What's better than trekking down the trail to Trestles and getting some warm pancakes from Pipes Cafe in your famished stomach after an early morning surf? Well, if you add in some clean waist-to-chest-high-surf for the first contest held at Uppers in a decade or so, that's just maple syrup on that stack of fluffy flapjacks.
As with every single WSA Prime Series event so far in this inaugural year, the contest sites have been at some of the least-contest-held-spots in California, and this has turned out to be a major factor in the quality of surf at every contest. "We've had good waves at every venue," said Greg Cruse, WSA Director and Prime Series architect. "We spent a lot of effort in getting permits at places like Uppers and DMJs where there isn't a lot of surf contests, but the waves are quality. This is the Prime Series, so we want the best surfing possible to take place."
Coming off quite possibly the most ideal conditions for an amateur contest in the history of contests (Steamer Lane, four person heats, and 6-8 foot clean surf), the kids were still frothing at the chance of getting to surf Uppers empty. "I'm excited on Uppers," Courtney Conlogue said. "To be able to basically freesurf Uppers, in a heat, but only four people out."
Courtney has been the leader of the pack in the Girls U18 division this year in the Prime Series (and the stand-out of the Prime Series), and has yet to be routed from the road to victory. Courtney is looking to take all she is learning in the Prime Series with her to Ecuador when the PacSun USA Surf Team will be competing in the ISA World Juniors March 28 – April 5. She'll also be bringing to the table a Copper from last year, earning the only individual medal for Team USA. "I just want to go out there this year and take that experience from last year and build on it," the 17-year-old stated, "and hopefully take the Gold."
Not even a year notched on it's adolescent belt, the WSA Prime Series has had a major impact on prepping a majority of the PacSun USA Surf Team. "It's raising the game on the kids and really prepping them for USA Surf Team and getting onto the World stage," Cruse asserted. "I've seen through the season that they're waiting for the better waves. And when they do go, they're doing big maneuvers right off the bat."
Another WSA Prime Series standout/PacSun USA Surf Team member who has been benefiting from this feeder system of sorts is Jacob Halstead. The 14-year-old will be making the journey to Ecuador as an alternate for the Boys U16 division, a division in which he's also had success in the Primes. The key example being his win in this division at Uppers, where things really seemed to come together for him out there. His surfing seemed light years ahead of the rest of the takers in the division, and it wasn't hard to see why the youngster was chosen for the USA Team.
Amid the competitive progression that was going on in the water at Uppers, on the beach there was a Lord Of The Flies-controlled-chaos taking place. Chocolate milk, mustard, and pancake batter covered a few of the grommets who were the instigators; lest we forget, these surfers battling it out are only kids. The groms didn't exude total destruction though, as Ocean Minded provided supplies for a beach cleanup to keep the San Onofre State Beach in pristine condition. These groms showed their versatility in their abilities to destruct and construct all in the same day.
Double-duty was a major theme in four out of the five finals on Sunday. Kanoa Igarashi played his samurai slaying role, representing in the Boys U16 division with a 3rd, and slashing the competition in U14 by taking home his third 1st in this division in the Primes. Keep in mind, this kid is only 11, rips on his three-foot-and-change boards, and has a smoother style than dudes twice his age (and size).
The other two to pull double-duty on Sunday were Catherine Clark and Lani Doherty. Catherine took home a 2nd in Girls U18 and a 4th in Girls U16 (where she sits in a close 2nd place for the overall standings). And Maui girl Lani Doherty pulled in a win in the U16 division and then proceeded to surf another 25-minute final (U18), resulting in a 4th.
Another Hawaiian who put up a big result at Uppers was Nathan Carvalho, taking home a 1st place in the highly coveted Boys U18 division, and earning himself his first victory in the Prime Series. Nathan, who just missed out on the travel team for USA, was on his game at Uppers, and there wasn't a better surfer out in the water on Sunday.
When the kids clomped it back up the trail Sunday evening, things were set for the final showdown of the regular season at Salt Creek on May 2nd and 3rd. As of now, every division is up for grabs (except the Girls U18 division where Courtney Conlogue would have to be a no-show for Lakey Peterson to uproot Courtney from first place). Upon the season closer at Creek, there is also to be a Championships Event held at Oceanside Harbor, where man-on-man heats will test the top 75% of the final season standings. Stay tuned to transworldsurf.com for much more on the WSA Prime Series. –Ryan Brower
Footage and editing provided by Jeff Arballo (Arballo Entertainment)
Music By: The Shys
Song: The Hangman
1. Nathan Carvalho
2. Dominic DiPietro
3. Shaw Kobayashi
4. JD Lewis
1. Jacob Halstead
2. Taylor Thorne
3. Kanoa Igarashi
4. Taylor Clark
1. Kanoa Igarashi
2. Kadin Panesi
3. Colin Moran
4. Patrick Curren
1. Courtney Conlogue
2. Catherine Clark
3. Taylor Pitz
4. Lani Doherty
1. Lani Doherty
2. Emmy Merrill
3. Melina Smith
4. Catherine Clark
Milkitastical Maneuver Award
Pop-Shove-It to Switch Floater