[ WORDS & PHOTOS BY CHRIS GRANT ]
When the final autographs had been signed and the tents were beginning to come down, I sat in my car and wrote the following post on Facebook:
"We've been in a bit of a funk lately and would have thought a surf contest would be the last place we'd find refreshment. How wrong we were. Watching hundreds of young girls cautiously approach their favorite pro surfers only to be welcomed with graciousness, smiles and thoughtful words was not only heart-warming, but it was extremely inspirational as well. The ear-to-ear smiles, the sparkling eyes of youth, and the skips down the beach clutching a newly autographed hat or piece of paper would have warmed the heart of even the most grumpy, anti-contest surfer.
Hearty congrats to the comp winner, Malia Manuel, and to Supergirl for putting on such an amazing event. From what I saw from my vantage point on the beach, the surfers didn't only showcase the current state of women's high performance surfing, they also inspired an entire generation of girl groms who no doubt are dreaming of riding waves of their own one day soon. Very, very well done!"
It's been a week since the Supergirl Pro wrapped up and I wanted to share a couple of observations from one of the most important contests on the women's circuit.
Like all surf contests, ratings points were at stake, money was up for grabs, and the prized Supergirl cape was going to be awarded to the winner. Indeed, all of those things happened but what I remember most were the kids, the thousands of kids that made this event so special. At the end of each heat they'd be waiting at the water's edge for a photo, an autograph, or a smile from every single one of the Supergirl competitors. What warmed my heart the most was seeing that this was far from a one-way street as the surfers appeared to enjoy the exchanges as much as the kids did themselves. It's difficult to sum up in one photo but the image of Bruna Schmitz below does it for me. 100% pure stoke and respect in every direction.
Pictured: Bruna Schmitz shares a moment with two of the thousands of surf-stoked kids in attendance at the Supergirl Pro.
The debacle that followed the US Open earlier this summer didn't have anything to do with the surfers or surfing as the mayhem was caused by kooks just looking for trouble. Nevertheless, even after the porta-potties were turned right-side-up and the broken glass was swept from the streets, surfing itself received another black eye in the press and elsewhere. We need heroes, not jerks, and when Bethany Hamilton walked onto the sand at Oceanside for the first time, it was living proof of that fact. The energy she brought to the Supergirl Pro was contagious and her surfing was inspirational, if not mind-blowing. My favorite part of the Bethany story at the Supergirl Pro was when beach announcer David Stanfield asked the crowd, "Who's here to watch Bethany Hamilton surf?" Hundreds of cheers and hands were raised up and down the beach and as I glanced out to sea I also saw my good friend, the always classic Bec Woods, raise hers as well---while she was still out in her heat.
Pictured: The incredible line to get Bethany Hamilton's autograph snaked under the pier, up the ramp, back around, and then extended all the way to Pacific Street.
I first saw Alessa Quizon surf at the Rob Machado Seaside Pro Jr.
back in 2011 and immediately became a fan of her casual yet progressive style of surfing. She reminded me so much of my good friend, Shea Hodges
, also a crazy-good Hawaiian goofyfoot, that I immediately contacted Shea after the event to tell her I saw what looked to be her surfing twin doing the same layback snaps and fins-free surfing that she was doing. Fast forward to the Supergirl Pro and Alessa absolutely blew minds from her first heat onward. She didn't hold back at all and her surfing throughout the event was on-edge, risky, and go-for-broke (including the flip pictured below that she was very close to pulling). Her luck ran out in the semifinals but it was clear to me that this particular Supergirl doesn't need a cape to fly.
Pictured: You could feel the entire beach collectively hold its breath as Alessa grabbed, rotated, and pushed women's performance surfing another leap forward.
