- WSL / RunAmuck Photography

Mathea Dempfle-Olin and Taj Lindblad emerged victorious at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope, a men's and women's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, after taking down their respective, heavily-contested fields at Morro Rock. Dempfle-Olin and Lindblad overpowered the two-to-four foot conditions on offer during their Finals Day campaigns as Dempfle-Olin earned a historic, maiden WSL win over her sister Sanoa, alongside Lindblad's first-ever WSL victory against an in-form Nolan Rapoza (USA).

Mathea Dempfle-Olin's Historic, First-Ever WSL Win Comes At SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay
A Final bout the Dempfle-Olin sisters marked the first sibling, North America QS Final since 2006 and the elder sister Mathea emerged victorious.

A historic women's Final unraveled with a sibling clash between Sanoa and Mathea Dempfle-Olin, the first time siblings have met in a North America QS Final since 2006, and the younger of the sisters, Sanoa struck first with a 4.50 (out of a possible 10). But, Mathea answered back at the 21-minute mark as Sanoa also found an opportunity to stay ahead with Sanoa earning a 6.00 and Mathea a 6.17. Mathea wasn't done yet, unleashing her backhand attack once more to post an excellent 8.00 and push her sister to needing an 8.17 of her own.

"I'm feeling really good and it's definitely been a goal of mine for a long time so I'm over the moon to achieve this goal," said ." It was just fun. Because she's my younger sister she's the last person I wanted to beat me, but I'm always supporting here and want to see her succeed. I think the QS is so challenging right now and even making it past Round 1 and 2 is so difficult so to make it to Finals Day was so good for me and Sanoa."

Mathea's Finals Day surge began with a back-and-forth, Semifinal battle against proven North America threat Ella McCaffray. A 7.33 start for Dempfle-Olin put her right behind McCaffray's 8.66 total before finding a 4.70 as McCaffray's last effort fell shy of the 6.53 requirement to surpass her Morro Bay Semifinal streak.

Taj Lindblad Claims Maiden WSL Victory In Morro Bay
The San Clemente, California, competitor overtook Nolan Rapoza in a nail-biting Final to earn his first-ever hoist up the beach.

The men's Final featured two of California's rising competitors Taj Lindblad and Nolan Rapoza and their opening exchange set the pace for what their battle would entail with Lindblad earning the upper hand on a 6.00. But, at the 20-minute mark, Rapoza fired back with a 7.10 and overtook the lead forcing Lindblad to earn a 6.71 as the San Clemente competitor dropped an excellent 8.67 in the exchange to regain the lead heading into the final minutes.

In the dying seconds, Lindblad utilized his priority to keep Rapoza off an opportunity, but one last wave came in to offer Rapoza an opportunity. Rapoza's combination of a turn-to-air-reverse nearly garnered the requirement, but fell just short of claiming his second-career QS win and Lindblad emerged victorious.

"I'm just really stoked and it was a hard road for sure," said Lindblad. "Finally paid off. I have a bunch of family friends here who are pretty much my family and if I'm not surfing T-Street or Lowers, I'm surfing here so it's pretty special. It was really special (to ride a horse for my first chair-up). This is a confidence boost just with the guys who were here will be at the bigger events left so I'm really excited to get going."

Lindblad overpowered an all-San Clemente, Quarterfinal affair against an in-form Kade Matson before unleashing his backhand attack to accrue a brilliant, 14.77 heat total in the Semifinals against another San Clemente standout Hagan Johnson. Now, the 19-year-old prepares for a big conclusion to the North America regional season for his opportunity to break into the Challenger Series.

Sanoa and Mathea A history day for Sanoa (L) and Mathea Dempfle-Olin (CAN) as the first siblings to compete in a North America QS Final since 2006. - WSL / RunAmuck Photography

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin broke through into Finals Day and made it count, making her first-ever QS Final after taking down Santa Cruz, California's, Maddie Storrer in stellar form. The Tofino, Canada, competitor garnered one of the best scores of Finals Day with a 7.67 on her forehand attack to solidify the heat win. With her first Final now in her resume, the 17-year-old Dempfle-Olin looks to carry that momentum forward.

"Making it to the Final was so exciting and to see my sister make it to the Final was a dream come true," said Dempfle-Olin. "I was going to be happy no matter what even though I definitely wanted to win, she got me in that one so hopefully we have more QS Finals together (laughs). I have a busy year ahead with Florida coming up and I'm not sure about Barbados just yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to starting next year off at the Jack's Surfboards event."

