85 adaptive surfers from 14 countries gathered in Oceanside California to surf the Oceanside Pier and compete for the Title of US Open Adaptive Surf Champion. The High Fives Foundation arrived with 9 Athletes from across the country; Jason Abraham, Tommy Counihan, Mike Pingatore, Derrick Ross, Roy Tuscany, Alana Nichols, Jeff Andrews, Landon McGauley, and Tyler Turner. With a mix of varying disabilities and competitive surf experience, every one of them was hungry to be crowned champion.
Competing in the US Open Adaptive Surf Competition was such an incredible experience. I feel so fortunate to be part of the High Fives Surf Team! Our support crew was second to none. This allowed us to solely focus on surfing & having fun. Stoke for Life & the community of Oceanside were so accommodating & put on a perfect contest. I'm so grateful High Fives made this experience a reality for myself & my family! The stoke is real! Thank you so much!
Jason Abraham, High Fives Athlete
Sharing a house just down the street from the Oceanside Pier, the Athletes arrived on September 22 in order to get some time in the water and figure out the break they would be competing on. In the days before the competition, High Fives staff, Athletes, and watermen had time to gain a bit of confidence while strengthening their relationships with friends. When the comp rolled around on Friday, the ohana was solidified.
As the first High Fives Athlete hit the water, the whole crew was down at the beach to cheer them on. The conditions were tough and the stoke was high. Wind, rain, or shine, the team was there to surf.
I knew the US Open was going to be challenging, especially with my fiancé and I recently separating. Thankfully, High Fives Foundation was there to keep me together. Just knowing I had such great people surrounding me all week kept my head straight and the assistance of the team directly attributed to my first win in pro surfing. I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m stoked to represent them around the world as a surfer.
Tommy Counihan, High Fives Athlete
Mike Pingatore was first to compete for High Fives, pulling out a win in his heat, setting the tone for the contest. Tommy Couinihan, Jason Abraham, and Roy Tuscany had very strong performances and made it through to the semifinals. Roy worked his magic and caught some great waves, but unfortunately, got bested in the last 30 seconds of his heat to be eliminated. A-Bro stoked out the beach by buttering a perfect wave in the last seconds of his heat. This wave score put him in first place heading into Sunday’s final. Counihan and Pingatore also surfed incredibly and won their heats. Setting up an exciting finale for the crew.
The Sunday finals saw Pingatore and Counihan secure themselves places on top of the podium. Abraham left it all out in the ocean but was unable to get the waves he hoped for, finishing in a respectable third place.
Despite less than perfect conditions, all the Athletes gave their best. Beat downs were dished out and lessons were learned, yet everyone came out of the water with a smile on their face and a new sense of appreciation for the Pacific Ocean. More important than podium finishes were the bonds solidified by an amazing week in the water.