The SLO CAL Open presented by French Hospital Medical Center took place at Pismo Beach from Jan. 27-30. This competition was one of two World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series events that will take place on the Central Coast. 

Alyssa Spencer and John Mel came out on top of the four-day contest. On Sunday, Jan. 30, Spencer took down last year’s event winner Sawyer Lindblad and Mel beat Levi Salwson, according to a WSL news release. These wins secured Spencer a spot in the Challenger Series and Mel a good shot at making it into the Challenger Series.

“It was nice to just go out and have fun and surf, and try to focus on really cleaning up my contest surfing and just trying to pick out the best waves,” Spencer said in a WSL interview after her win. 

This marks Mel’s second win in a Qualifying Series event and brings him to No. 2 on the North American rankings. Spencer continues to hold onto her No. 1 spot in North America while Lindbland is currently No. 4 and Salwson is ranked No. 5. 

“I came into this event wanting to win it,” Mel said in his interview. “The hard work finally paid off for me and I’m stoked and I want to keep it going.” 

The WSL Qualifying Series allows surfers to compete in order to qualify for more competitive events. The series is based on a point system where surfers can earn a number of points at each event and then the top scorers are invited to compete on the Challenger tour.

WSL writer Andrew Nichols said in an email that the Qualifying Series is based on regions and surfers compete within their region in order to qualify for the Challenger Series. Once on the Challenger Series tour, the surfers then compete to qualify for the Championship tour ––the highest level of competition in surfing.    

In addition to the surfing, the event was exciting for the sponsors and host who helped bring the WSL contest to Pismo. The main sponsors included SLO CAL, the City of Pismo and Dignity Health French Hospital Medical Center. Non-profit Surfing for Hope also helped host the event. 

“It couldn’t have gone any better,” Bob Voglin, founder of Surfing for Hope, said. “What helps Surfing for Hope is, it puts us on a worldwide stage where we can get more attention to people who would like to sponsor our non-profit.”

Surfing for Hope is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for the Hearst Cancer Resource Center in order to support cancer patients. Surfing for Hope hosts an annual surf competition and benefit auction as well as free monthly surf clinics for children who have a loved one with cancer or who are suffering from cancer. 

“We’re using surfing as a vehicle to help people going through cancer, and for us, the money we raise, it goes right back to the community,” Voglin said. 

Surfing for Hope will host the next SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay Feb. 24-27. Many surfers who competed on Sunday will compete next month as well.

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