News | San Clemente’s Houshmand secures spot on 2024 World Tour at U.S. Open of Surfing

It may be days away from a winner being crowned at the US Open of Surfing, but for one San Clemente surfer, Monday morning’s action marked a massive victory.

For all the other surfers who traveled from around globe to compete, advancing out of the early-round heats means they get to compete another day. But for San Clemente’s Cole Houshmand, it solidified the rising star’s spot to compete next year against the globe’s best competitive surfers on the prestigious World Surf League World Tour.

Friends, family and fans showed up early Monday morning to mark the major milestone for the local athlete’s pro surfing dream, cheering for and congratulating Houshmand as he emerged from the water with a big smile splashed across his face.

“It was crazy. I couldn’t sleep the past three nights, I knew I had to make one heat,” Houshmand, 22, said. “I had a lot of thoughts in my head. I tried to keep calm and I pulled it off. It’s been my dream since I started competing to make the World Tour. It’s been my lifelong goal, I’ve been working toward it forever.”

Houshmand is the No. 1 ranked surfer on the Challenger Series, the sport’s minor leagues and the path to making the World Surf League’s championship tour, which features the top 32 male surfers. The US Open of Surfing is the fourth of six stops on the Challenger Series.

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Fellow San Clemente surfer and current World Tour surfer Griffin Colapinto was on the sand alongside several others who traveled north to Huntington Beach to watch the nail-biting moment when Houshmand locked in his heat win with a 7.33 score, using his beefy stature to throw big spray on three huge turns toward shore.

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“It’s the best thing ever. We always knew he could do it. This year, he clicked in and he’s going to be the biggest surfer on tour,” said Colapinto, who is going to be competing for a world title at Lower Trestles, south of San Clemente, in September. “He’s one of my favorite surfers. We’ve been surfing together since we were young.”

Colapinto said Houshmand’s stature and style make him stand out as a favorite.

Parents Shawn and Kim Houshmand were also in Huntington Beach along with a dog, Hank, to witness the moment. Kim Houshmand, choking back tears, said they are his biggest fans.

“It’s been a long time he’s been working for this,” Shawn Houshmand said.

The Huntington Beach Pier is a place Houshmand has surfed in countless amateur contests.

“I don’t think I would have wanted it announced anywhere else,” Houshmand said, adding that his parents made many sacrifices through the years to help his dreams come true.

“I’m just hoping to make them proud,” he said.

Manager Frankie D’Andrea said there’s been a lot of momentum among the next generation of San Clemente surfers, mentored by by Kolohe Andino, who competed for about a decade on the World Tour up until earlier this year. Andino recently created “2 percent surf,” a crew dedicated to uplifting the quaint beach town’s rising surfers.

“He’s passed on his knowledge,” D’Andrea said. “That’s huge, when you have one of the best surfers in the world behind you like that.”

Several other San Clemente surfers are high in the Challenger Series rankings and have a shot at making next year’s World Tour with points from the US Open of Surfing and the next two events in October, first in Portugal and then Brazil.

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The wave of momentum is dubbed the “San Clemente Cyclone,” D’Andrea said, a play on the “Brazilian Storm” that has dominated pro surfing over the past decade.

“The crazy thing is, it’s not over yet,” D’Andrea said, “it’s just starting at this event right here.”

Jett Schilling, also from San Clemente and in the running to make the tour, advanced in his heat Monday, which also saw Santa Barbara’s Conner Coffin advance.

He said Houshmand’s moment was a big one for San Clemente surfers.

“I’m so stoked for him, I almost started crying,” said Schilling.

Crosby Colapinto, Griffin’s younger brother who also has a shot at the tour, earned some of the day’s highest scores, an 8.17 and 7.50.

It was a tough day, however, for other San Clemente surfers, including Andino and Kade Matson. Both were knocked out in the early round. Women weren’t in the water on Monday, and aren’t expected to surf until Thursday.

World Tour Brazilian surfer Filipe Toledo, who will match up against Griffin Colapinto at the Final 5 at Trestles, pulled out of the event, it was announced Monday.

Fellow World Tour surfer Leonardo Fioravanti, of Italy, was knocked out of the event, while Santa Cruz’ Nat Young, who was knocked out off the tour earlier this year, advanced.

Kanoa Igarashi, of Huntington Beach, had no trouble advancing and in the past has performed well at this event. The silver Olympic medalist won the US Open in 2017 and 2018, and finished second in 2016 and 2021.

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“It was a tough day to earn scores, but I was inspired by a lot of the surfers today,” Igarashi said.

The women’s side kicked off on Sunday with several local surfers advancing to the next around, on Thursday. But with the longboarding currently expected for Tuesday and Wednesday, event organizers will have to make a call each morning to determine the schedule.

Huntington Beach’s Sara Freyre, who just a few weeks ago earned the NSSA National Championship at the pier, finished in a second spot to advance. San Clemente’s Bella Kenworthy and Kirra Pinkerton also made it to the next round, as did former World Tour surfer Silvana Lima, who posted a high score of 9.33 in her heat.

In the longboard contest, San Juan Capistrano’s Kevin Skvarna and San Clemente native Troy Mothershead advanced on the men’s side, while Lindsay Steinriede, a surf coach at Saddleback College, and Dana Point’s Rachael Tilly, advanced on the women’s.

Houshmand said locking in a spot for the World Tour takes off a bit of pressure for the rest of the US Open of Surfing event. That said, he’s still in the hunt for a win.

“I’m definitely a little bit more relaxed. It’s kind of like a weight off me,” he said. “I still want to stay motivated. Once I put the jersey on, it’s game on.”

The US Open of Surfing runs through Aug. 6. Watch it live at worldsurfleague.com.

Check back for more results from today’s surfing.

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