Perfect waves kick off Nike Lowers Pro
Getting to surf perfect, peaky 6-foot waves at Lower Trestles is great – but surfing it with only three other guys out, that's even better.
The Nike Lowers Pro kicked off at the cobble-stoned beach at San Onofre State Beach under drizzly skies on Tuesday, with 96 surfers from around the world this week to try to get a piece of the $250,000 prize.
"It's nice to have the waves here, and seeing all the guys you're competing against from around the world in your local line up. It's going off. It's pretty much perfect 6-foot when it's coming in. They are the conditions you hope for," said San Clemente surfer Tanner Gudauskas, coming out of the water after an early morning warm up. "It's just been sick, I haven't surfed it since last year – I'm like a kid in a candy store."
Gudauskas came close to taking home the win last year, but came in second after an exciting final against Brazilian Miguel Pupo.
"Last year was fun. I look back, and I was psyched to get second. So I'm just hoping to go again and see if we can do it again," Gudauskas said.
There's a strong crop of surfers hoping to do the same thing, including some of the top surfers in the world such as Julian Wilson, C.J. Hobgood, John John Florence and Taylor Knox. It's not an Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour event, so missing from the line-up are surfers such as Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning. But all three Orange County surfers on the World Tour – Brett Simpson, Patrick Gudauskas and Kolohe Andino – entered the event.
Andino, 18, was knocked out in the early round on Tuesday; no doubt a big disappointment for the San Clemente surfer and one of the local favorites at his home break.
"Definitely an upset; he's one of my really good friends, and he's one of the best surfers out there," said Florida surfer Evan Geiselman, who moved to San Clemente recently and has been getting plenty of practice time at Trestles.
Huntington Beach's Tim Reyes was surfing strong and advanced during his heat. The free surfer has pulled back from the competitive circuit, but usually enters the Lowers Pro contest.
The event at Lowers is a great contest to watch because the wave is considered like a skate park – great ramp sections that allow for big airs and high performance surfing.
The event – now in its fifth year – is one of only two ASP Prime events held on the U.S. mainland, with the other being the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach in August. The prime event is huge for surfers because a win here is the same as a third-place finish at a World Tour event, meaning big points for those looking to stay or get on tour.
San Clemente's Chris Ward is hoping to do just that, showing Tuesday he's back in competition mode after winning a spot in the main event during the trials. He'll be in heat 13 on Wednesday.
"I'm just psyched the waves are really good, the conditions are great," he said. "That's where it all begins, just going out there and having fun - let alone being in a heat, that makes it that much more fun. Not only is there only three other guys, I get to be more selective on the waves I catch."
The 33-year-old former World Tour veteran took last year off to recharge, and hopes to start accumulating points to be able to enter high-ranked contests.
"I think breaks are really good for athletes, they need to take time off," said Ward, who just came off a win in Huntington last weekend at a surf contest. "...It helped a lot, now I'm really charged and ready and pumped on surfing a lot of events."
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