Encinitas Surfer Eeli Timperi pulled off the big surprise of round 1of the ISA World Games at Huntington Beach on Saturday when the 15-year-old won his heat that included top surfers Rio Waida and Kolohe Andino.
Waida, number 2 on the Challenger Series and Andino, 22 on the Championship Series, were both favored going into the Olympic qualifying event. But it was the decision making of Timperi that made the difference.
"Patience was really the key out there, " said Timperi who was in 4th midway through the heat. "There weren't many waves breaking out the back, so you had to get the right ones."
His 5.93 opening wave put him in second with under 8 minutes left but still needed to get one more. He did that shortly after.
"I was really happy to get that second wave," he said of his backup score of 4.80. "Kolohe was about to get it but he didn't and I got a section out the back so i could pump to the inside and get another turn as well."
Timperi will hit the waves early Sunday in his attempt to make it through round 2.
Andino finished second and will advance to round 2 while Waida will take his route through the consolation bracket.
Andino, along with Griffin Colapinto and Nat Young all advanced out of the first round for team USA. While Young and Andino had their second round heats postponed until Sunday (due to bad wave conditions), Colapinto got in his second round, but fell on a last second wave score by Canadas Sean Foerster. Colapinto finished third in the heat.
Huntington Beach star Kanoa Igarashi sailed through his first round representing Japan.
He not only won his heat with scores of 8.87 and 8.00 but his 16.87 was the high heat of the day. His 8.87 was also the high wave score of the day. His second-round match was due up next when the competition was put on hold until Sunday.
Igarashi is attempting his second try at the Olympics. In 2020 he won the silver medal in his home event in Japan.
Another local star Wheeler Hasburgh pulled off a flawless round one performance, winning his heat with a high score of 7.72, before falling in round 2.
Cherif Fall, the champion surfer from Senegal, made it through 2 rounds on the day, finishing second twice.
The event continues at 7:30 am Sunday for the completion of round 2 and the beginning of the repacharge rounds.