- WSL / RunAmuck Photography
- WSL / RunAmuck Photography

The stakes are higher and the back half of the 2022/23' North America Qualifying Series (QS) season is set to get underway for the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach QS 3,000, as well as the 2023 Pro Junior season start.

North America's QS Season Conclusion Awaits, Upgrades Up The Ante To Start 2023/24 Events
The 2022/23 North America QS season will finish with events in California, Florida, and the Caribbean featuring some all-important upgrades before kickstarting the new season in Huntington Beach.

This marks the fifth edition of QS competition, but now the stakes are higher with 3,000 points on the line to kickstart the second half of the 2022/23 season as some of the region's best are set. Also, Pro Juniors join the event to start their respective 2023 season and add more excitement to the already central coast staple event.

"Getting this competition upgraded to a 3,000 has been a lot of work, but Surfing For Hope has a lot of support in the community and everything came together," said Event Director Andy McKay. "Adding the Pro Junior was just the icing on the cake. Hosting a week-long event in late January is great for the local economy and should provide some challenging conditions for the athletes."

Kirra Pinkerton Zeroes In On SLO CAL Open At Pismo Beach
The former event victor returns to Pismo Beach with her ambitions set on another big result to kickstart the back half of her QS season with 3,000 points up for grabs beginning January 23 - 29. Extra footage: Jeremy Carter
North America QS Back In Action
Kirra Pinkerton Zeroes In On SLO CAL Open At Pismo Beach
The former event victor returns to Pismo Beach with her ambitions set on another big result to kickstart the back half of her QS season with 3,000 points up for grabs beginning January 23 - 29. Extra footage: Jeremy Carter

Former event winner Kirra Pinkerton returns looking to get her rhythm on the regional QS back after finishing with an equal fifth-place at the Haleiwa Challenger. Currently sitting at No. 9 on the North America rankings, the 20-year-old looks to return to winning form at Pismo Beach, a venue she knows all too well, and make her way back to the 2023 Challenger Series.

"I grew up doing so many events here and it's a little home away from home, and to get a good result would be really cool," said Pinkerton. "Especially since it is a bigger event than what it was before so I'm hoping to do well. Now that I've broken that curse [of equal ninth-place finishes], I feel like I can much further."

Pinkerton will be joined by a plethora of North America's best including North America No. 1, and 2020 event winner, Sawyer Lindblad, former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Chelsea Tuach, current No. 2 and 3 Bella Kenworthy and Zoe Benedetto, respectively, and more emerging talents.

Austin Neumann Prepares To Hold Down Homecourt At SLO CAL Open At Pismo Beach
The Pismo Beach local looks to breakthrough at home with the upgraded QS 3,000 and some of the region's heavy-hitters coming to town January 23 - 29.

The men's QS event has witnessed a multitude of winners including California Central Coast's own Cory Arrambide, German representative Leon Glatzer, one of surfing's exciting aerialists Kevin Schulz, and defending event winner John Mel. But, in its expanding history, the event hasn't had a local finalist so far and Pismo Beach's own Austin Neumann looks to change that.

Neumann, Braden Jones, and Joel Bishop have both represented their city in good form and now look to go past the Quarterfinals.

"Usually traveling to contests is a huge effort so it's nice to just be comfortable in your own bed and not have to worry about getting to the competition," said Neumann. "I haven't had the best run in events so I'm just trying to have fun and be a good head space, and I think that, along with being at home, will help. Hopefully I can put on a show for the local community."

Central Coast competitors will have to fend off the likes of North America's top-tier talents including North America No. 1 Jett Schilling, reigning North America Regional Champion Michael Dunphy, notable Challenger Series competitor Nolan Rapoza, and recent SAMBAZON World Junior Championships runner-up Levi Slawson - who will also compete in the Pro Junior event.

Levi Slawson Kicks Off Final Pro Junior Season, Back Half Of QS Campaign At Pismo Beach
The 19-year-old, Encinitas competitor sets his eyes on the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach QS 3,000 and Pro Junior looking for a big result in both to kickstart his 2023 calendar year beginning January 23 - 29.
Fresh Start For Pro Juniors, New Season Awaits

With both men's 2022 World Junior Top 2 representatives aging out, new and familiar faces look to take their place including Slawson, Schilling, and more. San Luis Obispo's own Jackson Meyer hopes to start his WSL career in good form at the venue he learned to surf and compete. The 16-year-old has had success on the amateur level, and now looks to bring that to some of the region's top competitors.

"It's awesome to have a Pro Junior event locally and I'm grateful to be competing at the spot I surf almost every day with all the local guys," said Meyer. "It's a super exciting opportunity since we can have all the local boys there to support each other. I couldn't have picked a more special place [for my first WSL competition] since I won my first competition here and my first high school competition here."

Talia Swindal Tips the Scale in Pismo Beach
The 16-year-old set the tone for women's competition to close out the Round of 40.

The women's field features some of North America's top QS talents including Lindblad, Kenworthy, former QS victor Makena Burke, 2022 North America No. 2 Rubiana Brownell, and World Junior Championships wildcard Ella McCaffray. But, rising talents such as Talia Swindal, Vela Mattive, and more will look to make their season starts count with a big result.

"I am so excited for a fresh start to the Pro Junior season! I have been spending the past month of my time over in Hawaii, so mentally I am feeling relaxed and rejuvenated," said Swindal. "It was nice to have a short break from competition, but now I feel really fired up to get back into the jersey. My last year of competition was definitely full of learning so this opportunity of a new season is quite nice."

Event organizers will convene at 7:00 a.m. PST to determine a possible 7:30 a.m. PST start to competition.

Watch LIVE

The SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach will open on January 23 and hold a competition window through January 23, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.

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