Nolan Rapoza (USA) Nolan Rapoza (USA) went down swinging, earning the day's highest single-wave score of a 8.83 in the Semifinals. - WSL / RunAmuck Photography Scherer

Long Beach, California's, Nolan Rapoza fought to the very end of his Morro Bay campaign and nearly walked away with his first-ever QS win on home soil, already earning a win in Arica, Chile. The 2022 Challenger Series standout had to overcome a hefty Finals Day draw including aerial threat Ryan Huckabee in their Quarterfinal bout before taking on Jake Davis in a stout Semifinal clash. Now, Rapoza sets his eyes on the 2022/23' QS conclusion and requalifying for the Challenger Series.

"It feels really good and I wasn't nervous in the Final just knowing that Taj was going to put up a really good fight so I just wanted to try give him back a couple punches," said Rapoza. "He had me against the ropes most of that heat and felt like that last opportunity wasn't quite it but it was a fun battle. My confidence has always been there, it's just about being physically and mentally prepared with the amount of events that go back-to-back. Now I'll recharge and get ready for the last few events."

The North America QS season continues at the Ron Jon Quiksilver and Roxy Pro QS 1,000, and Pro Junior beginning March 8 - 12.

North America Talents Clash to Determine Finals Draws

Finals Day draws are set at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope, a men's and women's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, after critical matchups unfolded in two-to-four foot swell at Morro Rock. Men's Round of 32 and 16, along with women's Round of 16 and Quarterfinals witnessed some of North America's top-tier competitors clash to make their way into the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively.

Kade Matson Flirts With Near-Perfection, SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Finals Day Ready
The San Clemente, California competitor Kade Matson garnered an event-best, 9.65 in his Round of 16 performance for a Quarterfinal appearance.

San Clemente, California, standouts continued their tear through the Round of 32 with the likes of Kade Matson, Cole Houshmand, Jett Schilling, and Crosby Colapinto all taking heat wins as Matson's 15.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total stood as the benchmark of the round. Matson followed up his masterful performance with a near-perfect 9.65 (out of a possible 10) and equaled his 15.50 once more to earn his way into the Quarterfinals as he looks to earn his maiden QS victory.

"That was fun, I kind of started off with a shocker and then I waited," said Matson. "I told myself I wouldn't go unless a good wave comes and I was stoked it let me get a few turns. I just feel really good and I'm stoked for Finals Day, and definitely a little chip on my shoulder that I haven't won a QS so it'd be great to win one close to home."

Colapinto also earned his way into the Quarterfinals alongside San Clemente's Taj Lindblad as both Houshmand and Schilling were eliminated in their Round of 16 battles.

Hagan Johnson Soars To Career Best, Quarterfinal Appearance At Morro Bay
The 20-year-old Hagan Johnson launched himself into a 9.25 and his first-ever QS Quarterfinal appearance.

San Clemente's standouts continued with Hagan Johnson posting near-perfection of his own on a mind-blowing, full rotation aerial. The 20-year-old earned his first-ever Quarterfinal appearance with his 9.25 and 14.75 heat total over a stacked affair featuring Lindblad, Schilling, and in-form Jordy Collins as he now looks to make his mark on Finals Day.

"It felt amazing just to start a heat like that because it's just the best feeling to set yourself up for success and stoked to land that air," said Johnson. "I was just going out to surf and had the thought of doing an air and that first wave came to me, and I just had to do it. It means a lot to be into the Quarters and hopefully I can take it all the way."

Also notching massive Round of 16 wins, Ryan Huckabee soared into the Quarterfinals for the first time this season.

McCaffray Steamrolls Into Semis, Dempfle-Olin Sisters Thrive
Ella McCaffray Smashes Her Way Into SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope Semifinals
Encinitas, California's, own Ella McCaffray steam rolled her way to a 14.65 heat total in her Quarterfinal matchup with Noah Klapp.

Women's Quarterfinal action followed impressive showings in their Round of 16 battles with breakthrough performances from Noah Klapp, earning a 15.60 heat total, with Mathea Dempfle-Olin right behind her, as well as Avery McDonald helping eliminate defending event victor Sage Erickson.

Maiden Semifinal appearances for Santa Cruz, Caifornia's, Maddie Storrer and Tofino, Canada's, Sanoa Dempfle-Olin kicked off the Quarterfinals in great form. But, it was Ella McCaffray who stole the show once more with an excellent, 8.00 on her dominant backhand attack over Klapp. This marks McCaffray's third-consecutive Semifinal appearance at Morro Bay as she looks for her second-career, QS Final.

