The long-awaited season opener of the USA Surfing Prime series kicked off this past weekend at Huntington Beach. The two-day, invitation only event, played out under as differing conditions as you could imagine.
While the younger divisions hit the water Saturday under overcast skies and an average swell, Sunday's competition, featuring many of the best young surfers on the coast and beyond, saw bright sunny skies and some of the largest wave sets to hit the pier in a while.
All in all, there was some incredible surfing that wowed beach and pier goers alike. Here is how it all unfolded.
Lucas Owston, Titus Santucci, Luke Wyler, Wheeler Hasburgh
If Oceanside surfer Lucas Owston is fueled by his runner up finish last June's USA National championships, he's off to a good start in his redemption tour.
Owston slashed his way to just four wave scores in the final, but two of them came in at 7.87 and 7.13 for a 15.00 heat total.
His big lead was threatened in the final seconds when Titus Santucci, needing an 8.5 to win, put up a great ride but it came in at a 7.8 and Owston had the championship.
"The waves were pretty unruly, but I just kept catching them" Owston said of the finals. "All day long, one big turn had been the highest scoring waves but at the end they got pretty small, so I went for two turns instead of the one big one, and it worked out."
Ironically, Owston didn't win a heat all day, finishing second and advancing through the first three rounds. For him, advance and survive was the theme of the day and he did that all the way to the title.
Santucci, who has had a very successful run through October, finished second with a 7.8 and 6.5 (14.30) followed by Luke Wyler (7.50 and 5.97-13.47) and Wheeler Hasburgh (7.77 and 5.33-13.10)
Wyler ripped all day leading into the final with heat scores of 14.77, 16.10 and 15.63 and Hesburgh won all three of his heats leading into the final.
Zoe Chait, Syd Ott, Bella Kenworthy, Addison McPhillips
Half Moon Bay surfer Zoe Chait had been waiting for a win like this for some time. Sunday, she used a late score of 6.53 to secure it.
In a final that was low scoring for the first half, Chait caught fire in her third and fourth waves, scoring 6.17 and 6.53 to give her a winning heat total of 12.70.
"It was a little easier to rip in the finals, because all day it was like these giant closeouts, but I got a few at the pier that kind of opened up and I'm stoked it came together for me, " the 16-year-old said. " This is my first prime win ever. I got second like almost every time last year, so this is a big deal for me."
Chait surfed into the finals with heat totals of 10.74 and 11.67.
All finalists put up good numbers in earlier heats. Addison McPhillips had the high heat score of the day with a 14.50 that featured an 8.00 ride and Bella Kenworthy also had an 8.00 ride in a 14.17 heat score in the quarterfinals.
Syd Ott, who finished second in the finals, had the second highest wave score of a 6.33 in the final heat.
Lucas Senkbeil-Cassity, Petey Romaniuk, Eeli Timperi, Darrin Shigei-seat
Lucas Senkbeil-Cassity began right where he left off last season. On top of the U16 boys' division.
Cassity won the National title last June at Lowers when he parlayed a 9.5 wave score into a championship winning 16.6 heat total.
This time around he came into the event as the number one seed and cruised through the qualifying rounds with scores of 14.83, 14.66 and 14.83 to reach the final.
Once there, he opened scoring with a 7.17 and never looked back.
Running head-to-head with up-and-coming surfer Darrin Shigei-Seat, Cassity put up a 6.1 which opened a lead and gave him the title.
" At first i was really looking for the sets and I really couldn't find them" Cassity said of the changing conditions. " But I got my seven right when the heat started and that kind of set me up."
As the bigger conditions calmed down in the afternoon, Cassity showed his ability to go with what the conditions call for.
"My dad tells me not to go for airs and I didn't really have good scores in that heat so I really couldn't go for an air," he said " but just knowing what the judges want to see and performing is the key."
Shigei-Seat made the finals after winning his semi heat with scores of 6.27 and 6.13 for a 12.40 total. He came into the event as the 19-seed and pulled a few upsets on his way to the final heat.
Petey Romaniuk (2nd) and Eeli Timperi (3rd) had strong efforts in the loss. Timperi put up an 8.50, 7.83-16.33 total in round 2 and a 7.50, 7.17-14.67 score in the quarterfinals. Romaniuk had a high of 13.50 with a 7.00 wave score in round two.
Eden Walla, Victoria Duprat, Mia McLeish, Remy Todd
13-year-old Eden Walla took down the championship on just three waves.
After a throw away on her first wave, she came back to put up a 7.67 in her second wave and a 6.33 in her third and final wave, for a 14.00 total. Runner up Victoria Duprat finished with a 7.24 heat total.
Walla lost to Mia McLeish in last year's nationals, but came out hot in this one, putting up an 8.00-15.00 quarterfinal score and in the semis took the top spot with a 11.80-heat total.
"I just tried to bring a lot of energy and find the good waves that had a little face," Walla said. " But I felt good out there."
Walla just returned from three weeks in Indonesia where she was part of Vans Stab High. Even though the huge waves over there are not often like she finds here, the trip did have a benefit.
"I surfed a lot over there. It's such a big confidence boost because the waves can be big here but nothing like they are over there."
Zion Walla, Tanner Sandvig, Nash Rice, Brody Price
He may be just 11 years old and smaller than the rest of his competition, but Zion Walla has a command of the waves that is rarely seen by someone his size.
Trailing late in the heat, Walla need a high 8 to take the lead when he set off on a long slashing wave he rode into the shore. He put his hands over his head and clapped to claim it and the score came in at a 9.00 giving him the close win over Tanner Sandvig (14.00 to 12.57)
"The waves were a little tough, it was windy, but it was fun," he said. "I mainly tried to get one big turn on a set and that helped me today, I'm happy."
Coming in as the 17th seed in an 18-person division, Walla's biggest heat of the day was a 7.33, 7.83-15.16 total in the quarter finals.
Sandvig, who has been hot all summer, put up his best heat of the day in the semis when he finished on top with 7.33/13.26 set. Nash Rice (3rd) and Brody Price (4th) rounded out the winners for the division.
The next Prime event is set for November 5th and 6th in Atlantic City, NJ and then returns back to California on December 10th and 11th at Salt Creek at Dana Point.