The 8th annual Am Slam Summer Surf Series hosted by the Sun Diego Boardshops got off to a roaring start at Pacific Beach last weekend, crowning week 1 champions in 6 divisions.
This was the first of four events that will be held before crowning a season-end champion as well as all the weekly champs along the way. The series rounds out with stops at the Ocean Beach Pier (July 8-9), San Clemente Pier (August 5-6) and Mission Beach (Sept. 30-Oct 1).
While the vibe was fun and the surfing hit a high level, a bit of reality managed to sneak into the event as well.
The sport of surfing can provide countless rewards and self-satisfaction. However, as both surfers and parents know, a degree of risk and injury is always present. It can be as obvious as a dangerous reef at a well-known break or as simple as a bad landing on a board.
This was the case as the opening round of the boys 14U event was taking place.
Carlsbad's Isaiah Wheyland was leading in his heat with under 3 minutes left, when he landed on his board after a close out and the nose of his board struck the side of his head, causing him to come in before the heat finished.
After being looked at on the beach by his dad, he then left for the emergency room where he got six stitches to close a 2-inch gash near his ear.
However, that was not the end of the afternoon for Wheyland.
" I found out I won my heat but I didn't know if I could come back after the hospital because you're not supposed to go out in the water after you get stitches," Wheyland said.
" At first, I didn't think that I would go back and surf because I wanted to do what's best for my cut. But then I thought about it and as long as they said it was okay, and the doctor said he didn't recommend it but it was my decision."
With a sealing cream to protect his stiches, he decided to give it a try. The question then became would he make it back in time.
" I was texting Kirk (VanWagoner) and he said they would try and push my heat back a few minutes. So, I hurried back and got to the beach as my squad was in the water and luckily, I got out there in time."
Wheyland went on to move on through two more heats ultimately making the final and achieving a third place. A remarkable day for a young man that showed his love for the sport.
"I don't think I would have made the finals if it didn't happen, because it made me want to do even better," he said.
On to the results of week 1
Victor Bernardo, from Brazil, put up scores of 7.90 and 7.70 to win a hotly contested Pro Am final on the first day, with a heat total of 15.60.
Bernardo is a seasoned QS surfer with a trio of third place finishes on his record from 2017-2019.
Runner-up was Magno Pacheco, who dropped a a 15.43 total with wave scores of 7.83 and 7.60.
Third was Alcides Lopes Nieto (7.50/14.63) and Keanu Igarashi was forth (7.47/14.54).
Bernardo took home $2,000 for his win. In all, the finalists took home $4,000 in prize money in the Pro Am Division.
MENS 15 AND OVER
Brazilian Yago Ramos, a QS surfer since 2019, took down a very close battle with Pepperdine's Josh Drake in the 15 and over division.
Ramos took first place on two of the three judges' cards while Drake took the third judges top seed and came in second on the other two.
Graduated Carlsbad senior Jack VanWagoner was a unanimous third in the final followed by Titus Santucci in 4th Shane McNulty in 5th and Sutton Tutor finished 6th.
Ramos and Drake were the only two surfers to win all of their qualifying heats heading into the finals.
BOYS 14 AND UNDER
It was a big day for the Rowe brothers from Encinitas as Oliver got things started off in the right direction for the family taking home the championship in the boys 14 and under division.
In the finals, he took first place on two of the three judges' cards for the win.
Kai Thomas also took a first place from one of the three judges, and that resulted in a second-place finish.
Isaiah Wheyland, who battled through a first-round injury, managed to take home third place while Vincent Kasunich-Clark was 4th followed by Nico Panichella and Tyler Knatz 5th and 6th respectively.
BOYS 11 AND UNDER
The second half of the Rowe attack, Owen, sailed through his qualifying rounds into the finals and once he got there did not stop. He took first place on all three judges' cards for a dominating win.
Vaun Harrison was awarded second place on two of the three judges' cards resulting in his runner-up performance and Mason Moschopoulos received one second place vote and finished in third place overall.
AJ Iredell took fourth place while Jett Abate and Tyde Hill finished 5th and 6th respectively.
Victoria Duprat and Reid VanWagoner put up a spirited battle for the win in the women's short board division, but it was Duprat that came out on top on two of the three judges' cards, taking home first place honors.
VanWagoner, who had a good day all around (longboard included), finished second with one first place nod by the judges.
Mara Morales came away with a third-place finish, followed by Hana Johnson 4th, Zoe Panetierre in 5th and Astrid Egan in 6th.
Star Delia was the unanimous choice of the judges' cards and took home the win in the longboard division.
Reid VanWagoner took her second runner-up finish of the day (also in the shortboard) followed by Sofia Todd, the third-place finisher.
Rounding out the finalists were Elizabeth Carroll (4th), Mara Morales (5th) and Annabelle Tihanyi (6th).