An impressive showing from remaining top-seeded women and first appearances from the men’s top seeds electrified the beach at the WRV Outer Banks Pro pres. by Pacifico. Competitors’ determination were tested once again with a slight uptick in swell, but finding the right opportunities pushed surfers to their best.
2014 victor and 2021/22′ North America QS Regional Champion Michael Dunphy found his form once again in a jaw-dropping debut, posting a 14.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total, and backed it up with a Round of 32 victory. Falling just short of another win at home in Virginia Beach, Dunphy is harnessing his East Coast upbringing to overcome the small conditions.
“Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve surfed a lot of waves like this my whole life (laughs),” said Dunphy. “It kind of comes natural to find the good ones that give me what I need to get through. If I’m going to put a jersey on, I’m going to want to win it. It may take some extra motivation, but I’m here and I’ve won it before so I’m stoked to be back into Finals Day.”
For the small conditions on offer, all 210lbs of Cole Houshmand couldn’t be stopped as he bashed his way through two critical heat wins to get back into the Quarterfinals for the first time since Morro Bay earlier this year. The San Clemente, California competitor has his focus on the Challenger Series but knows the importance of these QS 1000s.
“I had a rough go in Virginia and they’re putting me to the test here, but it’s fun and I always believe I can surf small waves well,” said Houshmand. “I find it exciting even though it’s not ideal conditions, but any heat make is a heat make. These events are the ones I’m looking to take some confidence from, my goal is to qualify for the CT being on the Challenger Series and I’m ready to give that everything.”
Ventura, California’s Jabe Swierkocki found his way into back-to-back Quarterfinals to capitalize on his East Coast leg. Swierkocki already has one East Coast victory to his name, the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro Junior, and found his form once more to secure himself within the Challenger Series qualification cutline heading into Finals Day.
“We’re all in the same boat and I’m stoked to find a little rhythm out there today, continuing it from Virginia Beach,” said Swierkocki. “I’m just continuing that mentality, not taking it too seriously, and just trying to do my surfing. We had Jack’s Surfboards Pro, then a break to get that training in before these two events so I’m stoked to find myself in a good place heading into the next little break but I’m ready for tomorrow first.”
Noah Klapp Breaks Through, Chelsea Tuach Returns to Quarters In Round of 32 Conclusion
The day’s action started with women’s Round of 32, Heats 5-8 finishing off their respective top-seeded competitors’ debuts.
Noah Klapp put on a clinic of backhand surfing to accrue a 13.35 heat total over current North America No. 6 Kirra Pinkerton, also advancing, and moved into the Quarterfinals once more following Virginia Beach. The 18-year-old newcomer has demonstrated her ability to perform in an array of conditions and now looks for a career-best Semifinal appearance.
“I’m stoked I got some scores out there and I like that they are scoring on the single, big turns,” said Klapp. “It felt good to really lay into one and I was trying not to break my fin box on the sand (laughs). I’m just trying to qualify for the Challenger Series, this is my second season on the QS and just trying my best.”
Barbados’ former Championship Tour (CT) elite, Chelsea Tuach, found her way to a clutch Round of 32 heat win and heads right back into Finals Day. The now 26-year-old continues to show her determination and grit when conditions get touch, and looks for a big finish to the East Coast leg.
“Its been great to restart the Qualifying Series and get a bit of momentum going,” said Tuach. “I’ve had a tough start to the Challenger Series and making heats here gives me confidence to try and get on a roll through this event and Oceanside. I’m so happy to be starting out on the East Coast too, I feel connected to the place and the waves because it feels like coming from the Caribbean we’re part of the East Coast family.”
Finals Day call, 8:30 a.m. EDT for a possible 9:00 a.m. EDT start.
Day 3 Recap: Women Smash Their Debuts, Men Overpower Their Round of 96 Starts
The WRV Outer Banks Pro pres. by Pacifico continued to power through men’s action, finishing the Round of 96, before moving into women’s debuts in their Round of 48 and top-seeded Round of 32, Heats 1-4, battles. Competitors’ determination was tested once more and having the right mindset was a necessity when putting on the jersey. Now, the weekend draws are set with men’s top seeds ready to make their debuts.
Women’s Top-Seeds Debut
One of the region’s top, emerging competitors Bella Kenworthy made her presence known in her return to Jennette’s Pier. The San Clemente, California surfer earned a Quarterfinal appearance her in 2021 and dropped an excellent 8.17 (out of a possible 10), event-best, with a searing forehand combination. But, the 15-year-old has plenty left in the tank to try and best her result from last year.
“It was nice to get that first heat over with and it’s actually pretty fun out there,” said Kenworthy. “I was a little stressed because I waited awhile for that wave to come through so it felt really good to get a score like that after the wait. I really just want to surf my best every heat and be in the moment, hopefully it gets me to the end.”
Current North America No. 2 Alyssa Spencer continued her winning form with an impressive Round of 32, debut heat win. The defending event victor has her eyes set on more Outer Banks glory and showed that determination with an aggressive forehand attack to overcome Round of 48 standout Ellie Barimo, Kaleigh Gilchrist, and newcomer Alana Lopez, also advancing.
