2017 Shoe City Pro Photos

kanoa igarashi wins shoe city pro 2017

Kanoa Igarashi Opens Up 2017 with Another Shoe City Pro Title

Less than two years ago, Kanoa Igarashi was just beginning to climb the Qualifying Series ranks with his first-ever win at the Shoe City Pro. On Sunday, the full cycle was completed with a masterful second title as a hometown favorite in the 2017 edition of the Shoe City Pro QS1,000.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“It’s amazing when you set your eyes on something and get to accomplish it — this year couldn’t have started better. I’ve gotten to spend some time with my family and the people I love with a chance to do the contest so I’m feeling really good mentally and physically. Winning this contest the first time I was an underdog and got on a roll as a young kid not thinking I was going to win it. It’s crazy coming back two years later as a favorite with different kind of pressures, but getting that chair up the beach was like déjà vu.”

Kanoa Igarashi wins the 2017 apss shoe city pro

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

It was no easy road for Kanoa Igarashi who posted the event’s highest single-scoring wave of a 9.50 in the Semifinals over an in-form Ian Crane before moving into his final bout with event dark horse and giant killer, Takumi Nakamura. Although Kanoa’s win is just a stepping-stone for his 2017 season on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT), the stacked field of QS warriors was more than enough to keep him on his toes.

“I know these guys are Top 100 surfers and they were going to come out hungry since it’s a regional event. It means a lot to them in that way which makes them even more dangerous, but at the end of the day I came to compete and give it my all. I’m just excited to come away with a win here and get everything started off right.”

Runner-up Takumi Nakamura couldn’t have dreamt a better start to his 2017 campaign — not losing a single heat until Round Five where he earned runner-up behind Brett Simpson. But the Japan native got his payback with a Semifinal win over Simpson before taking on Kanoa Igaraashi in the Final. Nakamura finished at No. 133 on the QS last year and will be looking to build a lot of confidence, and momentum, out of this placing to start the year.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“I’m so happy to have made that final after battling with one of the top seeds here, there’s no other way I would’ve liked to have done it. Matching up with Kanoa Igarashi in the Final was incredible and so stoked to have put up a fight against him. That was an incredible experience surfing against two CT guys back-to-back and helped get some confidence moving forward into the rest of the year.”

Nakamura’s excellent choice of waves eliminated the hometown crowd’s chance of witnessing two of their own go head-to-head as Brett Simpson’srun was ended in the Semifinals after a great event. The two traded three showdowns with Nakamura coming out 2-1. But Simpson’s outlook remains bright and light-hearted as he prepares to make his requalification hopes a reality by season’s end.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“It’s always a little frustrating to lose right before the Final, especially because I wanted to surf against Kanoa so bad — would’ve been super fun way to end this one. I felt good rhythm throughout this event and it was great to get some heat cardio in. You can freesurf all you want and feel good, but when you’re in a heat, your heart’s pounding the whole time and it takes all of your focus.

Ian Crane fell victim to Kanoa Igarashi’s sweep of the Shoe City Pro, but not before taking some big scalps of his own — including 2016 North America QS Champ Kilian Garland in Round 5. With the first event out of the way and an equal 3rd to boast, Crane now has his eyes set on a fully loaded spring to start the year.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“It was great to feel like I was being smart out there and to put that into a heat. Now I’ll get set for a trip up the coast with O’Neil and stoked on that to get my mind in the right space before heading over to the Volcom Pipe Pro. It’s good to get this first event in and test the waters to see what I’m doing right, and what I’m doing wrong. Definitely not happy I lost and I’m ready to go after another contest with some fire.”

-WSL / Andrew Nichols

Chelsea Tuach’s Back on Top with a Shoe City Pro 2017 Victory

Chelsea Tuach found her way back the the top of the podium after falling off the CT last season. The Bajan came into the Shoe City Pro QS1,000 looking to find her form again and did just that — posting the highest single-wave score of the women’s event with a 9.00 in the Quarterfinals. Tuach now preps for a massive year ahead of her with this nice win to build from.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“It feels so good to start off the year with a win after feeling a lot of nerves at the end of last year so this is amazing,” Tuach said. “It was great to surf my way through some rounds and I had a lot of confidence going into that final already having a few heats under my belt. I felt like I was in a good rhythm with a good game plan and it all fell into place, just like old times.”

