The prestige of California’s Huntington Beach Pier speaks for itself, with competitions held on its shores each of the last six decades spanning back to the inaugural U.S. Championships in 1959. Last year’s inaugural Jack’s Surfboards Pro is back to help carry the torch March 23 – 25 as a men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500 event and will have a live webcast from start to finish.
For the men’s QS, this iconic stretch of break is becoming a second home — now with three events in two consecutive years held there. It’s a welcomed opportunity for those looking to keep the jersey on between major events, and can also provide a Top 10 keeper as a win, and help push new talents up the rankings early on.
One of Huntington’s most revered competitors, Brett Simpson, is gearing up to get the jersey back on after taking a brief hiatus. This marks the two-time Vans US Open of Surfing victor and former Championship Tour (CT) surfer’s, first event of 2018 with a shift of priorities away from the competitive scene.
“I’ve just been doing some stuff at home with Hurley and the local groms around the community,” Simpson said. “It’s super cool for me to see the youth get fired up, and give them some knowledge of what I have learned over the years of traveling and competing. Getting back on tour isn’t the end all for me. I’m going to be doing some events, I’m not going to lie I’d be fired up if I got back there — but it’s not everything anymore.”
“I get a lot of joy out of [helping the groms],” Simpson added. “I know when I was young I would always ask a bunch of questions and just try to soak up anything I could from pros that I would interact with. That stuff is priceless. That’s what I want to share with our youth around here and help them get better at surfing and be even better people.”
Though Simpson may be shying away from the QS’s full-time grind, his goals haven’t changed when it comes down to a contest being held in his backyard. The 33-year-old keeps his blades sharp in every type of wave the beachbreak brings and his competitive experience goes unmatched when compared to the surfers in attendance.
“Every time I surf an event at home I want to win,” Simpson said. “I feel like I should just with how much time I surf out there. It doesn’t always work out that way, though I’ve had two monumental wins that put me on the world stage and helped me have an amazing career! So another win would be another notch on the belt. It’s going to be fun competing against some of these younger guys and hopefully, have a few competitive battles to get the juices flowing.”
Jack’s Surfboards celebrated its shop’s doors being open for 60 years with this event last year and the outpour of positive feedback from surfers, and the community helped push for the event’s return. Jack’s Surfboards co-owner Jamal Abdelmuti and event director Scott Waring received praise on all fronts — dubbing the contest set up a “mini Vans US Open.”
The 2018 edition’s list of competitors is one to be wary as it continues to draw in talent from around the globe — including defending winner, Brazilian Hizunome Bettero and his fellow countrymen, former CT competitor, Alex Ribeiro.
The Jack’s Surfboards Pro will run at the Huntington Beach Pier, California, March 23 – 25 and will be webcast LIVE.
Story by Andrew Nichols/WSL
After ten long years of chasing the Qualifying Series (QS) around the world, it was on the shores of Huntington Beach that Hizunome Bettero earned his first-ever win at the Jack’s Surfboards Pro QS1,500. It was an all-international Final affair that witnessed contest standout Arashi Kato earn runner-up — the Japanese surfer’s best result of his career as well. It was a marathon finals day that ran 17 heats, including the Final, with both Bettero and Kato surfing five heats to claim their honors over a stacked field of competitors.
Bettero was a known threat from his debut Round Three heat, and continued to build that reputation in Round Four with a dominant display of power surfing. The Ubatuba, Brazil-native used his veteran experience to finally breakthrough as an event champion and did so in convincingly. Kato proved to be a formidable opponent and did not give up in the Final til the last horn sounded, but Bettero got the best of each exchange with powerful forehand carves and his signature aerial attack to emerge victorious.
“I have no power left in me after an amazing day and I’m just so stoked to get my first win after ten years of being on the QS,” Bettero said. “It’s the best feeling ever. Sometimes you think it will never come, but if you keep fighting for it and really believe in yourself, God will give you a blessed day. I’ve gotten seconds and thirds, but there is no feeling like winning a competition that you give your everything to. I can’t believe this day is here.”
