The last time we saw CT surfing at Lower Trestles, it was a Brazilian sweep in 2017. Filipe Toledo and Silvana Lima topped the podium in statement-making fashion as the Brazilian Storm had washed ashore in a sea of green and yellow. And what better spot to stake their claim than Lowers.
"This is very special," said Toledo, tear in his eye, baby girl in his arms.
Lowers has long been a spot that's ushered in seismic generational shifts. The site of Kelly Slater's seminal "Black and White" performance in 1990 -- where he inked surfing's then-biggest contract on the famed cobblestones -- over 30 years ago the Momentum Generation was born here.
In 1989 local rat Christian Fletcher showed the world that a contest could be won by flying above the lip at the Body Glove Surf Bout. Generations apart, Shane Beschen, Chris Ward, Cory Lopez and company would fly even higher a generation later. By the early 2000s the world's best surfers were back competing at Lowers and surfers like Andy Irons, Luke Egan and Mick Fanning brought the power game back to the Southern California A-frame.
There's nowhere to hide at Lowers. Its wide-open faces and perfectly tapered shoulders demand precision rail work and innovative aerial maneuvers. There's no kegging tube section that adds an element of luck to the equation. And because of ideal bathymetry the size and shape of the wave is stupidly consistent. As close to man-made perfection as a surfer's going to find, the Tour stop was in fact replaced by the Surf Ranch Pro on the schedule in 2018.
But as intense as the competition can be at Lowers, the pressure from the omnipresent surf industry can be equally intimidating. With Orange County being the epicenter of the surf business in America, Lowers provides the most reliable canvas to scout new talent, see what kind of shape vets are staying in, as well as produce countless video parts and ad campaigns. New board models are tested here before they're released to the frothing public. And, just like Slater back in the day, contracts are earned here.
On any given day during the summer there are 50 to 100 surfers battling over inconsistent, lully three-wave sets. Traditional surfing edicate is abandoned in mass. During the last big south swell over the Fourth of July holiday there was a report of one well established pro spending three hours in the water and only catching four waves.
The hyper-talented, world-class locals, such as Kolohe Andino, Griffin Colapinto and Caroline Marks, have the placed absolutely wired. Slater spends copious time in the lineup as well when he's in town. So, if you've ever wonder what it might be like to surf a heat against some of these men and women, paddle out and find out. Just don't be surprised if your wave count is a little bleak.
"I'm overwhelmed right now," said Lima after winning in 2017.
Having struggled with injuries, she hadn't topped a podium since 2010.
"I don't know what to say," she continued. "It's been such a long journey to get here, and after all of the hard work and sacrifice, I just can't believe all of this is happening."
Lowers has a way of making magic moments, you just have to go all in to make them happen.