As predicted, a south swell from the southern hemisphere greeted many of America’s best surfers this morning on the north side of the Oceanside Pier on the first day of the Paul Mitchell Pro, the second stop on the Professional Surfing Tour of America’s (PSTA) 2002 season. The day began with morning drizzle and an extreme low tide, with surfing conditions improving as the dawn breeze subsided and the rising tide improved the wave shape. Sets out of the south were in the shoulder to head-high range, with long left walls typical of a southern hemisphere swell.
Among those advancing out of the Round of 96 was hot Oceanside Pier local Jeremy Heit. “The swell is definitely picking up,” said Heit, a popular subject for surf mags photo spreads and movies. “It’s been horrible for the past week. The sand bars are kinda in the making, so it could get really good this weekend with the building swells helping to improve the sand bars. There’s always a wave to surf in Oceanside, and it amazes that this is the only contest here all year. Oceanside is about the most consistent break around.”
The building swell helped the cause of Huntington Beach’s Andy Hobson, 25, a two-year PSTA veteran who always seems to draw PSTA Champion Ryan Simmons in his heats. Today, Andy turned the table on Simmons, beating the reigning champ by sticking close to the pier and picking off a series of good-scoring rights.
“It reminded me exactly of North Side (H.B. Pier) at home, so I figured to sit there and hope for the best,” said Hobson, now clean-shaven after sporting a thick beard during last year’s tour. ‘I got burned out on contests for a while, but now I’m back and trying to keep with it. It was hard because the last two contests I lost in the first round, so I’m really happy with this win. I’ve been trying to get boards that float me better, last week my board wasn’t floating me too well, the waves were small, and I actually tweaked it after my heat.
“It’s hard always surfing against the number one seed (Simmons) every time,” Hobson continued. “I’ve known Ryan forever, and to beat him I’m stoked. This heat proves to me he’s beatable. I try not to analyze what the judges are thinking, but surfing against Ryan I knew I had to surf twice as good as him because he is the champ.”
Another Huntington Beach local, Timmy Reyes, kept his 2002 competitive momentum going with a win in the Round of 64, beating cunning pro veteran and big wave legend Mike Parsons. Reyes is currently ranked 25th on the Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Qualifying Series tour, the second highest-ranked mainland American surfer on the WQS behind 18th-ranked Dean Randazzo of San Diego, who also won his heat today and advanced into the Round of 32.
“I just got back from Indonesia so this is a little bit of a change,” laughed Reyes, unfazed by surfing against the wily competitor Parsons. “I count everyone equally, and you can lose against anyone at any given time. Mike definitely rips, I have a lot of respect for him, but everyone surfs good here. My goal is to make the World Championship Tour this year, and I wanted to keep tuned up. Everyone rips here, it’s just like surfing in a regular WQS event.”
A familiar face to many on hand today belonged to Richie Collins, one of America’s top pro surfers in the late 1980s, ranking in the top ten of the World Championship Tour three straight years, 1989-91. Collins advanced out of the Round of 64 by riding a last-second left that reformed into a right on the inside, allowing him to end the wave with one of his signature lip bashes that bumped him through. Now 33, the outspoken Newport Beach local has settled into family life and a day job at a car dealership, but said he started missing the competitive scene recently.
“I’ve learned in the past that it’s never over until the bell rings,” said Collins of his heat. “There was nothing I could do except sit and wait, I had no choice. I needed a 5.5 and got a six, it hellped to end the wave with that last move to get the extra half-point. When you’re back’s up against the wall like that, you gotta do what you do to win.
“After eight months of working at the dealership, and not really ever surfing, I started losing it, I really needed to get back in the water,” Collins said about his return to competition. “I was drying up and feeling off. I heard about the contest and wanted to get in it. I was having too many dreams of being left out, and my wife said, ‘Why don’t you do a contest’ I’m old (33), and after I caught my first wave, I looked back outside going oh my god, I used to do this when I was a kid. The last three days I tried to surf as much as I could. This place is where I started my career at 15, 16, all the contests in Oceanside. I enjoy it down here, I miss coming down here really bad. It’s my old stomping grounds. I’ll do the best I can, and if I lose, at least I get a four-day weekend off work.”
Other surfers advancing into the Round of 32 include Josh Sleigh, Jeff Hurley, Austin Weare, Jeremy Heit, Donovan Stapleton, Bron Heussenstamm, Kyle Knox, Chris Ward, Brandon Tipton, and Brett Simpson. Throughout the day, the contest area expanded with the addition of tents and banners set up by the top names in the surfing industry such as Reef and O’Neill, who were invited to Oceanside by the PSTA to show their support for the US pro surfing tour and gain some valuable TV branding on Outdoor Life Network, free of charge.
Tomorrow’s (Fri., May 31) action continues with the Men’s Shortboard rounds of 64 and 32, Longboard qualifying heats, and Aerial 2002 sponsored by Balance Bar. This weekend’s lineup includes Women’s qualifying and Longboard final rounds on Saturday, followed by Men’s and Women’s Shortboard final rounds Sunday.
For a complete rundown of the Paul Mitchell Pro schedule, go to http://www.prosurfingtour.com The Paul Mitchell Pro will be televised as two separate half-hour shows (Men’s Shortboard plus Women’s and Longboard) on the Outdoor Life Network airing this summer.
Official event product sponsors include the new Subaru Baja, Paul Mitchell Salon Haircare, Balance Bar, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (1-800-USA-RAIL), YM Magazine, and Outdoor Life Network. Industry sponsors include Havaianas, Surf One, Mountain High Resort, Sticky Bumps, Transworld Surf Magazine, Cut 4 Media, Mandero Sports Products, Peak Sunscreen, and Surf Quest Media.