The battles at the beach are back once again, with the Super Girl Surf Pro last weekend drawing a mix of top surfers and up-and-comers who put on their competitive jerseys.
The specialty event, held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, in Oceanside, is the first in Southern California to bring surf competition back to the spotlight, but with modifications due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The contest ran as a team event, with World Surf League championship tour athletes teaming with newer names. Santa Barbara’s Lakey Peterson and Oceanside’s Caitlin Simmers earned the win.
Several local stand-out surfers joined the event, including Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue, Costa Mesa’s Meah Collins and Caroline Marks and Samantha Sibley, who live in San Clemente, among the competitors.
The 4-foot to 2-foot swell brought plenty of waves during the contest, which wasn’t open to the public but streamed online for surf fans to watch.
Alana Nicholes and Faith Lennox claimed the win in the adaptive surf competition, “further inspiring young women everywhere to get in the water,” an announcement reads.
There were many big names among the competitors, including World Tour veteran Sage Erickson and four-time world champ Carissa Moore, a Hawaiian surfer and part of the USA Surfing Olympic team. Both who made it to the finals. Erickson was matched with San Clemente native Tia Blanco and Moore paired with Vahiti Inso, 13, the event’s youngest surfer.
“The Super Girl is always one of my favorite events, it’s all about women empowerment and it’s always a good time,” said Blanco, in an announcement about the event. “It was a lot of work, but I had such a blast today and just so blessed I got paired up with Sage (Erickson). She was so calm out in the heats and made sure I was confident the whole time and I loved competing with her the whole time. I think we’re all just so grateful that there has been this event and it’s been awesome to prepare for something.”
Simmers, 14, helped her teammate, World Tour veteran Peterson, with her local knowledge as a hurricane swell started building, telling the veteran surfer the best spot to wait for waves.
“There was a ton of opportunity and I think that’s just good for competition when surfers can get a lot of waves,” Peterson said. “The future is very bright for Caity if this is what she wants to do. I think she’s just a phenomenal surfer and everyone’s seen it around the world now.”
Janice Aragon, executive director for the National Scholastic Surfing Association, was stoked to see competitive surfing back in the spotlight.
“I was absolutely glued to the screen to see how much the girls have improved, we haven’t been able to watch them this year. It was fun, and they have improved,” she said, noting many of the pros were NSSA alum and some of the younger surfers still compete on the amateur circuits. “We’re always cheering them on and it was really fun to watch.”
Aragon is getting geared up for the NSSA national championships after months of postponing – but instead of the usual venue at the Huntington Beach Pier, the event will be held on the East Coast for the first time.
The NSSA Nationals usually happen at the end of June and early July, but was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There was hope the event would happen in Huntington Beach in August, but after more restrictions went into place, the championships were put on hold and with lingering restrictions on youth sports, the decision was made to hold the event Oct. 20-25 in North Carolina.
Aragon said it’s the first time since NSSA started that the championships have been held outside of California.
“In speaking with some of the beaches in California, it just didn’t look good for any of the venues to open up,” she said.
She said the East Coast surfers are excited and called it an “historical event.”
“We still have a lot of Hawaiians and West Coasters who will go out there and compete at the nationals,” she said, noting there will be several Orange County surfers among them. “The spotlight has always been on the West Coast, so we’ll see what happens there. I just can’t wait to see the kids back in jerseys, they are so excited to get back at it. I’m just really thankful we were able to pull it off.”
The West Coast regional championships are on hold and will happen after nationals, she said. With less restrictive policies on the East Coast, the regional championships there just wrapped up.
“Just the smiles on their faces, and their parent’s faces – they wanted their kids back in competition,” she said.
“There’s no contact and social distancing is easy to accomplish” with surfing, Aragon said. “We don’t have a lot of kids in the line up, we only have four in a big arena of the ocean, so it’s fairly easy to pull the safety precautions off.”
Aragon said she expects the event will be back in Huntington Beach next year.
“We’re holding out hope,” she said.
Source: Orange County Register