“I’ll stay in California for awhile and get some training in while working on some boards with Matt Barron before heading over to Australia for those QS6,000’s,” Tuach continued. “I’ll be working on my technique more than anything — no heat strategy, nothing like that, just get my form really dialed in. I’m feeling fresh again for those events which feels great and can’t wait to get the year really off and running.”

Event wildcard Samantha Sibley took full advantage of the opportunity given to her all the way to the Final and finished runner-up. The 14-year-old kept her dream run alive with a massive performance in the Semifinals, topping Tuach, and then getting off to an early lead before the Bajan responded. Still just a Junior Tour competitor, Sibley will keep her main ambition there with plenty of time to grow.

Photo – Mike Moir

“I’m so stoked and had no expectations coming into this event — my goal was just to make it through my first heat, but to get runner-up is awesome,” Sibley said. “I was totally not expecting any of this to happen and can’t believe it right now. This event got such good waves with yesterday being perfect and today it was a bit more tricky, but still so fun.”

Last year’s runner-up, Tia Blanco, found herself in another Shoe City Pro Final but couldn’t keep pace with her early performances during the last heat of the event. Blanco’s aiming much higher than her Top 20 finish on the QS Rankings last year and knows this is just a step in the right direction.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“I think being selective throughout this event got me into that final, but I could’ve been more selective in that last heat. I’m really looking forward to Australia now and this was great practice for the upcoming bigger events.”

Kaliegh Gilchrist has transitioned from being a 2016 Gold Medalist at the Rio Games for Water Polo to a full-time QS competitor and started the year off right where she wanted to be — competing for a Shoe City Pro title. Despite falling shy of the win, Gilchrist’s ambitions are nothing short of what you would expect from an Olympian and prepares for a big 2017 after nearly six years away from competitive surfing.

Photo – Jackson Van Kirk

“It was grindy out there but couldn’t be more stoked with my first QS final — it’s exactly how I wanted to start the year even though the competitor in me is frustrated with a fourth-place finish. It lights a fire under me to just train harder and I’ve got a great crew around me with Simmo [Ryan Simmons] and DSC Training so this is the best opportunity I’ve been given.”

– WSL / Andrew Nichols

Storm clears, surf’s up as first pro event of year brings big names to Huntington Beach

The rain stopped, the skies cleared and the waves were pumping.

The kickoff to the competitive surf year didn’t disappoint Friday as athletes battled it out south of the Huntington Beach Pier at the Shoe City Pro, the first stop on the World Surf League qualifying series. Waves were in the 4- to 5-foot range to open the three-day event.

“We luck out every year,” said contest organizer Scott Waring, who said it was pouring rain on workers Thursday as they set up tents on the sand. “It was glassy through the day and sunny. It was awesome.”

The event isn’t a big one for points but draws some big names. Current World Tour competitor and Huntington Beach native Kanoa Igarashi hit the water Friday, warming up for his second year on tour to compete against the world’s best.

Expected to surf today is former World Tour surfer Brett Simpson, who at the same spot won U.S. Open of Surfing titles in 2009 and 2010.

In total, 96 men and 32 women are competing.

When the women hit the water today, Newport Beach’s Kaleigh Gilchrist, part of the gold medal U.S. water polo team at last year’s Olympics, will be competing with a renewed focus, trying to get into the 2020 Olympic Games – this time as a surfer.

Gilchrist, who grew up surfing competitively, won this event in 2014. While she’s done a few contests since bringing home the gold about five months ago, this event kicks off her 2017 campaign as a pro surfer.

“It’s kind of the best possible situation I have, with not too much pressure,” she said. “I’ve been training; it will be a good kick-starter for the first contest of the year.”

She watched Friday as close friend and fellow Newport surfer Victor Done won his heat. She resisted the temptation to surf herself out.

“I was kind of jealous. I’m trying to be conscious about my body and preparing for competitions – it looks so fun, but I knew I’d be exhausted for tomorrow,” she said.