The Pro Men’s Juniors division in this week’s U.S. Open of Surfing has turned into a who’s who among those San Clemente groms who are growing up fast.
Five of the remaining 16 surfers that entered competition Wednesday were San Clemente locals, having made it through two heats on Saturday when the event started with 64 competitors.
Of the five, four advanced through to Saturday’s semifinals, reaching the final eight who will vie for an Open Juniors crown.
Jett Schilling and Kade Matson won their quarterfinal heats, while Taj Lindblad and Hagan Johnson both advanced with second-place finishes. The only San Clemente surfer who didn’t advance was Crosby Colapinto, who entered the contest as the No. 1 seed.
One of the quarterfinal heats included Schilling, Lindblad and Colapinto, meaning at least one of them would not make it through. Waves were few and far between in their 20 minutes, but Schilling made the most of his opportunities.
He got only two waves, but put up scores of 6.40 and 5.83 to win the heat easily.
“It was just slow out there, it was hard,” said Schilling, who entered the contest ranked No. 3 in the North American region of the Men’s Junior Tour. “I was just lucky enough to get two waves real quick and they were my two best waves and I didn’t fall, so I was stoked.”
While Schilling could enjoy the final minutes of the heat, the other three had some anxious moments. With five minutes remaining, Mexico’s Alan Cleland sat in second place, while Colapinto and Lindblad were in third and fourth, respectively.
Colapinto only needed a 3.66 to move into advancing position, while Lindblad needed a 3.26. At the time Lindblad only had one wave, scored a 6.07.
The ocean was flat as the final minutes ticked away before some waves finally rolled through in the final 45 seconds. Cleland, Colapinto and Lindblad all got waves as the heat ended.
After a few anxious moments, Lindblad’s 3.93 was announced and it was enough to put him into the second spot.
“I found out right when I was running up the beach,” said Lindblad, who last month won the NSSA Open men’s national championship in Huntington. “I was pretty excited, I started screaming.”
Matson had no such drama in his quarterfinal heat, winning with a two-wave score of 14.67. His high wave was 8.67, the best score of the day in the Juniors competition.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Schilling and Lindblad will compete along with Joh Azuchi of Japan and Mateus Herdy of Brazil. In the second semi, Matson and Johnson will compete with Caleb Tancred of Australia and Taro Watanabe of Malibu.
The top two in each heat will surf in the Juniors final on Saturday beginning at 2:40 p.m.
The women completed the second round with heats seven through 12. Among those advancing to Thursday’s Round 3 were seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, Sage Erickson of Ojai and Meah Collins of Newport Beach.
Round 3 of the women’s division starts Thursday morning at 7:30. Among the final 24 remaining, six are California surfers, including Caroline Marks (San Clemente via Florida), Alyssa Spencer (Carlsbad), Courtney Conlogue (Santa Ana), Kirra Pinkerton (San Clemente), Erickson and Collins.
The Pro Women’s Juniors got underway Wednesday, going two rounds with eight surfers reaching the Saturday’s semifinals.
The final eight who will battle for an Open title on Saturday include Pinkerton, Sawyer Lindblad (San Clemente), Spencer, Eva Woodland (Costa Rica), Keala Tomoda-Bannert (Hawaii), Samantha Sibley (San Clemente), Caitlin Simmers (Oceanside) and Sol Aguirre (Peru).