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Surfers break down importance of SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach

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Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 24, 2023

Pismo Beach has welcomed 252 surfers competing in the SLO CAL Open as they pursue their dreams of qualifying for the Challenger Series.

Tuesday marked the second day of the competition.

"Right now, this event's proving itself to hang with bigger towns like Santa Cruz and Huntington," said Surfing For Hope Events Director Andy McKay. "They both had solid waves, but I think we've actually had the biggest wave so far this year."

The competition involves surfers from around the world, with the reward for winning the pro qualifiers being $8,000.

"I arrived here not too long ago, but I've never been here before," said William Hedleston, a Florida competitor out of Cocoa Beach. "I spent my summers up in Huntington Beach area, but this is totally different water. It's so much colder and I'm not used to it."

"For Pismo, this is a big deal because we're putting this event on in one of the slowest weeks of the year for hotels and restaurants and local businesses," McKay said. "It ticks off a lot of boxes. It helps the city. It helps our organization. It helps the athletes."

"It's such a cool experience," Hedleston said. "There are people I've watched ever since I've been a little kid and I'm surfing in the heat with them. It gets the heart beating a little bit quicker, but it's also fun at the same time because you learn."

Pismo Beach resident Austin Neumann is competing in what can be considered his home-field advantage.

"It is super cool to be from here and know the wave," Neumann said. "It's cool to see like a bunch of people to coming into town from all over the world."

Neumann began his surfing career during his time growing up in Pismo Beach.

"I’ve surfed here my whole life," he said. "I know the waves in and out of it."

Neumann has turned his love for surfing into a 13-year career.

"I lived literally like an eight-minute walk of the street, and I lived there for like ten years," he said. "I surfed literally every single day. I still do."

Neumann has attracted fans young and old to watch his work on the waves.

"I love seeing those kids have this event to watch and be stoked to someday compete in," Neumann said.

Competition for the event will take place throughout the week, with the final day of surfing taking place on Sunday.