The Brazilian trampled through the Jack’s Surfboards Pro QS1,500 and took out former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Keanu Asing (HAW) along the way in Round Five where he earned the highest single-scoring wave of a 9.43 (out of a possible 10) — though he earned the day’s highest heat total just prior in Round Four, a 16.93 (out of a possible 20).
The Brazilian had a taste of the CT nearly a decade ago at the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro and came away with an Equal 17th behind Freddy Patacchia (HAW). With a Top 50 finish last year, Bettero has a spot in the highest-rated QS events in the first half of the year and wants to find his way to the Dream Tour as more than just a wildcard. With this result, Bettero just jumped 105 spots up the rankings to be current No. 26.
“I’m fully charging this year and trying to compete in all the QS10,000s that I can to give myself a shot at qualifying — I believe in myself,” Bettero added. “After this I’m feeling much more confident since I had two Round Two exits in Australia so I put my name in here and told myself that I have to do better than that. I know I can do better, but sometimes you deal with the ups and downs, and right now I’m feeling so blessed.”
Runner-up Arashi Kato began his campaign in Round Two of this event and began claiming scalps right away in Round Three — besting former CT competitors Brett Simpson and again in Round Four against Nate Yeomans. This marks Kato’s best finish on the QS thus far and now has steam heading back to his Chiba home in Japan.
“It feels so good to make a Final after dealing with injury last year and only being able to focus on the Japan events,” Kato said. “This year I have my focus on all of the QS and so stoked to have this opportunity to stay in the Top 100 for the re-seeding after the US Open. Today, surfing so many heats, I’m definitely tired, but that was great training for the year to come. I have so much confidence after beating guys like Brett Simpson from here at his homebreak so that’s an incredible feeling for me. With the QS6,000 at my break in Chiba, I’m just ready to go now and will put all my focus there.”
Dylan Goodale and Bettero met three times in this event with the Brazilian coming out on top each bout despite Goodale’s best efforts. Goodale progressed through this event under the radar until their Round Four heat where he posted an excellent 8.33, but it was Bettero who found a way to come out on top in the end. However, the Hawaiian’s performance was one to take note toward future events and a challenge he’s up for if the opportunities arise.
“I was really hoping that Semifinal was the heat I’d finally beat [Bettero], but I just made one priority error where I should’ve waited and that was the heat,” Goodale said. “It was great to get that good start in Round Four, but [Bettero] beat me there and that was kind of the pre-cursor for the rest of the day. I’ll just keep doing my thing and trying to gain exposure while doing some more of these events. It’s hard to do more events with all the travel involved so it’ll be great to see more events in North America and Hawaii start to come up.”
Fellow semifinalist, and 2016 North America QS Regional Champion, Kilian Garland had his work cut out for him in a Round Five superheat featuring Kiron Jabour, Torrey Meister, and Nate Yeomans. After coming out with a win in that heat, Garland looked poised for a big result, but it wasn’t to be as he fell to the eventual runner-up, Kato. But, the Santa Barbara, California-native has a big year planned with his first chance to contest in at least one QS10,000 this season in Ballito, South Africa.
“This was such a great event, we had good waves the whole weekend and it’s great to see more events come up in the region to help us get more results,” Garland said. “Last year I progressed further as the season went on so I’m hoping to catch that kind of rhythm again heading into South Africa. I’ll just be training around the Central Coast until then since I’ve heard there’s some powerful waves around Ballito and I want to get there early for a few events before the QS10,000. I’m feeling even better than I did last year so I’m looking forward to hopefully earning even more results.”
