Stacked fields, opening day anticipation builds for WRV Outer Banks Pro Surf Competition presented by Pacifico

Event organizers and competitors alike have their hopes high that Jennette’s Pier will deliver rippable surf once again. [WSL/Nichols]

The World Surf League (WSL) North America Qualifying Series (QS) has arrived on the famed coastline of Outer Banks for the 2022 WRV Outer Banks Pro presented by Pacifico QS 1000. Competitors are fresh off their performances in Virginia Beach and looking for more in the shadow of Jennette’s Pier. A LIVE broadcast will feature some of the region’s top-tier talents beginning August 31 – September 4.

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Watanabe is no stranger to the East Coast and delivers his blows whenever possible. [WSL/John Ferguson]

For the men’s side, Taro Watanabe (USA) celebrated his second-career QS victory here at Jennette’s Pier and returns to defend his title. Watanabe currently sits at No. 10 on the North America rankings and can slide into a Challenger Series spot with another big result. But, for the 20-year-old, it’s a stepping stone process and his mindset is locked in for big ambitions.

“It’s always nice to come back to a spot I’ve done good at,” said Watanabe. “I’ve only been here once but I really enjoyed it last year. Probably because it couldn’t have gone better (laughs). It’s the start of a new year so a good result would be great in building confidence for the rest of the year.”

Watanabe will have to fend off the likes of recent Vans Pro winner, and new North America No. 1, Jett Schilling (USA), an in-form Owen Moss (USA) coming from a career-best runner-up, former event victors Noah Schweizer(USA) and Michael Dunphy (USA), plus a plethora of highly capable competitors ready to claim an important win to get their season moving.

The Outer Banks’ own Will Deane (USA) is right at home and building his ambitions each new year. [Courtesy WSL/Ferguson]

One of those is local, rising talent Will Deane. The now 14-year-old made his WSL debut here at age 12 and continues to show he’s more than capable of doing damage in a jersey, especially in his own backyard.

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“It’s awesome to do a big contest without having to travel and it’s really cool to see all the pros in my hometown,” said Deane. “The first time was cool because I was able to surf with Asher Nolan in my heat the first year. Last year my goal was to make a heat and I did. This year I’d love to make a couple heats.”

Eight-Career Wins, But Alyssa Spencer’s Just Getting Started

Now reigning as Queen of the East Coast, Alyssa Spencer’s (USA) Vans Pro win garnered her an incredible seventh WSL win away from home. The defending WRV Outer Banks Pro victor already has 3,000 points to her name to start the 2022/23’ season and the pressure is off as the 19-year-old hopes to continue her brilliant run of East Coast events. (Full interview in video above)

“I’m really excited to be back here in the Outer Banks, I love it here,” said Spencer. “I would love to win this event again and that’s definitely my goal.”

But, the current North America No. 2 will have to face off with the likes of recent, fellow Vans Pro finalist and North America No. 1 Sawyer Lindblad(USA), 2019 event victor Zoe Benedetto (USA), 2019 event runner-up and current Challenger Series No. 12 Kirra Pinkerton (USA), former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Chelsea Tuach (BRB), and more emerging regional threats looking to make their mark.

Zoe Benedetto (USA) hopes to return atop the podium herself after a brilliant win in 2019. [WSL/Ferguson]

For Benedetto, her first year on the Challenger Series hasn’t yielded the results she’d want thus far, but the Floridian’s resume is building each year with accomplishments at only age 16 as she looks for another QS victory on her home coast.

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“It’s so fun being back in OBX,” said Benedetto. “I feel super comfortable here and having some good results at this location helps me relax a bit (laughs). The energy in N.C. is just different and kinda feels like home in some ways.”

“One thing I’ve learned for doing CS is that you need to have mental strength,” added Benedetto. “Everyone’s good and everyone wants to win. The stress and longs days are challenging but in the end their worth it. I feel grateful to have the chance to go up against some of the best and put myself in that mindset. It makes me more fired up to do the QS because I want to show that I belong there.”

Event organizers will convene at 7:00 a.m. EDT for a possible 7:30 a.m. EDT start.

Tune in LIVE for the opening round of action beginning with the first horn each day of competition at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL YouTube channel, free WSL App, or WRVOBXPro.com.

The WRV Outer Banks Pro presented by Pacifico will run beginning August 31 – September 4 at Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.