"That felt so great and I'm stoked to be back in the Semis and this is my third year making the Semifinals so hopefully I can go a little bit more," said McCaffray. "It's a huge confidence booster and the surf is super fun so I'm looking forward to surfing more heats. I knew I was going to have to put up some good scores because (Noah Klapp) put up 15-points in her last heat so I knew I needed to bring my A-game."

Mathea Dempfle-Olin Seals Second-Career Semifinal Appearance At SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope
Canada's rising threat Mathea Dempfle-Olin earned her way into the Semifinals as her sister, Sanoa, sits on the other side of the draw.

The eldest of the Dempfle-Olin sisters, Mathea, took over her Quarterfinal affair against an in-form Avery McDonald (USA). This marks both Dempfle-Olin siblings' first Semifinal at the QS level as they have competed against each other growing up, and now could meet in the Final. Mathea's 14.65 heat total in the Round of 16 was bested only by Klapp as the Canadian now prepares for Final Day.

"The waves were better today than I thought it was going to be," said Dempfle-Olin. "I was super stoked to get out there and it's just been fun watching all the people compete. I've definitely been trying to make a Final and win a QS so I'd definitely be really happy to achieve that goal."

Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. PST to determine a possible 8:00 a.m. PST start to competition.

Watch LIVE

The SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope will open on February 23 and hold a competition window through February 26, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.

Men's and Women's Top Seeds Surge

Competitors overpowered the elements at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope, with strong winds and rain squalls making their way into California's central coast. Three-to-four foot swell provided diamonds in the rough that the remaining men's top seeds in the Round of 64, Heats 9 - 16, and women's Round of 40 and 32 contenders were able to post impressive performances on. Now, the fields have dwindled and competition heads into the weekend with stacked draws awaiting.

Ella McCaffray Makes Her Mark At SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope
The rising QS threat Ella McCaffray dropped a Round of 32 best, 14.25 heat total in a dominant debut.

One of Southern California's rising QS threats, Ella McCaffray, displayed a forehand clinic to post a Round of 32 best, 14.25 (out of a possible 20) heat total and single-wave score of 7.75 (out of a possible 10). The Encinitas, California, competitor is on the hunt for her maiden WSL victory and showed she's up to the task in Morro Bay's challenging, cold waters with an in-form Eden Walla right behind her after her Round of 40 display.

"It feels really good to the start the event with a heat win and a good heat," said McCaffray. "The surf was super fun and hopefully the conditions get better or stay the same. It's really nice to get some experience and I've gotten third the past two years here so I'm looking to go a little better."

Autumn Hays Sets The Scale In SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope Debut
A showcase of forehand and backhand attack led to a 13.25 heat total for Santa Cruz's Autumn Hays.

Women's competition ramped up with Walla laying down the standard in the Round of 40, but QS threat Autumn Hays raised the bar even more with her Round of 32, Heat 1 debut. The Santa Cruz, California, competitor earned an impressive 13.25 heat total, including a 7.00 on one, vicious backhand turn. Hays looks for a breakthrough result to earn some momentum heading into the final events of her 2022/23' run.

"I was stoked to drop to good scores in the first five minutes," said Hays. "I thought I was just going to keep building and getting better scores, but honestly I was struggling to find waves out there. It would be awesome to get a big result here and I don't really have too much pressure on myself."

Joining Hays into the Round of 16, defending event winner Sage Erickson took down her Round of 32 heat alongside Noah Klapp, Hana Johnson, Mathea Dempfle-Olin, Talia Swindal, and Vela Mattive.

Levi Slawson, Jake Davis Surge to Close Out Round of 96
Levi Slawson Weathers The Storm In SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope
Rain squalls were not an issue for Levi Slawson as he dropped an impressive 13.50 heat total in tough conditions.

The men's Round of 64 witnessed the remaining top-seeded competitors make their debuts and they didn't disappoint with Levi Slawson posting the day's best performance. The recent SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach runner-up, and Pro Junior victor, took to his backhand attack to earn a near-excellent 7.50 and 13.50 heat total. The now 20-year-old is preparing for a big run to close out his 2022/23' season and started in winning form at Morro Bay.

"It's one of the best sandbars I've gotten at Morro Bay so whenever I can get on a good wave I just try to finish all my waves," said Slawson. "For the first round I just wanted to make it through and then get out of this rain. It should be nice the next couple days so I'm excited."

Jake Davis' Dream Comeback, Goes Excellent In SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay Hosted By Surfing For Hope
The San Clemente, California, competitor dropped an 8.50 when he needed it most as his incredible return to competition continues to yield early success.

