Suspense continued to mount at the NSSA National Championships at Huntington Beach Pier on Wednesday, as the competition worked through the opening rounds of the Open Juniors and Open Women’s divisions in anticipation of the finals on Saturday.
Surfers had to make the best of a two to three foot waves, leading to some lower scores in the tougher conditions.
Still, seven Orange County surfers advanced to the quarterfinals of the Open Juniors, surviving the 16 separate first round heats.
Trevor Thornton of San Clemente led the way by winning his late heat with a two-wave score of 12.65.
“I was getting some lefts that I noticed from the beach, so I just took those hoping it would open up,” Thornton said. “I was trying to just get two good ones, but they were hard to find because it is so choppy.”
Many of the favorites, including local favorite Jake Davis from Capo Beach survived to reach the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
“I just tried to grind as much as I could because there is nothing out there,” Davis said. “Hopefully there will be better waves if there is a swell coming in tomorrow.”
Many of the surfers attempted to ride as many waves as possible in the uncertain surf, occasionally using up the allotted 10 wave limit in the 15 minute heats.
Through it all, local surfers like Patrick Curren, Scott Weinhardt, Braiden Taylor, Jonah Carter, Kanoa Igarashi and Colin Moran moved on Thursday and Friday’s competition.
The calm conditions led to a similar level of activity in the open women’s division, where Orange County surfers Kaleigh Gilchrist, Taylor Pitz and Kulia Doherty advanced to the quarterfinals on Friday.
Santa Barbara’s Lakey Peterson advanced to the quarters with a pair of 7.75 wave scores, giving her the first step toward becoming the fifth woman to repeat as champion in NSSA Nationals history—and the first since Carissa Moore won four straight from 2004-07.
“There is definitely pressure to repeat. But I don’t like to feel too much of that,” Peterson said. “I’d be stoked to win again, but in the big picture it does not matter than much. I mean it matters, but in 50 years I’m not going to be stressing about not winning the 2010 Nationals.”
The Nationals will roll on Thursday morning at 7 a.m. with the 17 heats of the Open Men’s division. The competition will run through Saturday, with the finals of each division being held throughout the events’ penultimate day.