–WSL / Andrew Nichols
Top WQS seeds debut at Jack’s Surfboards Pro as Huntington Beach continued to fire on all cylinders with more pumping waves that lasted throughout the entire day of competition. Three-to-five foot, clean waves graced the competitors with a chance to showcase their style and power — and produce near-perfection. Rounds Two and Three were completed in their entirety and the top seeds debuted in phenomenal fashion.
No. 1 seed Torrey Meister displayed his dominance with near-perfection and earned a 9.77 in the pristine conditions on offer. The Big Island, Hawaii-native followed up with another excellent 8.80 to combo the field. Meister came to Huntington Beach following the Australian Open in Manly Beach, NSW, Australia and nearly ended his season with a scary fall in his heat.
“It feels really good to be here with some great waves, it’s probably the best Huntington I’ve ever surfed,” Meister said. “There’s a lot of power out here though, some soft spots, but that’s just Huntington and you have to have a trusty board — this is the board I rode at the US Open and felt really confident in my equipment.”
“In Manly I was just doing a backside turn and caught a rail, but when I fell my head hit the sand and I felt my neck pop really hard. It was actually the hardest I’ve hit my head surfing. I almost blacked out a little bit, but we went on hold again so I ran into the medical tent and he said it wasn’t broken. I tried to surf the rest of the heat, but was pretty blown out and then ended up in a neckbrace for a few days — it wasn’t broken though so I’m good.”
Matt Passaquindici represented his native break of Huntington Beach well and blasted two excellent scores, an 8.67 and 8.37, to overcome a stacked heat including Hawaii’s Eli Olson. Passaquindici’s only other QS event this year was earlier at the Shoe City Pro QS1,000, due to bothersome injury, where he earned an Equal 13th. But, the explosive surfer looked poised for a bigger result here at the Jack’s Surfboards Pro QS1,500.
“I just feel super comfortable out here and going through the motions like I would in a freesurf,” Passaquindici said. “Luckily Eli [Olson] split the first wave with me to give me that 8.67 on the left and I think that just set up the heat for me. [Jack’s] has been supporting me since day one and I’d love to give it back to them with a win. I see myself in the Top 100 and giving myself a shot at qualifying for the tour someday, but I just took advantage of this semester to get some units done since I had an injury. I still have big goals for myself and we’ll see what happens.”
Fellow Californian Jordy Collins came out victorious of an all goofyfooter match up after he went wave for wave against an in-form Manuel Selman, who posted a near-perfect 9.50, alongside Ryland Rubens and Jake Kelley. Collins has spent nearly his entire amateur career at Huntington Beach and showed that knowledge with an impressive showcase of forehand power by picking off two gems.
“I came down here and was pretty excited with everything that’s setup here, this is definitely one of the bigger 1,500s I’ve been to and the crowd on the beach motivates you to do that much better,” Collins said. “I know [Manuel Selman] and how hard he rips, and after I got that first 7 I started feeling a little comfortable — but then he got that 9.50 and made me realize you can’t be remotely comfortable out there. Even after I backed up my other score, I just knew one of those guys could blow up.
“I’ve always seen the guys who get to start in Round Three and skip a few rounds thinking how nice that must be, and now I get to do that. It’s really crazy and I’m stoked to start in the same round as them.”
But, it was Crosby Colapinto who continued the string of California wins, representing the surf-rich town of San Clemente, with an impressive victory over Nate Yeomans, Shuji Nishi, and an in-form Sebastian Williams. The 16-year-old has slowly begun making his way into the QS scene behind older brother Griffin and today was a huge step for the younger Colapinto.
“It definitely helps being a little bigger at a young age and surfing with older guys to work on my power, and my competitiveness,” Colapinto said. “We get really good waves at home so that helps a lot. I grew up surfing in my dad’s surf camp and he got me on a board when I was at least 3-years-old so that was really helpful as well. I’d like to continue school and get my high school diploma before chasing the QS with my dreams of qualifying for the Championship Tour.”
