Style and grace took over the Pismo Beach lineup with Surfing For Hope Longboard Classic opening day action unfolding in three-to-five foot swell. A marathon day witnessed men's Round of 48 and 32, along with women's Round of 32 affairs giving way to brilliant performances from rising talents and some of the world's best. Now, an all-important Finals Day awaits to see who earns 1,000 valuable points toward 2023 WSL Longboard Tour qualification.
Current World No. 1 Kaniela Stewart showcased why he's currently leading the World Title race and posted an excellent, day's best, 16.75 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The Waikiki, Oahu competitor found the day's gems and put on a display of poise on the nose with infallible flow to earn the day's highest single-scoring wave of an 8.75 (out of a possible 10).
"I love it here, the waves are fun and it's super cool to be here," said Stewart. "The last few days was a little tricky, little windy, but today was perfect. (It gives me) a lot of confidence and I'm just going with that mindset, into the next heat and keep picking off those good waves."
In his WSL debut, Jack Van Wagoner had a dream day with two dominant performances in his Round of 48 and 32 heats. The Carlsbad, California competitor showcased his ability to perch on the nose and hold his poise, as well finish off his waves, earned the competitor a 14-plus heat total in both his heats - besting fellow Southern Californian, WSL Longboard Tour threat, Kevin Skvarna.
"I've never done a WSL before and for my first one I feel I'm doing pretty well (laughs)," said Wagoner. "It would be crazy to get a big result here and be one step closer to the Tour. It's a challenge surfing against the best of the best, but I'm just here to prove myself."
Also stunning the spectators, fellow 17-year-old WSL debut talent Chase Lieder, WSL Longboard Tour contenders Cole Robbins and Tony Silvagni, emerging threat Tosh Tudor, former WSL Longboard Tour standout David Arganda and more took big heat wins in their Round of 32 affairs.
The women made their debuts between the men's Round of 48 and 32 bouts, and put on a showcase all their own with incredible performances.
Hawaii is well represented in Pismo Beach and Sophia Culhane led the charge with an impeccable 14.00 heat total. Culhane's ability to stay with the critical part of the wave and utilize her footwork shined in her 7.25-scoring wave. The current World No. 9 has a mathematical shot at earning her first World Title, but the reoccurring threat has her sights on a big result in Pismo Beach first.
"It's really good to have (the Hawaii surfers) company, it's a taste of home, and it's super fun and good opportunities here," said Culhane. "It's a great mindset to be in the jersey and feel comfortable. (To win this event) would feel amazing because then I wouldn't have to worry about requalifying."
2015 WSL Champion Rachael Tilly showcased her world-class talent in a beautiful debut, accruing a 13.00 heat total to take a commanding win. The Californian currently sits above the WSL Longboard Tour cutline and comes into Pismo Beach with no pressure. Tilly, the now 24-year-old, already has a North America Regional Champion title to her name and looks to add more success to her resume.
"I haven't competed in a North America event in awhile and it's really good to be here" said Tilly. "It's good to surf some heats and be with the girls here, and get into the headspace. If I can just keep bettering myself in each heat hopefully I'll be in a good space."
Also earning a big heat win, Mason Schremmer looks to stay among the world's best in 2023 and is into Finals Day here at Pismo Beach.
A 7:00 a.m. PDT call will determine a likely 7:30 a.m. PDT start to Finals Day action.
Tune in LIVE for the Surfing For Hope Longboard Classic beginning September 30 - October 1 from the starting horn until the Finals.