A San Clemente, California, grudge match unraveled with one of the region's best, Crosby Colapinto, taking on Cannon Carr and Jake Davis, alongside Quaid Fahrion. Carr's quick start put his competitors against the ropes, but Colapinto earned an excellent 8.00 to take the lead. However, Davis took advantage of a priority error from Carr and found a gem underneath the young competitor as Davis unleashed his forehand for the day's best single-wave score of an 8.50 and the heat win.

"That always happens, it seems like you always end up in a heat with your friends that you're staying with," said Davis. "I actually had a pretty rough heat there at the beginning, I just couldn't find rhythm or waves. Cannon (Carr) gave me that wave at the end and I'll take it. I feel like I've been getting pretty good waves in my heats, but I think there's a new one coming and I can feel it."

Also making their debuts in winning form, former event victor Taro Watanabe heads into the Round of 32 alongside Nolan Rapoza, Ryland Rubens, Sam Coffey, and Cory Arrambide as an upset from Luke Guinaldo bested defending event winner Kei Kobayashi, also advancing, and eliminating former event runner-up David do Carmo.

Event organizers will reconvene 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 Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope will open on February 23 and hold a competition window through February 26, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app.

Opening Day: Top Seeds Stamp Authority In Debuts

Competitors were treated to brilliant opening day conditions with three-to-five foot swell providing high-performance moments throughout the men's Round of 96 and Round of 64, Heats 1 - 8, with women's competition called OFF for the day. Scattered upsets gave way to dominant displays from the top seeds as the rest await their start.

Taj Lindblad Leads San Clemente Strike, Excellent Heat Total To Start SLO CAL Open At Morro Bay
A surge of San Clemente standouts lit up opening day at the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope with Taj Lindblad's 16.30 heat total leading the charge.

Top seeds came out firing with Taj Lindblad leading the charge, accruing an excellent, 16.33 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The San Clemente, California, competitor surged through his debut on a decimating forehand attack, showcasing his variety and power, to earn a day's best 8.65 (out of a possible 10). Lindblad looks for his breakthrough result here at Morro Bay and kickstart the back half of his 2022/23' season.

"There a little nerves, but I'm stoked to get a few waves," said Lindblad. "The rights were really fun going into the [rocks], I watched Kade Matson's heats and he was ripping so it got inspired to do the same. It's so sick, I love the boys and there's too many to name (laughs), but it's really fun and everyone's down for everyone's heat."

Cole Houshmand (USA) Cole Houshmand (USA) decimated his debut with his aggressive forehand attack. - WSL / RunAMuck Photography Scherer

Fellow San Clemente standouts Kade Matson and Cole Houshmand added to Lindblad's success with dominant displays of their own, respectively. Houshmand's forehand lit up the running lefthander to earn an excellent 8.25 and 7.50 as he hopes to rejoin the Challenger Series elite for the 2023 start later this year with big results to close out the season.

"Big shout to all the SC boys running strong and I really wanted to go left out there so I'm stoked it worked out," said Houshmand. "My main goal is to get on the Tour and get back on the Challenger Series this year. I feel like my surfing is ready for the Tour but just have to get through the grind and work on my heat strategy, and those little things."

Top seeds also notching clutch Round of 64 heat wins, current North America No. 1 Dimitri Poulos made his way into the Round of 32 alongside Jabe Swierkocki, and Wheeler Hasburgh as Hagan Johnson led the upset of opening day, besting John Mel and eliminating Tyler Gunter.

Alcides Lopes (BRA) Alcides Lopes found his form in his first-ever heat at Morro Bay, earning the first excellent score of the event. - WSL / Andrew Nichols

One of the Brazilians in attendance, residing in California and competing for the North America region, Alcides Lopes, delivered the Round of 96 stunner with his explosive backhand attack. Lopes earned the first excellent score of the event, unleashing three backhand turns with two critical maneuvers to garner an 8.00, and 13.00 heat total.

"It's been a fun journey traveling with the other Brazilian guys here, we train together too and it's a great time with them," said Lopes. "I'm happy with how much space there is to surf up here and it reminds me of my hometown back in Brazil. At this point I'm just trying to have fun, but I do want to win a QS. That's my biggest dream right now and I've worked hard so hopefully I can make it happen."

Also notching clutch Round of 96 wins, awaiting their Round of 64 debuts, Tony Nunez, Keanu Igarashi, Remy Juboori, Luke Guinaldo, Jake Davis, Max Beach, and Tao Rodriguez.

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

Watch LIVE

The SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay hosted by Surfing For Hope will open on February 23 and hold a competition window through February 26, 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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