For Joel Bishop, it was a nightmare start with a dream finish Friday at the Pismo Beach Open.
Surfing in his second World Surf League Qualifying Series event, the Arroyo Grande native overcame less-than-ideal conditions at his home break — including interference by another surfer and an early fall — to finish second in his heat and advance out of the first round for the first time in his young career.
“When I ate it on the first one, it was so bad,” Bishop said. “But you just got to come back, you can’t get in your head, so I just kind of worked through it.”
Bishop stayed calm and scored on two of his final three waves to advance. The top two surfers in 16 four-man heats advanced out of Round 1. Another 16 heats in Round 2 — including surfers who received first-round byes — will further narrow the field into eight Round 3 heats. Head-to-head competition in quarterfinals, semis and finals will decide the winner, with competition continuing through Sunday.
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It probably wouldn’t have happened for Bishop without a little bit of local knowledge.
“With Pismo — with the wind coming up, especially with the tide pulling out — it makes for a big rip (tide) pulling you out. But at the same time, it makes for good double-ups (two separate waves merged into one) because there are two sand bars that it’s going off of,” Bishop said. “So I just kind of looked for the ones that were going to double-up because I know in Pismo those are the best ones to go for.”
Bishop, 20, found enough to work with on his final wave to impress the judges and squeeze through, beating Brazilian Gustavo Borges by .31 points.
As Bishop walked up the stairs to the boardwalk, he handed out high fives to smiling friends and family. It was a bit of redemption for the Arroyo Grande High School graduate after a disappointing finish at the Still Frothy Surf Festival contest on the same break in September.
“I am amped, dude. I am so blessed,” Bishop said. “I got my friends, got my family. I am a happy guy, can’t complain.”
Bishop will be some of the first in the water when the second round resumes at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
▪ Bishop won’t be the only Central Coast surfer taking advantage of local knowledge in the second round. Orcutt native Kilian Garland and Arroyo Grande’s Braden Jones begin their competition after receiving first-round byes.
▪ Pismo Beach native Austin Neumann led his Round 1 heat for a short time before late charges by Colt Ward and Brad Ettinger knocked him out of the top two, preventing him from advancing.
▪ Hawaiian Ian Gentil had the highest combined score of the day with a 16.77 in Round 1. He followed that up with a 13.26 to advance to Round 3. The first eight heats of Round 2 were completed before competition was called to a halt Friday afternoon.
▪ Surf report: Saturday’s 2-4 foot swells will decrease to 2-3 feet Sunday.