Y. Valencia & McCullough Grab First while White Clinches Women’s UST Title

by Miles
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Yahir Valencia Big Wrap | Photo by DingoSaidSo (Website | IG)

The 18th annual Exile Oktoberfest took place at Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, California on September 16th and 17th. This was the final stop for the United Skim Tour for the 2023 season, counting for both the Men’s division and the Women’s division. Leading up to the event, the Men’s UST title had already been clinched and awarded to Lucas Fink of Brazil, but the Women’s UST title was still undecided with both Chabe White and Casey McCullough having a chance to win the title. At the end of the weekend, Casey McCullough ended up winning the Oktoberfest; however, because White advanced to the final and finished in second, she clinched the 2023 Women’s UST title. On the men’s side of the competition, Yahir Valencia emerged as the winner of the event, his second win of the 2023 UST season. 

The conditions on Saturday were about 3-6 feet. Despite the waves being sizable, the sets were often inconsistent and a slight wind texture persisted throughout most of the day. This meant priority took a big role in the Saturday heats with many heats decided by wave selection. On Saturday, early rounds in the men’s division saw both Valencia brothers, Gerardo and Yahir, establishing themselves as two skimboarders who could slide out for the biggest waves in their respective heats. With the conditions resembling those of their home break in Melaque, Mexico, both Gerardo and Yahir caught multiple waves where they caught the backwash out and connected to overhead waves. Tim Fulton had a great round one heat where he laid into some late backside hacks and tucked into barrels on the pier bowl. In that same heat with Fulton, Blair Conklin placed second and advanced to round two; however, Conklin suffered a minor muscle injury in his heat, forcing him to sit out during his second heat. Johnny Salta stayed busy early in his round two heat, landing a 180 airdrop on one of his first waves, and he along with Matthew Hammond upset Dane Cameron in round two. Newport Beach local Chad Wadsworth was another standout on day one, mixing excellent wave selection with both speed and tech advancing into the quarterfinals for day two. 

Casey McCullough Backside Slash | Photo by Kathryn Lockwood (Website | IG)

On the women’s side, day one included just a single qualifier heat between Casey McCullough, Jaclyn Koder and Jordan Sitea. The heat started off very close, with all three riders trading off a variety of mid-sized backside wraps. Toward the end of the heat, McCullough found a couple sizable pier wraps and she pulled ahead with Sitea close behind, eliminating Koder. The remaining women’s heats were held on day two.

Round two for the women was held first thing in the morning on Sunday. The swell had dropped for day two, but the conditions remained clean throughout the day, offering contestable two-to-four foot conditions throughout the day. In heat one, White had a dominant heat, finishing with the highest pro women’s heat total of the weekend at 19.38 points. Followed behind her was Amber Torrealba with 16.72 points and Jordan Sitea with 14.02 points who was eliminated in that heat. In the next heat, McCullough and Ashley Poshard both took advantage of the pier wraps on offer for regular footers, and they found the bigger waves of the heat. McCullough and Poshard finished the heat with 18.46 points and 16.82 points respectively, ahead of goofy footer Sydney Pizza with 14.32 points. 

Men’s Podium | Photo by Lauren Dubay

The Men’s division then jumped straight into the quarter finals. Timmy Gamboa, who was ranked 4th on the UST going into this event fell early to Chad Wadsworth. On one exchange toward the end of the heat, Gamboa tried to grab a small wave under priority but quickly had to change direction as Wadsworth used his priority and launched a clean backside air and kept the lead in the final minutes. Y. Valencia took out Zac Henderson in the next heat, with Y. Valencia finding the highest score of the weekend, a 9.58 for a big clean driving wrap. Henderson answered back in the final minutes with a clean 720 shuvit, but it was not enough to reclaim the lead from Y. Valencia. The next heat between G. Valencia and David Haefele had the closest score of the day. Despite finding two sizable wraps, Haefele lost to Valencia who had multiple technical rides and then found a clean frontside wrap in the final minute, winning the heat by 0.3 points. The last quarterfinal heat of the day was won by Leo Freitas over Mason Broussard. Freitas found a big backside spray in the final two minutes that ended up being the difference maker. 

The women’s semi finals then took to the water with heat one being the deciding factor in the women’s UST title race. Before the heat with White and Poshard, the announcers clarified that if White were to win the heat that she would clinch her first ever UST title. Chabe found some of the biggest backside turns of the whole contest, throwing spray and tucking into small barrels. Poshard answered back with a few clean backside wraps of her own, but it was not enough to beat White. At the end of the heat, White was stormed by a mix of riders and friends who carted her up the beach on their shoulders, celebrating her UST title win.

“It’s hard to say in words what I’m feeling right now,” Chabe White said after clinching her first ever UST title. “This is the best summer of my life. I’m grateful for all my sponsors, for all the people who have helped me make this dream come true. […] I never thought…well, I thought that I was going to do it, but I never thought that it was going to be this fast. […] Thank you so much for the support, and Viva Mexico!”

