Finals day draws are locked in for the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay, a men's and women's QS 1,000, after a decisive day unfolded in four-to-six foot, occasional plus, surf. Both men's and women's Semifinalists were decided after running through women's Round 2, Quarterfinals along with men's Round 5 and Quarterfinals. There was no shortage of action throughout the morning's cleaner conditions that surfers capitalize on before powering through tough, afternoon winds.
Men's competition put a cap on another massive day of competition and one of North America's top Pro Juniors showcased more of his potential among QS veterans - taking down Cory Arrambide in their Quarterfinal bout. Taro Watanabe, 17, looks to get his 2020 year in gear with a first finals day appearance in just his third event so far of the season and posted an immaculate 15.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total. This marks Watanabe's first Semifinal appearance since 2017 but the up-and-coming competitor sees the bigger picture. (Interview in video)
Watanabe's Team USA coach and former Championship Tour (CT) Brett Simpson continued to thrive alongside the younger generation as he took down Nicholas Coli, notching his first Quarterfinal appearance, as the veteran looked unstoppable once again.
But, it was the Brasilian duo of Uriel Sposaro and David do Carmo who stole the show to wrap up the day's proceedings. Sposaro found a diamond in the rough among tough afternoon conditions to garner the day's highest single-wave score of an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10) en route to his career-best result. The two will battle for a spot into the Final but the country of Brasil will be represented either way in the inaugural SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay. (Interview in video)
"I just want to thank God for the opportunity to make one more heat and I didn't even know I made it until I was coming in just with the wind picking up so bad," said Do Carmo. "That was a magical moment for me. I got lucky getting two good scores and I hope God brings some more waves tomorrow."
Izzi Gomez's Long-Awaited QS Breakthrough
Five-time SUP World Champion Izzi Gomez found long-awaited success on the QS with her first-ever heat win in her two-woman heat with Round 1 standout Caitlin Simmers and posting the event's highest score of near-perfect 9.37 in her Round 2 heat. Gomez's success among the world's best SUP competitors hadn't translated into big results among the WSL contenders until today and now notches her best-career performance. (Full interview in video)
"I've done a few QS events and just squeaked by or made it to the next round but haven't done too well and I've been taking some time to work on my surfing a lot," said Gomez. "It's starting to come together and now I'm just having fun. I stuck to my game plan and just surfed so I'm really stoked to make it to the Semis."
Recent SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach winner Sawyer Lindblad continued to excel as she blasted her way toward the Semifinals but now prepares for a Semifinal rematch with an in-form Ella McCaffray. The two went head-to-head at Pismo Beach and will square off once more in Morro Bay with McCaffray putting on a clinic with both her forehand and backhand attack in today's Quarterfinal battle with Shelby Detmers. This marks back-to-back finals day appearances in 2020 for the pair of teenagers as McCaffray, 16, looks to make her second-career QS Final. (Interview in video)
Ventura, California's, Makena Burke rounded out the impressive women's field remaining as she looks for a second QS victory to her resume.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30am PST to determine a possible 8:00am PST start for finals day action.
The SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay will run February 27 - March 1 at Morro Bay, California.
The event is proudly sponsored by Visit SLO CAL, Dignity Health, Jeep, 805 Beer, Surfers of Tomorrow, Mid-State Containers, La Serena Hotel, City of Morro Bay, Peak WiFi, Natural Healing Center, Cool Cat Cafe, Hubbell Real Estate Group, Mechanics Bank, Pack Design Group, Sunrun Solar, Aqua Systems, Moshpit Digital, Sunshine and Reign Photography, Surfing for Hope, Catch Some Air, and Ahern Rentals.