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By Andrea Swayne
After weeks of small surf, a nice swell turned up as if on cue to welcome Surfing America Prime surfers to the first event of the season, Aug. 29 and 30 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Del Mar Jetty at the Del Mar Beach Resort.
San Clemente and Dana Point surfers made a great showing, claiming eight of the possible 20 podium spots when all was said and done. Cole Houshmand of San Clemente was the weekend’s highest placing surfer from the area, taking the win in Boys U16.
The talent pool of invitees to this eighth season of Prime—vying to qualify for the 2015-2016 Surfing America USA Championships and coveted spots on the Surfing America USA Surf Team—made for a thrilling show of high-level skill and finesse. And the excellent conditions and beautiful sunny weather helped make for a successful and entertaining season opener.
The addition of priority rules this season also had the effect of letting the athletes’ talent shine brighter by removing the stress of jockeying for position.
Competitors were welcomed to the new season with a pre-event primer by head judge Bill Seitz, on the newly adopted four-man priority rules.
As heats got underway Saturday, 3- to 5-foot surf, with occasional 6-footers, set the stage for day one—Boys U18 and Girls U18 competition.
With the better sets arriving about 10 minutes to as long as 20 minutes apart, the first three heats of the day alternated between abundant rides and “longish” lulls, but by the start of Boys U18 round two—and throughout the rest of the event—the ocean consistently offered up plenty of rippable waves and ample opportunity for surfers to showcase their full arsenal of maneuvers.
Braden Jones (Arroyo Grande) and Jake Marshall (Encinitas) were early standouts in Boys U18 competition, with committed rail surfing and crisp, vertical snaps. In the first Round 2 heat Marshall picked off the highest wave score of the day, a 7.60 and then backed it up with a 7.17 for a heat-winning two-wave total of 14.77. Marshall’s score in this round held up through the remainder of the event, and although he missed out on the final, it led to his eventual claim to the Sun Bum high wave score of the day award.
In a nail-biter of a quarterfinal, San Clemente’s Elijah Fox, needing a 7.11 to turn the tables on Micky Clarke (Ventura) to advance, earned a 7.10. Fox’s score saw him tied with Clarke, both with a combined two-wave score of 11.83. Clarke won on a countback with his second best wave score, a 4.73 to Fox’s 4.33. Boys U18 top honors went to Jordan Collins who topped runner-up Braden Jones, 13.10 to 13.00, respectively.
In Girls U18 competition, Maddie Peterson had a strong and steady run to the final where she posted the highest heat score of the day among the girls—12.33.
On Sunday in Boys U16 Round 1, Sage Burke (Newport Beach) snagged an 8.33-point tube, the best barrel ride of the weekend. Noah Hill (Santa Cruz) won his quarterfinal heat handily, striking early with an 8.50 and 8.33 on his first two waves and leaving the others in catch up mode. The victor, Houshmand, had an outstanding final beating runner-up Crosby Colapinto, also of San Clemente, 14.57 to 9.00.
In the Girls U16 division, Kirra Pinkerton (San Clemente), Bethany Zelasko (Dana Point), Alyssa Spencer (Carlsbad) and Tiare Thompson (La Jolla) all took out their first round heats with two-wave scores in the double digits. For Pinkerton and Zelasko—who, with a 12.57, earned the highest heat score of the day among the girls—the semis marked the end of the road and Spencer and Thompson were joined by Samantha Sibley (San Clemente) and Kiersten Noonan (Encinitas) in the final. Spencer took the win over Sibley by an 8.16-point margin, 15.83 to 7.67.
In his Prime series debut, Levi Slawson (Encinitas) wowed the crowd with a convincing win—12.40 to San Clementean Kade Matson’s 8.96.
“It’s exciting to watch the level of these under 18 surfers—the best in the nation—continue to rise, especially when they have good waves. And the four-man priority alleviates the pressure of having to hassle the other surfers so the kids can focus on their talent,” said Ryan Simmons, Surfing America Team USA head coach and Prime announcer. “It’s all about letting your surfing do the talking rather than positioning and hassling. It is going to raise the level all year and allow the surfers to focus more on their own act in the lineup.”
Surfing America Prime event No. 2 is set for Oct. 3 at San Onofre State Park, Church Beach.
Surfing America Prime, Event No. 1, August 29-30, Camp Pendleton, DMJs
1. Jordan Collins, Carlsbad
2. Braden Jones, Arroyo Grande
3. Kei Kobayashi, San Clemente
4. Eithan Osborne, Ventura
1. Maddie Peterson, New Jersey
2. Bethany Zelasko, Dana Point
3. Rachel Presti, Florida
4. Malia Osterkamp, San Clemente
1. Cole Houshmand , San Clemente
2. Crosby Colapinto, San Clemente
3. Tommy McKeown, Oxnard
4. Eithan Osborne, Ventura
1. Alyssa Spencer, Carlsbad
2. Samantha Sibley, San Clemente
3. Tiare Thompson, La Jolla
4. Kiersten Noonan, Encinitas
1. Levi Slawson, Encinitas
2. Kade Matson, San Clemente
3. Taro Watanabe, Malibu
4. Taj Lindblad, San Clemente