- WSL / Ted Fletcher

The World Surf League (WSL) North America Qualifying Series (QS) returns to action with the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay presented by French Hospital Medical Center QS 1,000 beginning February 24 - 27. Some of the region's top-tier competitors are ready to vie for critical points toward respective Challenger Series spots as this marks the halfway point of the North America QS season.

Izzi Gomez (COL) advances to Semifinals after winning Heat 4 of Quarterfinals at Morro Bay on 29 February 2020 in Morro Bay, California, today. Izzi Gomez is back to defend her title after overcoming a vital hip surgery. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

Both men's and women's fields include decorated competitors with the likes of current North America No. 1 ranked Alyssa Spencer and Taro Watanabe, men's defending event winner, along with defending women's victor Izzi Gomez. For Gomez, this notes a long road back to the competitive jersey after undergoing a vital hip surgery as she looks to find her rhythm amid a stacked field. 'One-On-One Full Article'

"I'm coming back from hip surgery that I had six months ago so I'm getting back into the swing of things," said Gomez. "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. 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"

Parker Coffin (USA)  Placed 4 th in Heat 3 of Round One  at EDP BILLABONG PRO CASCAIS 2017 in Cascais, Portugal Parker Coffin is set to be back in a WSL jersey after a three-year hiatus. - WSL / WSL/POULLENOT

But, some of the region's best will have to deal with wildcard threats such as Parker Coffin and an onslaught of emerging talents that are finding their footing in the QS. Unfortunately for Coffin, younger brother to Championship Tour (CT) competitor Conner, highly-anticipated return to the QS arena was dampened by a concussion ahead of the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach and now prepares for his first WSL event since 2019.

"It's been a few years since I've competed in any WSL events," said Coffin. "It has been a really nice break and a change of pace. I'm super honored to get a wildcard into an event so close to home and just be able to enjoy myself. I think competition is an amazing platform to be able to challenge yourself and get better so I'm just going into it with a full student mentality."

"I'm a really competitive person but I truly feel like I'm more competitive against myself than I am with other people," added Coffin. "I want to push myself to be my best and I think some good healthy competition is a good way to sharpen my brain so I'm really excited for this event."

The lineup at Morro Bay on 27 February 2020 in Morro Bay, California, today. What Morro Bay's beauty can produce with favorable swell. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

According to swell forecast, the event will be prime for plenty of waves. A mixture of chest, shoulder, and head high waves are on hand over the first few days. Saturday afternoon and Sunday are forecasted to pick up to overhead, plus range to challenge competitors in their battles throughout finals day.

A live webcast will showcase all the event action from start to finish with spectators treated to the likes of recent former CT veteran Sage Erickson, SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach victor John Mel, former WSL World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton, ISA Gold Medalist Jhony Corzo, 2020 Olympian Leilani McGonagle, QS veterans such as Michael Dunphy, and many more.

This event last ran in 2020 with the help of returning sponsor Visit SLO CAL and their efforts alongside the city of Morro Bay, Dignity Health and now return with the support of Surfing For Hope - a non-profit with the goal to help cancer patients experience the ocean.

A 7:00 a.m. PDT start will determine a likely 7:30 a.m. PDT start to men's Round of 96.

Watch LIVE beginning February 24 - 27 at www.WorldSurfLeague.com.

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