Chase Wilson, welcome to the big time.
While Wilson's rise in the ranks in the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' Juniors events is no secret, he took a major step last weekend just a few miles north of his Newport Beach home in the ASP Vans Pier Classic on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.
Wilson, 21, found himself in the final heat of the Vans Pier Classic with a couple of San Clemente surfers: Nathan Yeomans, 30, and Chris Ward, 33, as well as Santa Cruz's Nat Young, 20.
"It means a lot," Wilson said. "I felt I worked hard for it all week and it feels great it paid off. It's a big confidence boost for me. Being my best QS [qualifying score] result ever, it's so exciting and I'm looking forward to keep the ball rolling."
Wilson reached the final heat by winning both his quarterfinal and semifinal heats, each of which was a four-man heat. He matched up with Young in those heats as well, out-pointing him in the quarters and semis before Young finally came through in the final heat to win the event.
Wilson's performance in the event, though, was huge in the wild, 6- to 10-foot surf. Reaching the final heat in an ASP 4-Star event was another major step in his blossoming career.
Getting to the final, Wilson had to overcome some tough competition. In the quarters his score of 12.10 beat Young (11.67), Asher Nolan (9.70) and Luke Davis (8.43).
Then in the semis he scored a 10.40 to beat Young (9.04), Gabe Kling (8.56) and Santa Barbara's Conner Coffin (2.50).
"My result definitely met my expectations, not to say I wasn't really excited to even make the final," said Wilson, who will spend a little time at home now in Newport until his next contest next month that's another ASP 4-Star event: the Quiksilver Clásico in Mazatlan, Mexico.
"You have to believe you're going to do well going into it or there's no point in going out."
Wilson scored just a 7.00 in the final heat, as Young won it with two waves totaling 15.07. Yeomans was second with 14.87 and Ward third at 10.66.
"The conditions were very wild the final day," Wilson said. "The strong winds and current made it challenging to surf a 25-minute heat."
Yeomans had the best single score in the final heat with a 9.17 when he hit a big frontside air, but his second wave came in at 5.70 when he needed a 5.90 to win it.
"I'm stoked with this result. You always want to win, but it was a busy final," Yeomans told aspworldtour.com. "It was a lot of work and I was really tired. I caught a lot of not-so-good waves and you can't hear scores. I had no idea what was going on. Had I known I needed a 6 I would have probably waited for a better wave, but I'm stoked for Nat (Young)."
Another Newport surfer comes close
In the Vans Pro Junior final, another Newport Beach surfer just missed out on winning. Andrew Doheny finished second in the final heat, just 0.8 behind Hawaii's Keanu Asing.
Asing scored a 12.07 to Doheny's 11.37. Ian Gentil of Hawaii finished third at 7.93 and Coffin was fourth at 4.77.
"I can't even explain how I feel," the 18-year-old Asing said. "I feel like I've worked really hard and this stuff is right up my alley. I'm really exhausted and lost for words right now with this win. To start off with a solid score like that is huge; it's a lot of weight off of your shoulders. Instead of playing catch-up, you're looking to replace scores and it allowed me to select better waves. To get a good lead like that was real crucial."
Coffin didn't win either event but he was right there in each, reaching the semis of the men's event and the finals of the Juniors event.
"Usually I dig doing double-duty and it was still real fun today," Coffin said. "This morning was still kind of somewhat manageable, but this afternoon got tough. I'm so tired, my arms hurt so bad, but I'm stoked and I had a lot of fun surfing. It's always fun to get good waves whether you win or not and I'm happy with the way that I surfed."
Surfing news from Down Under
The Rip Curl Pro, the second ASP World Tour event of the season, is underway at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia.
Some of the top seeds, like Owen Wright, Joel Parkinson, Adriana de Souza and Jordy Smith, advanced through their first-round heats, as did Kelly Slater, who still hasn't said definitively that he'll surf the entire World Tour season in a quest for a 12th ASP World Championship.
Slater survived a slow start by posting a 9.50 score late in his heat to advance.
"It was interesting out there as I really did all the work in the last four minutes," Slater said. "I felt like I was out of rhythm the whole heat, but really there just weren't waves with a lot of scoring potential. Bells has that characteristic, though, and the door was left open just enough for me to get one in at the end."
JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at email@example.com.