Women Dominate SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach Debuts, Men Deliver Airshow Spectacle

Courtesy of WSL North America

  • Burke Comes Out Firing, Held Finds Perfection In Round 2 Heat 3 Battle
  • 2018 Finalists Pinkerton and Sibley Find Excellence Alongside Collins
  • Local Contingent Continue to Impress
  • Szekely, Swierkocki Bring Aerial Assault For A Clutch Wins
  • More Available At WorldSurfLeague.com
Pictured: Defending event winner Kirra Pinkerton returned to Pismo Beach in phenomenal form. Credit: © WSL / Jon Reis

PISMO BEACH, California/USA (Friday, January 31, 2020) – Competition fired back into action at the World Surf League (WSL) SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, a men’s and women’s Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, with another massive day unfolding. The remaining men’s top seeds made their debuts before women’s competition got underway with an explosive start. Both fields are narrowed down to just sixteen surfers after the men finished Rounds 3 and 4 along with women wrapping up their Round 1 and 2 battles. 

Fireworks ensued in Round 2 Heat 2 between Californians Makena Burke and Ashley Held as Burke opened up the affair with a near-perfect 9.00 (out of a possible 10) before Held answered back with a perfect 10. But Burke wasn’t finished and as time expired the Ventura native found one last right that provided multiple opportunities to showcase her decimating backhand to finish off with the day’s best 17.50 (out of a possible 20) heat total.

“This is such a fun event for me because it’s so close to home and I was just super happy to get that wave on the start,” said Burke. “I like this wave a lot. Especially being from Ventura and surfing a lot of rights. I look for those waves since I know I’m stronger on my backhand.”

Excellence Ensues From Familiar Faces

Big performances from the likes of defending event winner Kirra Pinkerton (USA) (Interview in video above), 2018 event runner-up Samantha Sibley (USA) and 2016 North America QS Regional Champion Meah Collins (USA) all noted excellent heat totals in a flurry of action throughout Round 2. 

Pictured: Gina Andrews represented brilliantly for her San Luis Obispo residence.  Credit: © WSL / Andrew Nichols

Local wildcard Gina Andrews (USA) represented brilliantly for her hometown with a Round 2 Heat 2 victory in her WSL debut. The schoolteacher put on a forehand display and helped eliminate both top-seeded surfers Brooke Young (USA) and Brooke Daigneault (USA). But, the 26-year-old is just enjoying the ride competing near her local area after moving to the Central Coast nearly nine years ago. 
“It’s a dream come true and I’m so thankful for Andy, he’s the one who called me for the wildcard,” said Andrews. “There’s a lot of good competition out there but it’s all fun for me since I’m pretty career-oriented as a teacher so I find the balance between teaching and surfing.”

Airshow Takes Center Stage in Men’s Round 4 Action

Notable freesurf talent Jacob Szekely (USA) made his move in the QS jersey with a signature forehand air-reverse that garnered an excellent 8.00 to solidify his place into Round 5. Alongside Kevin Schulz (USA), also winning his Round 4 Heat 4 battle, Szekely spent time amongst some of the world’s best at the Red Bull Airborne Series and is bringing that to his contest form in 2020.

“I’m definitely trying to get into the (Airborne) events while I’m over in Australia and also do some freesurf trips to try and get some clips,” said Szekely. “It was super fun out there with a lot of good air sections. I want to shout out all my friends on the beach for coaching me in heats like Shane Borland, Tyler Gunter, Dylan Hord and a lot of the others. It’s been so fun and big shout to SLO for hosting us.”

Pictured: Jackson Butler took down one of the spotlight heats in men’s Round 4.  Credit: © WSL / Andrew Nichols

One of the closing heats in Round 4 featured a talent-stacked bout featuring former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Brett Simpson (USA), emerging QS threat Jackson Butler (USA), an in-form Pismo Beach native Austin Neumann (USA) and Raiki Nishida (USA). 

“The waves are super, super fun right now you just have to find the right ones that have an open corner to it,” said Butler. “Going up against guys like Simpo (Brett Simpson) you have to go big and find the right waves because that’s what he’s going to do. (Jacob) Szekely did a pretty massive air earlier so I look up to him in terms of explosive surfing. That trip to China was really fun with some good waves and (Hainan Island) is a pretty amazing place but I always love competing near home so this event was one I was looking forward to.” 

Event organizers will reconvene at 7:30am PST to determine a possible 8:00am PST start for either men’s Round 5 or women’s Round 3.



The SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach will be LIVE beginning January 30 – February 2.

The event is proudly sponsored by Visit SLO CAL, Dignity Health, Jeep, 805 Beer, Surfers of Tomorrow, Mid-State Containers, Vespera On Ocean Marriott Hotel, City of Pismo Beach, Peak WifI, Natural Healing Center, Cool Cat Cafe, Hubbell Real Estate Group, Mechanics Bank, Pack Design Group, Sunrun Solar, Aqua Systems, Splash Cafe, Moshpit Digital, Sunshine & Reign Photography, Surfing For Hope, Catch Some Air, Whalebird Kombucha, Ahem Rental, and Sex Wax.

For more information, please visit www.WorldSurfLeague.com. 

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