Preview: The Huntington Beach Pro Grand Slam
The 2014 Huntington Beach Pro Grand Slam (HB Pro) will host both Standup World Tour Surfing and Standup World Series Racing events from the September 15th to 21st in Surf City USA. Showcasing top competitors in the sport, the HB Pro will also celebrate amateur and youth participation with a large Trials event and Open Racing division, as well as the Na Kama Kai Youth Challenge (U16) taking place on the final Sunday of the event. As Stop 4 on the World Tour and World Series approaches, tension is mounting in the race for the World Titles, and competitors will be ready to battle.
World Tour Men to Watch
On the World Tour side, Caio Vaz has been leading the race for the World Title, winning two of three events, including the 2014 season opener, the Sunset Beach Pro. Vaz will be looking for another win to replace his lowest contest score, a third place at the Abu Dhabi All Stars. And, after placing second at the 2013 Huntington Beach Pro (to Kai Lenny), Vaz will be hungry for this year's event title.
Three-time World Champion and 2013 HB Pro winner, Kai Lenny, will be looking for a repeat of last year's win. And, after taking the event win over Vaz in Abu Dhabi, we're expecting an extra impressive display of SUP surfing by Lenny as he works to set himself up for a fourth World Title.
Sean Poynter will be right at home competing in Huntington. The SoCal transplant has been on a nice streak, taking third in Brazil, followed by a second place in Abu Dhabi. Poynter, currently ranked fourth overall on the 2014 Tour, will be looking for a win to bump third place Keahi de Aboitiz.
Other top contenders to watch in Huntington include Maui’s Zane Schweitzer, Brazil’s Ian Vaz, Oahu’s Mo Freitas, Brazil’s 2012 World Champion Leco Salazar, Maui’s Kody Kerbox, Australia’s Beau Nixon, Justin Holland and Kai Bates, Tahiti’s Poenaiki Raioha, and US contenders Giorgio Gomez and Daniel Hughes, not to mention three-time Longboard World Champion and top finisher on the World Tour in previous years, Colin McPhilips.
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World Tour Women to Watch
Ladies will be bringing the heat to the Huntington Beach Pro, as the young Izzi Gomez and 2013 World Champion Nicole Pacelli will battle for points and the event title. The two are currently tied in the overall World Rankings, with Izzi nabbing two impressive wins earlier this year, and Nicole showing consistency to stay on top. After winning the 2013 HB Pro, then recently moving to Southern California, Izzi will have the advantage fighting for the win and Nicole will have some serious work cutout for her to take the event title.
Aline Adisaka of Brazil will be looking to strengthen her World Ranking, as she currently sits just behind Izzi and Nicole. Aline's given solid performances at every event this year, which keeps her in the running for the 2014 World Title.
Iballa Moreno of the Canary Islands, finished with a great performance in the finals at Abu Dhabi, and will be looking to continue the Tour with another strong finish in Huntington.
World Series Men to Watch
Connor Baxter is killing it this year on the World Series, with two wins out of three events, posting a second place finish (in Abu Dhabi) as his lowest of the three scores. There's no doubt Connor will be fighting for a win at the HB Pro to secure his World Title before the World Series Finals next month.
If Connor is currently leading the World Series, it can only mean one thing: Kai Lenny is just behind him. Kai will need a win at both Huntington and the Finals in order to bring his point total up and be back in contention for the World Title. After only one event win thus far, followed by second place and fifth place finishes in Germany and Brazil, we know Kai is hungry for an event win—and to repeat as World Champion.
European Cup Champion Zane Schweitzer is just behind his fellow Maui boys, after posting strong finishes at each of the three stops on Tour this year. Coming off win after win in Europe, Zane will be confident and ready to dig deep in Surf City.
2013 World Series Finals winner, Jake Jensen, will also be pushing for points in Huntington. The Aussie is going strong this year and is known to pump up the power late in the season.
But behind them is the European Contingent of Casper Steinfath, Leonard Nika and Eric Terrien, as well as Hawaii’s Kody Kerbox, Mo Freitas, and Australia’s Beau O’Brien and Paul Jackson. Others to watch out for include Brazil’s Vinnicius Martins, South Africa’s Dylan Frick and of course Team USA, that will be filling in here for this fourth stop of the Series, with names such as Slater Trout stepping up to do battle.
World Series Women to Watch
Lina Augaitis leads the Women's World Title race, with two wins out of three events. The Canadian's been on a roll this year and doesn't seem to be slowing down. Lina will be looking to increase her lead with another win as she looks toward her first World Title.
After winning the World Series opener in Brazil and the recent Shonan Chigasaki Pro in Japan, Aussie Angie Jackson will be motivated to finish the year strong by battling in Huntington. Currently ranked second in the World Rankings, Jackson will be looking to hold off France's Olivia Piana who sits just points behind in third.
Meanwhile, we expect to see a whole host of US talent stepping up to do battle, such as Candice Appleby and Talia Decoite amongst others, and the return of Kelsa Gabehart who put a couple of strong performances together in the opening two events of the season. You can also never count out the Europeans, as Olivia Piana, Manca Notar, and Sonni Hönscheid will all be looking for glory upcoming at the Huntington Beach Pro Grand Slam.
With the World Tour Surfing running from the September 16th to 19th, an exhibition event scheduled for September 21st, and the World Series Racing event taking place the 20th to 21st, it will be non-stop action at Huntington Beach, as the ultimate SUP showcase will go down in Surf City USA.
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