With the biggest win of her young career, Lindblad just took out North America’s most prestigious surf contest
By Jake Howard
The power and talent of the next generation of San Clemente surf stars was on full display at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach as Sawyer Lindblad turned a childhood dream into a reality.
In front of a crowd of thousands of stoked, sunburned surf fans, facing perennial world title contender Sally Fitzgibbons in a clash of rising star versus veteran, Lindblad put on one of the most demonstrative performances of her young career to take the win.
“Honestly, it’s been a dream of mine to win this event since I was 5 years old,” said Lindblad. “I’ve always looked up to all the girls that have done this event, and to go against Sally in the Final was a dream come true.
“And taking the win, I can’t even describe the feeling right now,” she continued. “I’m so happy. My whole family is on the beach right now, and I want to thank them for supporting me and my sponsors for coming down to support me too.”
More than just the biggest win of her life, for Lindblad, the first-place finish moves her up four positions into third on the WSL Challenger Series leaderboard. The top five women will qualify for the prestigious Championship Tour at season’s end.
With the U.S. Open in the books there are now only two more events to go. More than 2,000 points ahead of the surfer in fourth place, Lindblad is in a great spot at the moment, and looks to be able to ride this momentum to the end.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side of the draw, San Clemente’s Crosby Colapinto ripped his way to a runner-up finish. Like Lindblad, it’s the best result of his career to date.
High-flying surfer from Hawaii Eli Hanneman came out firing in the final, forcing Colapinto to play the comeback game. Never quite recovering from Hanneman’s onslaught, for Colapinto there was a lot of which to be proud.
“Crosby is so good on the face, he’s the best of our generation for on-the-face surfing,” Hanneman said afterwards. “I went out thinking I have to try airs because that’s what I do. I felt a little bit of wind coming and knew it was my time. I just had to stay calm and stay ready.”
Again, like Lindblad, Colapinto now sits third on the Challenger Series. At season’s end, the top 10 men will qualify for the Challenger Series. As reported here last week, San Clemente’s Cole Houshmand sits atop the Challenger Series ratings and has already clinched his spot on the 2024 Championship Tour.
For his effort in Huntington, Hanneman now moves up an eye-popping 24 spots and sits just below Colapinto in fourth. Should Colapinto go on to qualify he would join his brother, Griffin Colapinto, who’s already on tour (and clinched spots in the 2023 WSL Finals at Lowers and the 2024 Olympics in Paris).
With two more Challenger Series events to go, Kade Matson and Jett Schilling also remain in the qualification conversation. Matson’s right on the cutline at 10th, while Schilling is just below him at 11th. Out of the 15 qualification spots available to the men and the women on the Challenger Series, there’s potential that five of them could go to surfers from San Clemente.
There is no surf town on the planet right now with that much talent.
Up next, the Challenger Series will head to Portugal for the EDP Vissla Pro Ericeira at the start of October, followed by the Corona Saquarema Pro in Brazil.
Huge congratulations to Lindblad on the win and Colapinto on the second-place finish. We can’t wait to see you finish the year with a bang.
Jake Howard is a local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for several publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.