to do as many contest in as many different places, can really help you gain a lot of experiences and knowledge that in long run will really pay off."
Tune in LIVE for the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach QS 1,000 beginning Thursday, January 30 - February 2.