An unexpected surprise from Mother Nature graced finals day with more clean swell and surfers rose to the occasion at the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach QS 1,000. In the end it was a San Clemente sweep from Kevin Schulz and Sawyer Lindblad with Schulz's aerial assault taking center stage while Lindblad's backhand attack proved the difference maker.
The San Clemente, California, duo displayed more of their hometown's dominance within the North America region as Schulz earned his redemption after finishing runner-up at this event in 2018 while this marks Lindblad's first-ever WSL victory at just age 14.
Schulz's air game was at its best to start the Final against former Championship Tour (CT) veteran and event threat Brett Simpson to garner a 6.97 (out of a possible 10) before immediately backing it up with a 7.90. The CT veteran was left chasing an excellent 8.70 after stomping an air of his own but couldn't find the gem he took advantage of in the Semifinals. This notes the 24-year-old's second QS victory after overcoming hometown standout Braden Jones (USA) in the Semifinals before capitalizing on his second chance at a Pismo Beach victory. (Interview in video above)
A dream run ended in Lindblad's first-ever WSL chair-up after the newcomer powered her way to the top over QS Top 40 threat Meah Collins. The 14-year-old traded the lead with Collins until firmly planting herself ahead of experienced competitor with a decimating backhand attack that earned her a 6.10 to hold that position until the final horn. Lindblad was able to translate success from her first Pro Junior season in 2019 that earned a trip to WSL Junior Championships and now brings that spark to her first-ever QS evet. (Interview in video above)
Notable Runner-Ups From Simpson and Collins
One of surfing's most notable names Simpson put on a throwback performance to when he mixed it up with the world's best and made an incredible run through the event that finished with a runner-up. The veteran continues to show he hasn't lost his touch while freesurfing around home but brought that fire to competition, maintaining the men's event's top single-wave score and heat total in Round 5, and leads by example as he coaches the next generation. Simpson overpowered former event winner Cory Arrambidein their Semifinal bout and now looks ahead for more with the competitive mentality intact.
"It was really good and I just felt comfortable out there which I think came from making clear decisions throughout the event," said Simpson. "Where I wanted to sit, I didn't think overthink things and it was a big area out there with multiple peaks. I knew in the Final with Kevin (Schulz) that he could turn in scores on waves that I'm not even really looking for and most times your going to focus on yourself and what waves you want to ride but he was a standout throughout the event and I met my match - stoked it was in the Final.
After the Tour I slowed down competing just not traveling as much internationally but I still love it, it's in my blood," added Simpson. "Especially when you have events around home and get four straight days of amazing waves you can't complain."
Collins shook up finals day proceedings after dismantling defending event winner Kirra Pinkerton in a tough first heat to start Semifinal action. One of Newport Beach, California's, top competitors showed her ability to stay patient throughout this event that helped yield success in each heat leading to her Finals appearance. The 20-year-old matched her career best result with a runner-up here as she looks to build another solid foundation toward CT qualification after finishing No. 35 last season.
"Finals is never a bad way to start the year and it makes me hungry to get that win - I was really hoping to get it here but it doesn't always work out for you," said Collins. "The ocean doesn't provide for you every heat and unfortunately it was in the Final (laughs). Anything can happen out there, I've seen it on the CT and QS all the time and it just comes down to the best two waves. Now I'll get ready for Australia for five events to surf back-to-back and I'm just excited to compete over there especially since it's toward the end of their summer. I'll keep the positives from this event and know my patience was something that I used really well so I'm excited for what the year holds."
The event is proudly sponsored by Visit SLO CAL, Dignity Health, Jeep, 805 Beer, Surfers of Tomorrow, Mid-State Containers, Vespera On Ocean Marriott Hotel, City of Pismo Beach, Peak WifI, Natural Healing Center, Cool Cat Cafe, Hubbell Real Estate Group, Mechanics Bank, Pack Design Group, Sunrun Solar, Aqua Systems, Splash Cafe, Moshpit Digital, Sunshine & Reign Photography, Surfing For Hope, Catch Some Air, Whalebird Kombucha, Ahem Rental, and Sex Wax.