Kyle Cooley clutched a white surfboard covered with about 60 autographs from pro surfers he’s gathered since he was 2.
The now 15-year-old and his family got up at 5:30 a.m. in the hopes that they could get even more signatures from the world’s top surfers at the Hurley Pro contest that kicked off Sunday at Trestles. Cooley had his hopes set on the most prestigious of autographs – one from 11-time world champ Kelly Slater.
Contest organizers make a call each morning on whether the contest will run based on waves and weather. Take the 5 south, exit Basilone Road. At the top of the exit ramp, veer right. About 100 yards after the overpass, turn right off the road. Enter the yellow gates by the State Parks Beach sign. Parking cost $20.
Tom Gudauskas – father of pro surfer Pat Gudauskas – said he was excited to see so many San Clemente surfers get a chance in the event. Besides Guduaskas, San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino, Ian Crane and Nate Yeomans were in the event.
“When it comes to town, it’s awesome to see a major league surf event here, and the whole community is here to cheer for them,” Tom Gudauskas said. “We have more opportunity for San Clemente to shine at its local break.”
The day got started with waves in the 3-foot range, with heavy fog making it difficult for fans to see the athletes. For the surfers, it made conditions even tougher.
“You can’t see the waves coming, you’re just sort of sitting there hoping a wave will come, and then all of a sudden there it is,” said Yeomans.
Yeomans, as well as Crane, got a slot in the contest after doing well in trials last July. Unfortunately, both Crane and Yeomans were eliminated in round 2.
Bob Hurley, founder of surf brand Hurley, was cruising around the contest site with four of his grandchildren, all who said they were rooting for Hawaiian surfer John John Florence.
“I think the level of surfing every year gets incrementally better. I’m expecting huge things from the surfers,” Hurley said. “This is like a real surfer’s event. It’s not super easy to get here. It’s all about surfing here, it’s not about the sideshow.”
Business was busy for Lost’s surfboards founder Matt Biolos, who had 13 of the world’s top surfers come to the shop looking for boards to use for the event.
“I love it, it’s a really good benefit to being a board builder in San Clemente,” he said. “We have such a good wave here to test our equipment with the world’s best.”
He said he was hoping all the local guys do well – but he was rooting for Andino.
“He’s my boy.”
The local surfer who started off the strongest was Simpson. He won his round 1 heat against Slater and Dane Reynolds.
Simpson , who is expecting his first child in about a month, needs a good result in the last half of the year to stay on tour.
“I haven’t had the greatest year on tour; I feel like competing has my head in a little bit of a pretzel,” he said. “Just deep breathes, take it all in and hope for the best.”