- WSL / Andrew Nichols

Rewind to February of 2020. Izzi Gomez comes into the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay without much success on the Qualifying Series and turns her career around with a first-ever WSL win. The Floridian-turned-Californian then had to deal with COVID-19 with the rest of the world and put the jersey away.

But, even with events returning, Gomez wasn't able to make her way back to the competitive arena after undergoing hip surgery. Now, the 22-year-old is back to defend her Morro Bay title and we had a chance to talk about her long-awaited return to the water.

SLO CAL Open: Izzi Gomez Claims First-Ever QS Victory
A dream run ended in glory for Gomez for the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay with her maiden WSL win.
WSL: How excited are you to be back at the place where you won your first event and give defending it a go?

Gomez: It's really cool and also kinda weird (laughs). I'm coming back from hip surgery that I had six months ago so I'm getting back into the swing of things. So I'm not trying to put to many expectations or too much pressure on myself for this event. Obviously I'd love to win again but if I can just make some heats and get some rhythm back I'd be stoked.

Walk us through what you underwent with your hip surgery.

It was already injured and I was kind of dealing with it for about a year and a half before I actually got the surgery. I did everything could to put it off and not go to the doctor, and then exhausted every other option I had to not get surgery.

Izzi Gomez (COL) advances to Quarterfinals after earning runner-up in Heat 3 of Round 2 at Morro Bay on 29 February 2020 in Morro Bay, California, today. Gomez's backhand lit up Morro Bay last time around and she'll look for more of the same February 24 - 27. - WSL / Jon Reis

They said it was really good that I came in when I did because otherwise I would've started doing irreversible damage to the cartilage. And they say it's about six months back to the sport you do so at that point you can return to competing.

Did it change your perspective on what surfing means to you?

I was out of the water for four months so that was the longest I've ever been out. Then I'd get on a mid-length or something bigger and I only just got back on a shortboard in January.

I was just so stoked to get back in the water. No one wants to get surgery and take time off from their sport but it definitely made me appreciate it so much more. I have a way different outlook on things then I had before that surgery and just made sure I found the positives.

SLO CAL Open: Izzi Gomez's QS Breakthrough
It's been a few years coming for the Floridian-born, San Clemente, California, resident to snag her first QS heat win and now is in the Semifinals.
After Morro Bay you had a solid ranking, is qualifying for the Challenger Series something you'd want to pursue?

I applied for the wildcard into the Challengers because when the Jack's Surfboards event came around the time of my surgery so I missed that and all I had to do was make one or two heats if I remember right and I would've qualified. That was pretty devastating.

If I can get a few results I'd be stoked. I'm not expecting to qualify for the Challenger Series this year but I'll be excited if it happens. I'll just look at learning as much as I can and be happy to be competing again.

Watch Gomez and more LIVE at the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay pres. by French Hospital Medical Center beginning February 24 - 27 at www.WorldSurfLeague.com.

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