“It’s been crazy waking up and not seeing any waves around the contest and then waking up to finally seeing something today,” said Spencer. “It was still pretty brutal and those girls were ripping, Ellie (Barimo) was dropping an 8 in her first heat and I was a little nervous because I haven’t even freesurfed near the event yet (laughs). I was just hoping to find a wave to open up on so I’m happy.”
Men’s East Coast Competitors Hold It Down
Florida’s Ryan Huckabee helped push the East Coast representation up a notch with a brilliant showing in his Round of 96 debut. The now 18-year-old looks to continue growing within the jersey and earned a solid 13.23 heat total. But, Huckabee has his goals set higher than just a few heats this season.
“I haven’t been too confident in the last few events, dealing with another injury this year, and it’s super hard to get going in small waves,” said Huckabee. “But, I’m just grinding through and I fell way short of my goal last year which was to make the Challenger Series, but that’s still the goal this year and hopefully I can make it deep in some events.”
Kitty Hawk, Outer Banks’ own Bo Raynor showed his knowledge of the sandbars and delivered a big debut win for his hometown crowd. The 22-year-old returns from a hiatus away from competition and found himself advancing through heats in Virginia, but now made his way back to winning heats for a momentum shift in his mindset.
“It feels good to get a heat win after I felt like I was getting second in Virginia a lot, which works to, but to get that win is nice,” said Raynor. “Everyone’s dealing with the same thing and I feel like it could be worse. It’s entertaining in its own way and it’ll be a good event, just have to keep that positivity going.”
Fellow Outer Banks competitor Quentin Turko also switched on for a big advancement into the Round of 64 as they look to continue representing for their local crowds.
The East Coast garnered more representation with the likes of Tucker Collins smashing his Round of 96 affair as well.
Brazilians Return in Tearing Form Once More, Costa Ricans Keep Momentum Full Throttle
Round of 112 standouts Tomas King and Malakai Martinez continued to represent for their home country of Costa Rica with the duo earning big Round of 96 wins to keep their winning form intact. Martinez accumulate the event’s highest heat total thus far with a 15.43 as he looks to make his mark further into the event.
Each year, the Brazilian contingent make their way down to the Outer Banks and showcase their world-renowned comradery – this time with Davi Toledo, Alcides Lopes, Wesley Santos and Alex Lima leading the way.
Toledo bested Deane in their matchup with Californians Curran Dand and Hagan Johnson. The now San Clemente, California resident will celebrate his brother Filipe’s return to the Rip Cur WSL Finals, but has business to handle first as he garnered a 7.17 and a 7.33 for the day’s best heat total, a 14.50 in his Round of 96 debut win.
“The other Brazilian boys and I rented a car last-minute to get down here,” said Toledo. “We showed up and it was small so we went further south to get some surfs in, but it’s a different wave then here so then we started getting mentally and physically ready for here. I want to thank God, my family, my girlfriend back home, and all my sponsors, as well as all the people here, we have that Brazilian flag flying high.”
Next call, 7:00 a.m. EDT.
The WRV Outer Banks Pro pres. by Pacifico will run August 31 – September 4 at Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina.
Opening Day: Tough Conditions Test North American Contingent
The Qualifying Series (QS) puts competitors to the test year in, and year out, and today’s conditions at the WRV Outer Banks Pro pres. by Pacifico made them earn each score dealt. One-foot swell pushed into Jennette’s Pier lineup and the men’s Round of 112 hunted down their moments to shine. Women’s competition was called OFF for the day with the next call set for 7:00 a.m. EDT.
Costa Rica’s Tomas King found the day’s best opportunities to start his campaign on the right path, delivering a 13.44 (out of a possible 20) heat total and 7.67 (out of a possible 10), both the day’s best, with his dynamic forehand. The 26-year-old is fresh off a brilliant, Semifinal finish at the Vans Pro QS 3000 and showed he’s up to the task at hand in his Outer Banks debut. (Full interview in video)
“I just had a positive mindset coming into this event,” said King. “You have to do the best with what there is. Hopefully by the end of the waiting period we’ll have some fun waves, but until then you just have to make that heat.”
Fellow Costa Rican Malakai Martinez also delivered in his debut, posting a 7.17 in the process, after shaking off an early loss at the Vans Pro. Martinez has taken the time to prepare away from contests and now he looks to turn that into results.
“I was just trying to get a couple waves and get out of my heat,” said Martinez. “I don’t know how I got a few turns off, but I pulled it off. I’m super stoked to keep going and try to build off some momentum from here.”
East Coast competitor Kepa Mendia brought his knowledge of small-wave competing to the Outer Banks from his home in Florida and posted an impressive 6.83. The QS newcomer is just beginning to scratch the surface of competitive surfing, but is utilizing his ability to adapt brilliantly and now finds himself into the Round of 96.
“It’s so good to get that first heat out of the way, the waves were so tough but everyone is surfing the same thing,” said Mendia. “I’m starting to figure it out and these are still the biggest events I’ve ever done. This was the first QS I did last year and Virginia Beach was my second so just getting into the groove.”