Opening day for the FireWire E-Pro USA presented by Futures showcased dynamic performances on waves from the world-class break of Lower Trestles to secret spots only those who know can find them and clips didn’t disappoint. The event’s heat draw features names all to familiar to the surfing world, as well as a few fans may have to do some research on, and it was clear who stood apart in Round 1.
It was fireworks from the very start on paper with World Surf League Qualifying Series notable and aerial threat Kevin Schulz taking on fellow Californian, 2019 International Surf Association U-18 Gold Medalist, Dimitri Poulos, and one of the East Coast’s finest Rob Kelly in Heat 1. Schulz’s forehand attack in Oceanside, California, on a lefthander earned him a near-unanimous, first-place vote in his favor while Poulos’ explosive finish to a beautiful gem garnered him runner-up to leave Kelly’s New Jersey barrel hoping for more as he faces Round 2.
Heats 2 and 3 also left judges, including fans, on another near-unanimous first-place vote for the victors heading straight to Round 3.
Schulz’s fellow San Clemente, California, surfer Cole Houshmand stole the show in Heat 2 with his Lower Trestles lefthander and decimated each section offered to him while internet sensation Jacob Szekely finished with a strong runner-up. Former QS charger Brent Reilly was left behind in the voting and will have to deal with Round 2 for his chance to move on.
Brasilian-born and now California resident Wesley Santos earned his way to Round 3 with a brilliant debut showing over event threat Tyler Gunter and seasoned veteran Austin Smith-Ford. Gunter, former WSL Pro Junior Regional Champion, must overcome Round 2 while Ford’s impressive forehand at Pleasure Point was more than enough to move him into Round 3.
The event’s maiden first-place sweep took no time with Kei Kobayashi’s jaw-dropping barrel from Cylinders making easy work of Sam Coffey, also advancing to Round 3, and his Steamer Lane entry alongside Ben Benson’s Trestles combo.
San Clemente is well represented in this event with Kade Matson joining Schulz, Houshmand, and Kobayashi as Round 1 victors. The 18-year-old submitted a video from his home break of Lower Trestles to steal the victory from Santa Cruz’s, elder Coffey brother, Ben, and the ever-dynamic Caleb Crozier.
Wrapping up Round 1 came with a twist to those who don’t recall the talented Jake Halstead and his explosiveness as he put the event on notice overtaking QS veteran Michael Dunphy and QS standout Nolan Rapoza in Heat 6. A tight battle for first and second ensued between Halstead and Rapoza with both showcasing barrel hunting ability, but it was Halstead’s Big Rock screamer that earned the nod over Rapoza, also advancing to Round 3, and his Newport Beach barrel-to-air combo.
The next round of voting will begin Saturday, March 13, at 12 p.m. PST for the FireWire E-Pro USA presented by Futures.