Opening day at the World Surf League (WSL) Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro powered by Celsius, a North America and Hawaii/Tahiti Qualifying Series (QS) 3000-level event, fired into action with two-to-four foot swell providing Round of 96 competitors with plenty of opportunities to shine. Now that the first affairs are in the books, top-seeded competitors are ready to strike for weekend competition with world-class athletes set to take on today's standouts.
The day belonged to Super Girl's up-and-coming, teenage talents with Daya McCart leading the charge - posting a brilliant 13.46 (out of a possible 20) heat total in her WSL debut. At age 14, McCart's variety and power separated herself from the field as she now prepares for the Round of 64 featuring some of her role models.
"I'm so excited to win my first heat on the QS," said McCart. "It's great to start that way. At first it was pretty slow and I was getting a little nervous but then a really good wave come through, and I just wanted to get some good scores. It definitely sets my level higher going into the next round, these are girls I look up to so I'm stoked for the next heat."
McCart's fellow 14-year-old, Florida competitor Kylie Pulcini also debuted in dynamic form to secure herself a spot into the top-seeded round.
Reoccurring threat Talia Swindal added another QS heat win to her name as the emerging competitor now looks to go deeper into a major event. Malibu, California's own is coming off an equal seventh-place finish in North Carolina's Outer Banks and garnered a 7.17 in Oceanside on her prominent forehand attack after an un-characteristic start.
"That start was super stressful after I couldn't get it going and then to turn it on felt amazing," said Swindal. "I'm excited for that next round now that the jitters are out and I feel good. I don't really look at who's in my heat, I just want to surf my best and I know I can do it. It's just about learning each heat and I'll look for a quicker start tomorrow."
Not to be outdone on opening day by newcomers, two-time Team USA Olympic Gold Medalist Kaleigh Gilchrist brings that elite experience back to the QS and posted an impressive 7.50 en route to a debut heat win. The balancing act of water polo and competitive surfing is something Gilchrist has navigated wonderfully in the past, and looks to continue doing so with her ambitions set to her usual high standard.
"Getting that score right away took off a lot of stress and makes heats way easier," said Gilchrist. "I'm in a different space then I have been in the past, just a little older and a little more mature, and I think I'm going to give one more go at water polo. These contests that work with that new schedule of training are just a blessing and I'm happy to be competing."
Also taking early heat wins, Makena Burke, Zoe Chait, Taylor Stacy, Haylee Boverman, Eva Woodland, Hana Johnson, Japan's Anon Matsuoka, Great Britain's Alys Barton, and Mathea Dempfle-Olin all move into the Round of 64 with momentum.
But, the day wasn't all about competing. Five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore brought her Moore Aloha Foundation to spread all the good vibes with the next generation. From surfing to learning a traditional Hawaiian hula dance, Moore, Bella Kenworthy, Dominique Miller and Puamakamae Desoto guided the girls such as Round of 96 surfer, advancing in her heat, Reid Van Wagoner with a day they won't forget. (Full interview in newsfeed)
"We had surfing, a tag team event with beach flags and a swimming relay, and then we did lei-making, and hula dancing," said Moore. "We even had Surfrider Foundation come down and show us how to use our girl power to give back. It was day of love, friendship, and my heart is so full."
"I met so many little girls and girls my age that are so sweet and so kind," said Van Wagoner. "It's so amazing seeing all these young girls come together and have such a fun time, and share the love for the ocean."
A 7:30 a.m. PDT call will determine a likely 8:00 a.m. PDT start to the Round of 64.
Access to the surfing, concerts, Esports, panels, classes, speakers and all elements are free to attend.
The event will be televised throughout November and December on Bally Sports and will be streamed live on September 17 - 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. via 15 digital partners including WorldSurfLeague.com, SuperGirlSufPro.com and twitch.tv/supergirlseries and more.