Top seeds of men's competition made their statement-making debuts at the World Surf League (WSL) Vans Pro, Stop No. 2 of the 2022/23' North America Qualifying Series (QS), as women finished their Round of 48 affairs in continued two-foot windswell. A marathon day finished the men's Round of 64 with hefty upsets scattered throughout after women set up their Round of 32 matchups where their top seeds await.
Though inconsistency in swell played a major factor in the day's proceedings, moments of 1st Street Jetty magic provided sheer brilliance from some of the men's top-seeded competitors.
Alan Cleland found multiple moments of that magic in his decimating debut. The Pascuales, Mexico competitor obliterated the scale with a near-perfect 9.17 (out of a possible 10) and jaw-dropping 17.17 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Both note the event's best thus far as the Challenger Series competitor looks to gain more confidence in the jersey.
"Since I've been on the Challenger Series and not doing too well there I went back home and put time in," said Cleland. "I started working out and working on my mental strength, and just moving into a mind space so it's really good to see it working. That heat just came together with the first wave just being a nug, hopefully just keep the ball rolling and get it done."
A dynamic debut from San Clemente, California's Jett Schilling tipped the scale toward a 15.54 heat total and single-wave score of an excellent 8.70. Schilling's backhand delivered multiple, critical turns in tough, but clean conditions as a Florida's Tommy Coleman also notched a 13.27 heat total in the bout. The 19-year-old has his mindset in place and is ready for the week to come.
"I just got lucky in that heat, there were a bunch of waves and I wasn't expecting anything so I'm stoked," said Schilling. "You just have to focus on yourself and hope they come. It's really good for confidence and I'm just here to have fun, especially with the waves like this, with the goal on winning as always."
East Coast QS Vets Hold Firm In Debuts
Virginia Beach's own born-and-raised Michael Dunphy returns home in search of more Vans Pro glory and started off in brilliant form. Dunphy's sharp forehand led the way to his Round of 64 victory in commanding fashion, accruing a pair of upper six-point rides, and is right at home.
"The sandbar is really good right now and if we get even an inkling of swell it's turning into a really good wave," said Dunphy. "It feels good to be back and surf a heat at home. When I paddle out in a jersey here it brings back a lot of memories of so many heats at this jetty and winning the Vans Pro, just a lot of good memories."
Fellow East Coast talent Cam Richards debuted in dominant fashion, accruing one of the event's best performances thus far with a 15.27 heat total and 8.50 single-wave score. The South Carolina competitor looks to turn his regional QS season in the right direction and separated himself from the pack in doing so in tough conditions.
"I haven't won a heat this year and never do well when the waves are small so that felt good," said Richards. "The year I made the Final here it was solid size with a storm swell and I won the ECSC as a kid but I've just not been able to grovel in competition. I'm hoping it stays this decent so everyone gets a chance and 3,000 points is great, it's just great to see the ECSC with Vans Pro back overall. This is a big event for the East Coast."
Amid men's top seed success, plenty of upsets left competitors on the outside looking in as a lack of consistency in swell proved the difference for many. Big heat wins and advancements from the likes of opening day standout Tomas King, newcomers Kyan Yang, Greyson Grant and Reed Platenius, and more helped eliminate some of North America's top-tier talents before the day was done.
Women's Round of 48 Wrapped, Top Seeds Await Their Start
The women kicked off the morning's action with remaining Round of 48 heats and now the top seeds await their respective debuts. Santa Cruz, California's Keanna Miller earned the morning's first heat win with plenty of gusto. Miller's backhand attack went to work on the flurry of waves that were on offer in her affair featuring some of the East Coast's emerging talents including Mia Moore, Julianna Romaniuk, and Brynn Gallagher. Now, the 18-year-old looks to make more noise along the way.
"It felt so good just to get a few waves under my belt in that heat," said Miller. "I was so shocked to get the first wave that came because then there wasn't anything for about ten minutes. But, we actually had a good amount of waves come in and I was expecting it to be slower than that so I'm super happy to keep moving on."
An 8:30 a.m. EDT call will determine a possible 9:00 am. EDT start for competition.
The Vans Pro QS 3000 will run August 23 - 28 at 1st Street Jetty, Virginia Beach.