Nikki Van Dijk
As radical as Alessa was, halfway through the event I was convinced that Nikki Van Dijk would be one of the surfers on the winner's podium. While Oceanside Pier delivers punchy peaks much of the year, a big south swell in June created a big deep spot between the inside and outside sections requiring an approach that is typically used in Huntington Beach. After pulling a move or two on the outside, a surfer is forced to either "Huntington Hop", kick out, or weave cutbacks to make it to the inside section. While many surfers were getting stuck in the deep spot, Nikki weaved effortlessly from section to section with absolutely zero loss of speed before throwing some explosive finishing moves in the shorebreak. Nikki fell just short in the quarterfinals but her last wave with only seconds on the clock was one of the highlights of the event to me. The score was a touch less than she needed but the last ditch effort was a show of high performance heat surfing at its best.
Pictured: Australia's Nikki Van Dijk, a standout all weekend long, consistently finished her waves with a flourish.
She lost out in a stacked heat when she came unglued on a late lip blast but make no mistake, Tatiana Weston-Webb is a surfer to watch closely in the very near future. The World Junior Champion throws big hooks both frontside and backside and had it not been for that fall, quite possibly could have found herself on the podium.
Pictured: Throughout the event, Tatiana Weston-Webb, the current World Junior Champion, threw several solid hooks on the outside sandbar.
The South American Contingent
The most enthusiastic crew of surfers at the Supergirl Pro were from South America and it was awesome to see them both on the beach as well as at Marina Zawisza's Latin America-based surf film, "3 Killas y un Kiwi"
which premiered at Linksoul
on Friday night. Silvana Lima, Dominic Barona, Anali Gomez, Sofia Mulanovich, Ornella Pellizzari, Rosanny Alvarez, Adriana Cano, and Bruna Schmitz all shredded and it was fun to hear loud cheering throughout the event coming from their stretch of beach.
I should probably leave well enough alone, but Silvana Lima riding a virtually sponsorless board? Come on brands, if you truly are "surf" companies, why not back a surfer who's one of the best on the planet. Ask any number of people standing on the beach during the Supergirl, in terms of pure progression, Silvana stands atop a very short list of surfers. It's time one of you takes a stand. A surfer standing up on a board plastered with your logos who can barely do a turn doesn't do anything for the authenticity of your brand. Sponsor Silvana and bring some legitimacy back to your image. Trust me, you need it.
Pictured: Brasil's Silvana Lima displays nice edge work on the final day of the Supergirl Pro.
While 3.8 million people have watched Anastasia Ashley's pre-heat warm-up on YouTube, the one I enjoyed the most was Dimity Stoyle, shown here leaping almost as high as she is tall. The explosive Australian is currently ranked 2nd on the ASP Women's World Rankings and looks to be a solid addition to next year's World Championship Tour. Watch Dimity surf here
Pictured: Dimity Stoyle's pre-heat warm-up as NOT seen on YouTube.
Malia Manuel: Supergirl
Like so many stories that were played out during the Supergirl Pro, Malia Manuel's had a great ending as well. The 3x runner-up surfed virtually flawless heats throughout the event and used her spray-throwing backside snaps to nail down the title this year. Even through the late afternoon glare, you could see her smile a mile away as she walked onto the beach with her arms held high in the air. As the spray settled and the crowds parted, the young Hawaiian was 3,500 points stronger in the ASP Women's World Rankings, $8,000 richer, and most importantly, the newest owner of the beloved, pink Supergirl cape.
Pictured: Malia Manuel, 2013 Ford Supergirl Pro Champion.
While it's impossible to mention everything, I want to thank Supergirl and all their sponsors for bringing this amazing event to Oceanside each year. Nowhere else in North America provides a venue for so many international pros and young shredders to compete on the same playing field. The Supergirl Pro gave a talented, underground, California local like Demi Boelsterli the opportunity to advance through round after round on a world stage and it provided a tiny but formidable Hawaiian 14-year-old by the name of Kahanu Delovio the chance to give people a glimpse into surfing's future. Thank you to all the surfers who put on such amazing performances and a special congratulations to Paige Hareb, the Supergirl Pro runner-up, who ripped her way to yet another deserving Finals appearance. To the general public who came out in droves this year to support the women, you have our hearty appreciation. Along with the surfers, sponsors, lifeguards, police, event organizers, and the City of Oceanside, you made the 2013 Ford Supergirl Pro truly, truly super.
2013 Ford Supergirl Pro Recap
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