In dramatic fashion, Liv Stokes and Richie Cravey emerged victorious at the Coastal Edge Steel Pier Classic presented by Katin, a North America Regional Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) 1,000, after overcoming formidable fields at Virginia Beach's 1st Street Jetty. This marks Stokes and Cravey's maiden WSL wins after constant weather issues nearly witnessed the event be canceled. With his win, Cravey also claimed the 2023 North America Regional Longboard Title alongside event runner-up Avalon Gall as both earn their place on the 2023 Longboard Tour (LT) to vie for a World Title.
A weekend of high winds and rough weather, the event surged through a one-day marathon Finals Day. The women's Final featured some of the region's best including Liv Stokes, Avalon Gall, Chloe Coleman, and Luella Pace. Stokes got off to a quick start alongside her competitors, but a major exchange between Stokes and Gall garnered an impressive 7.30 (out of a possible 10) to put herself in a great position. Gall's response earned her a 6.00 before a final attempt fell just short with Stokes claiming her first WSL win in her maiden WSL Final appearance.
"I'm so stoked and feel like I've worked really hard for this," said Stokes. "I went into the season a dead last at Pismo Beach which was disheartening so I just came to this event looking to have fun. I saw this Log Rap clip from here last year and it looked super sick so I decided to come get some waves. This gives me a lot of confidence and it's encouraging me to jump on the Longboard Qualifying Series next season."
Stoke's pace through Finals Day allowed her to gain momentum, advancing through a clutch Quarterfinal heat before again advancing through an all-important Semifinal. By making the Final, Stokes kept her goal of becoming North America Regional Longboard Champion alive with a victory. But, Gall's runner-up finish was enough to stay ahead of Stokes by 250 points as the California duo finished ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
The men's Final provided the day's best performance from Richie Cravey as he took on wildcard threat Saxon Wilson alongside emerging competitors Chase Lieder and Gavin Idone. Wilson and Cravey went wave-for-wave, showcasing their ability to find noserides in tough conditions and combine them with fluid turns as both accrued an 11.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total by the halfway mark. But, the advantage went to Cravey with his 7.50 before finding an absolute gem in the dying minutes and garnering an excellent 8.67 to post the best single-wave score and heat total, a 16.17, en route to his first-ever WSL victory.
"Coming out with a win is more than I could ask for," said Cravey. "I was a little nervous coming here after Pismo Beach knowing the talent level. And as it turns out I think I qualified for the 2023 Longboard Tour so I'm just stoked."
Cravey's dream run through Finals Day started with a Round of 40 and Quarterfinal victory before a Semifinal showdown forced him to dig deep for a Final's appearance. The Cardiff, California, competitor held his No. 1 spot on the rankings throughout the day into the Final, his second-consecutive appearance, and finished atop the North America rankings. Now, Cravey prepares for the world's best later this year in his Longboard Tour debut.
"I've wanted to surf against [the Longboard Tour] guys for a long time," added Cravey. "There's a lot of good surfers in the world and the WSL events tend cultivate some of those surfers. They're not just great surfers, they're great competitors and competing is different than just surfing. So to be able to compete with the world's best feels really good."
Gall's runner-up result earned her the 2023 North America Regional Longboard Title after a Quarterfinal finish in Pismo Beach and powering her way through Finals Day in Virginia Beach. The Laguna Beach, California, competitor kicked off her run to the Final with a Quarterfinal victory before earning an advancing position behind Pace in their Semifinal bout. With Stokes winning, Gall had to earn nothing less than runner-up to avoid a tie with Stokes and a possible surf-off. But, Gall held firm and is set to rejoin the world's best after falling off in 2022.
"I'm so happy and super blessed to be here with everybody, and to go on Tour with all my friends again is the best experience," said Gall. "I'm super excited for this year and an opportunity to see new places, I'm super grateful. I definitely can get better and have some things to work on, but it was a great experience and every contest you get to learn from each time."
Wildcard threat and freesurfing notable Saxon Wilsonearned his first-ever WSL Finals appearance, and runner-up in the process. While competing isn't at the forefront of Wilson's ambitions, the Floridian is always a threat when putting on the jersey and showcased that once more as Katin's wildcard pick after dismantling regional standouts Jack Van Wagoner and Longboard Tour veteran Kevin Skvarna.
"I was stoked, it's different than the other years with the competition raised by the WSL surfers," said Wilson. "It was amazing seeing Gavin Idone making the Final with me, he's been doing this event for awhile now. The team did an amazing job running this event, overall amazing time just making things work. It gave me some confidence to maybe do the LQS next year and try to do some events."
The Coastal Edge Steel Pier Classic presented by Katin concludes the North America Regional Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) 2022/23' season. Now, the world's best will begin their chase for the World Title on the Longboard Tour later this year.