PLA Kicks Off Season Opener in Good Huntington Beach Surf

HUNTINGTON BEACH - The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) North America Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) kicked off its 2009 season at Ninth Street in Huntington Beach this morning with the Costa Del Mar Pro, an ASP LQS 1-Star event, in peaky two-to-four foot (1 metre) conditions. Today’s action saw Bianca Valenti (Dana Point, CA), 23, win the women’s division and Tommy Witt (San Clemente, CA), 22, put on an impressive performance in the opening round of men’s competition.

The ASP LQS regional series allows all competitors a chance to qualify for the coveted ASP World Longboard Championships, with the top two surfers from each region earning a berth on to the coveted tour where they join the previous year’s standouts in a chance to earn the title of ASP World Longboard Champion.

Valenti, who entered the contest as an alternate, built up momentum throughout the day and eventually posted the women’s highest heat total of a 16.17 out of 20, placing fellow finalists Hallie Rohr (San Clemente, CA), 14, Michelle Layton (San Diego, CA), 16, and Kelly Sloan (Vista, CA), 33, in a combination situation on the way to her event victory.

“It’s great to win the event especially because I got in as an alternate,” Valenti said. “I just found out about the contest the other day, so I’m happy that I was able to get in and winning is that much better.”

The Orange County surfer generally spends her time free-surfing, but she proved today that she is a strong competitor as well.

“I mostly free-surf and don’t usually do many contests,” Valenti said. “I am going to Hawaii to compete in the Pipeline event though and I’m looking forward to that.”

Rohr was the youngest competitor in the event and posted an impressive second place finish in her first professional contest while competing alongside a few of her surfing idols.

“This is my first PLA event so I’m happy to have made the Final,” Rohr said. “Today was kind of intimidating for me because I was surfing against people that I see online and in magazines.”

Witt, who was a dark-horse in last year’s ASP World Longboard Tour event at San Onofre State Beach, started off his 2009 ASP LQS campaign in excellent form when he amassed the day’s highest heat total of a 16.33 out of a possible 20 in the opening heat of men’s competition by taking advantage of the peaky beach-break conditions.

“It’s really fun surf for Huntington Beach,” Witt said. “It’s glassy and clean and the forecast looks good for the rest of the weekend, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the event.

The San Clemente local is looking to continue his charge into the latter rounds tomorrow and hopes to carry his momentum throughout the entire ASP LQS season.

“I’m hoping to get off to a good start here for the year,” Witt said. “I’m hoping to do all of the PLA events and would like to start my season with a strong result.”

The final day of the Costa Del Mar ASP PLA 1-Star event will continue competition with the Round of 32 tomorrow at 8am and will crown an event champion by day’s end.

Costa Del Mar Women’s Final Results:
1 -
Bianca Valenti (USA) 16.17
2 - Hallie Rohr (USA) 8.23
3 – Michelle Bautista Layton (USA) 5.90
4 – Kelly Sloan (USA) 5.06

Costa Del Mar Men’s Round of 48 Results:
Heat 1:
Tommy Witt (USA) 16.33, Chase Stavron (USA) 12.33, Eric Marin (USA) 8.67, Wyatt Potts (USA) 8.57
Heat 2: Remi Arazo (FRA) 14.33, Eric Lloyd (USA) 10.40, Job Ishiki (HAW) 6.50, Darryl Bowman (USA) 4.06
Heat 3: Byron Rohrer (USA) 10.00, Scott Brandenburg (USA) 8.20, Corey Hartwyk (USA) 7.03, Brett Heimstra (USA) 6.80
Heat 4: Mike Stidham (USA) 11.83, Cory Kisiel (USA) 10.00, Steven Simpson (USA) 6.87
Heat 5: Eli Gillis (USA) 11.50, Kevin McNicol (USA) 8.67, Brandyn Garske (USA) 6.60
Heat 6: Michael Schmit (USA) 5.86, Scott Shannon (USA) 5.84, Artie Castro (USA) 1.87
Heat 7: Josh Mohr (ZAF) 15.17, Jerry Swearinger (USA) 11.10, David Gotay (USA) 7.00
Heat 8: Ramon Perez (USA) 9.07, Danny Ryder (USA) 7.13, Blain Lewis (USA) 6.40, Gerald Matthews (USA) 5.07