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Professional surfing competition returns to Pismo Beach, attracting top surfers and visitors

SLO CAL Open Surf Contest
A surfer rides a wave at the SLO CAL Open surf contest in Pismo Beach on Jan. 27, 2023. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Professional surfing has returned to Pismo Beach this week, attracting some of the best young surfers in the sport, as well as visitors to the coastal community.

All week long, the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach has been held in the waters around the Pismo Pier.

Beginning on Monday, the competition has featured more than 150 surfers from around the continent.

"It's a World Surf League (WSL) professional surf contest," said Andy McKay, Surfing for Hope Events Director, who serves as the SLO CAL Open Contest Director. "We are hosting some of the best surfers from North America here in Pismo Beach. I believe there's 112 men and 40 women from all over North America competing here."

The event is free to attend. Visitors have been able to catch the action from either on the ground along the beach, or above the water on the pier.

"It's like a stadium," said Darren Bello of Pismo Beach. "You're just looking right down onto the surfers, which is perfect, absolutely perfect."

Competitors are vying for valuable WSL points, as well as prize money. The cash purse is $30,000 each for the men's competition, as well the women's.

"These are young professionals trying to break through in the World Surf League's ranks," said McKay. "This is a qualifying series of events. They're trying to move on through to eventually make it to the championship tour one day, but this is stepping stone event to get to that point."

On Friday, postcard-like conditions provided a picturesque backdrop that was not only ideal for the surfers, but also those who came out to watch.

"You couldn't ask for anything more," said Aimee Trachtenberg, Visiting From Clearwater, Florida. "It's beautiful. Everything is green. Pismo is a beautiful spot. Pismo rocks!”

Competitors have also been extremely pleased with the weather, as well as the overall surf conditions.

"It's been really good," said Kilian Garland, a professional surfer from Orcutt who now lives in Santa Barbara. "We've had swells the whole time. We've had really good weather, mellow winds. It's kind of just want you want for Pismo, and I think the forecast is looking good. Maybe a little weather on Sunday, but it should work out fine."

While the event is attracting visitors to Pismo Beach, many others are viewing the competition from afar through the WSL online broadcast.

"The live webcast is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people watching around the world, so it really puts a spotlight on our area of the Central Coast," said McKay. "Hopefully it brings future tourism to our area."

As for visitors who are attending the competition in person, McKay added it's a big boost for Pismo Beach and surrounding area.

"It really helps the City of Pismo Beach," said McKay. "We worked with them to put it on one of the weeks where they're slower for their hotel occupancy, so it brings a lot of business and commerce to the area."

The SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach continues this weekend, with the final rounds of competition set for this Saturday and Sunday.

"Come out to the pier," said McKay. "It's free. You can watch from the pier. You can watch from the beach. You can watch from some of the hotel bars down there and you also watch it from home online on the World Surf League website."

For more information on the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Events
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


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