Some more big performances from top seeded surfers included Pat Gudauskas’s 15.27 heat total to start Round Three, and Keanu Asing’s impressive comeback after being charged with an interference right away and still winning with an 8.93 and 8.10 — his 8.10 was reduced by half.
On the international front, four other countries are well represented between Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and Chile with appearances on the final day of competition.
Tune in live tomorrow beginning at 8:00 a.m. PDT to see who takes the inaugural Jack’s Surfboards Pro QS1,500 crown.
–WSL / Andrew Nichols
Huntington season returns early this year and some heavy-hitters are locked in for the Jack’s Surfboard’s Pro Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500 at Huntington Beach March 31 – April 2. The inaugural event will include some of the QS’s best and earn an all-important 1,500 points early on to get their year underway.
Pat Gudauskas has plenty of experience on the shores of Huntington Beach with a 2016 Shoe City Pro QS1,000 title and past performances at the Vans US Open. The Jack’s Surfboards QS1,500 offers Gudauskas and other competitors a chance to compete in a new time of year in one of the ultimate arenas on tour. But, the San Clemente, California-native feels right at home just a short drive away and looks for yet another Huntington title to add to his resume.
“”I’m thrilled that Jack’s Surf Shop stepped up to put the QS1,500 event on at home in Huntington Beach,” Gudauskas said. “I think that the level of surfing going on in Southern California is some of the best in the world and to have an event like this in everyone’s backyard is something that we all are celebrating.”
“For me, the QS last year was a huge learning season. It was the first year away from the CT that I really gave it everything I had and focused from start to finish with the goal of qualifying in mind. This year I feel even more refined after working with Glen Hall on some improved strategy approaches at the beginning of the year, along with Channel Islands and my new model, the ‘Fever,’ coming to fruition just this month.”
However, Gudauskas will have to deal with the likes of fellow former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Keanu Asing. Asing claimed his maiden CT victory last year at the Quicksilver France Pro, but it was not enough to keep him on the elite stage. Now, the young Honolulu, Oahu surfer is prepared to stake his claim for a Top 10 spot and find a place right back on the Dream Tour.
“Coming off some poor results in Australia leg really got me motivated to get into more heats,” Asing said. “I feel being close by and having a QS1,500 here in Huntington is a really good chance to surf some heats and really get my rounds in — as well as staying competitive. I’ve grown up surfing so many events here at Huntington, I feel I have a good winning record here and relationship with this wave. It’s always comforting when you know how to get results at a certain place. This is a great head start for me to get going.”
But, No. 1 seed Torrey Meister is another Hawaiian with some deep experience competing at Huntington in the Vans US Open. Meister made a push for the Dream Tour at last year’s Triple Crown, but was too far back for a shot toward making that dream a reality. The Big Island of Hawaii competitor has already been on the QS grind this year and looks to start making his qualifying run in Huntington Beach.
“I enjoy competing at Huntington and have a lot of history with the wave,” Meister said. “My first QS final was at Huntington when I was 15 and I have been doing events there since I was a little kid. I haven’t really ever competed at Huntington this time of year so I’m looking forward to that. I hear the waves can be better and it will be nice to experience an event at Huntington where it is a little less crowded then normal.”
“I’m giving the QS a go again this year and doing all the major events,” Meister added. “I definitely am trying to qualify and that is the goal, but I do my best when I don’t put to much pressure on myself — there’s enough pressure on the QS [already]. But, obviously I’m staying fit and mentally ready to compete so when I do get the opportunity to get a result I am ready.”
Other notable names include Brett Simpson, Nate Yeomans, and Koa Rothman for their chance to gain an all-important 1,500 points early on. But, they will have to deal with a few up-and-comers who may provide a shakeup to those aspirations such as Nolan Rapoza, Cam Richards, and Noah Scweizer.
Tune in live beginning March 31 at 8:00am PST on www.worldsurfleague.com, or by downloading the WSL App to steam the event through your mobile device.
-WSL / Andrew Nichols