he World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, a Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and Pro Junior, kicked into high gear with the men's QS Round of 112 and 96, Heats 1 - 13, overcoming six-to-eight foot, occasional plus, swell pounding the Pismo Beach Pier lineup. Those who could navigate the massive sets and find opportunities thrived among the pack of competitors. Women's QS, men's and women's Pro Junior competitions were called off for the day.
One of the region's standouts in seasons' past, Philippe Chagas, made his return to competition worth the wait as he accrued the day's best performance of a 13.67 (out of a possible 20) on his backhand attack. The Utatuba, Brazil, born and now Maui, Hawaii, resident, suffered a knee injury that set him back nearly a year and is set to make a surge toward the top of regional rankings.
"I started my year off here last year and it was a good contest, then went home and busted my knee at Pipeline," said Chagas. "Then I took the year off, watched everybody ripping and I wanted to be competing so bad. I want to keep advancing and get a spot into the Challenger Series."
Cannon Carr delivered a commanding heat victory earned him a 13.66 and continued that momentum straight into the Round of 96 with another big heat win over local competitor Austin Neumann, also advancing, by earning one of the day's best single-scoring waves of a 7.67. The 16-year-old now looks for more in both the QS and Pro Junior as he prepares for top-seeded competitors in the Round of 64.
"The waves you pick, you really have to capitalize on them," said Carr. "My best wave in that last heat I wasn't sure if it was going to close out but just knew I had to go. I've never made it past the top-seeded round a QS so hopefully that'll change."
Fellow San Clemente competitor Luke Wyler also notched an impressive win of his own as he continues to find his footing in QS competition.
Pro Junior standout Ryan Huckabee returned to form with a near-excellent 7.83, accruing a 13.50 heat total, on his dominant forehand. The Floridian has his goals set for the season and inches closer with big performances such as today, and now prepares for some of the region's best.
"It's three-times the size as it was from my heat yesterday and as a bigger guy I'm definitely stoked on that," said Huckabee. "We're halfway through the year and I haven't done too well. But, there's still a few QS 3,000s left and I want to make the Challenger Series."
Southern California's Hudson Saunders turned in two critical performances including a brilliant Round of 96 victory over higher-seeded competitors with a 13.50 heat total. The QS newcomer went to work on his backhand attack and now looks to carry that momentum forward against top-seeded competitors ready to make their debuts.
"I watched heats before and there was a lot of waves out the back," said Saunders. "You could sit on the inside and maybe get a few low scores or just wait for the big opportunities and risk it. Now I'll just enjoy the rest of the day around home and being out of school."
Also, 2016 North America Regional QS Champion Kilian Garland, Reed Platenius, William Hedleston, Kai McPhillips, Hayden Rodgers, Sebastian Mendes, Kyan Yang, and Hagan Johnson all earned big wins in their respective, Round of 96 battles.
Event organizers will convene at 7:30 a.m. PST to determine a possible 8:00 a.m. PST start to competition for men's Round of 96, Heat 14.
The SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach will open on January 23 and hold a competition window through January 29, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.