Chabe White Backside Wrap | Photo by Kathryn Lockwood (Website | IG)

The next women’s semifinal heat between McCullough and Torrealba saw both competitors trading off sizable wraps throughout the heat. About 4 minutes into the heat, McCullough got two clean backside wraps back to back, scoring a 6.04 and a 6.86. These two waves catapulted her into the lead and she held that throughout the heat to advance to the final.

The men’s semifinals kicked off with Chad Wadsworth facing off with Leo Freitas. Chad stuck a clean backside 180 ollie reentry to kick off the heat with a 6.40. Leo fired back in the middle of the heat with a 360 spin to a wrap barrel for a 6.44. Wadsworth later stuck a critical backside 180 airdrop toward the end of the heat for a 7.22 and solidified his lead, holding onto it to advance into the final. The next semifinal was with two brothers, Yahir Valencia and Gerardo Valencia. Gerardo started the heat with a clean 540 shuvit, showing that he was gunning for the win. Yahir later landed a big 360 shuvit off a small chop on the way out and landed with speed to turn off the wave and then airdrop back to the sand. Yahir later backed up that ride with a 540 shuvit on the way out to a small wrap with a shuvit back in. Yahir ended up holding onto the lead, advancing into the final with Wadsworth. 

Chad Wadsworth Spinning Wrap | Photo by Kathryn Lockwood (Website | IG)

The women’s final started out pretty even in the first two exchanges, and then McCullough ripped a hard backside turn off the lip, earning her a 6.52, the highest score of the heat. McCullough quickly backed up that score with a backside 180 ollie reentry, returning to the beach with speed. This put McCullough ahead in the heat. White found her stride later in the heat, tucking a clean barrel with 3 minutes remaining and then quickly backed it up with a backside liner to 360 spin. However, this push late in the heat was not enough to take back the lead. McCullough finished the heat in the lead and was crowned the winner of the 2023 Exile Oktoberfest. 

“Knowing [this win] was critical for the world title put a lot of pressure on me,” Casey McCullough said after her win. “But at the same time, I knew Chabe has been on top of her game. […] For her and I to skim together in that final was really cool, knowing she is our new world champion and me being last year’s champion, it was cool to have that moment with her.”

Women’s Podium | Photo by David Haefele (IG)

In the men’s final, Y. Valencia came out swinging, landing a clean bigger spin on his very first wave. Wadsworth focused on quality waves throughout the heat, only going for five waves. He started off with a clean backside 180 air. Y. Valencia got a clean tre shuv off the lip into a liner and then landed another tre shuv back onto the sand. During a big set a few minutes later, Yahir landed an airdrop off an overhead wave and Wadsworth went on the next wave and nabbed a late wrap and tucked under the hood to get barreled. Yahir landed a clean 540 shuvit off the lip in the last minute of the heat to score a 7.94, the highest score of the heat. This solidified his lead and he won the heat, earning him the title of the winner for the pro men of the 2023 Exile Oktoberfest. 

“I am very happy to have competed and to have won my second Oktoberfest in a row. I am looking forward to competing in this event next year and the entire United Skim Tour,” said Yahir Valencia after his win.

Timmy Gamboa Backside 180 Airdrop | Photo by Kathryn Lockwood (Website | IG)

UST Points Race

By advancing to the final and securing second place in the event, Chabe White earned 900 points and finished the year with 2900 points. Casey McCullough won the event, giving her an additional 1000 points and finishing the year also with 2900 points to finish in second for the year. In the event of a tie at the end of the year, the UST includes dropped scores to break the tie. White’s total point total was higher with 3710 points, and she was awarded the UST title. Ashley Poshard locked up the third place 2358 points. Amber Torrealba and Sydney Pizza both finished the year with 2195 points, but again a tie breaker determined that Torrealba finished in fourth with 2785 total points and Pizza finished in fifth with 2673 total points. 

The men’s title race had already been clinched by Lucas Fink securing a total of 3823 points after stop 5, but Yahir Valencia’s event win closed the gap, and he finished in second place less than 100 points behind Fink with 3757 points. Dane Cameron held onto his third place position, finishing the year with 2900 points. Zac Henderson jumped up one spot, finishing the year in fourth with 2822 points. Chad Wadsworth jumped into the the top 5 after his second place finish, ending up with 2815 points.

Pro Men

  1. Yahir Valencia – Barra de Navidad, Mexico
  2. Chad Wadsworth – Newport Beach, California
  3. Gerardo Valencia – Barra de Navidad, Mexico
  4. Leo Freitas – Rio de Janiero, Brazil

See Full Pro Men 2023 Standings

Pro Women

  1. Casey McCullough – Stuart Beach, Florida
  2. Chabe White – Mazunte, Mexico
  3. Amber Torrealba – Palm Bay, Florida
  4. Ashley Poshard – Los Gatos, California

See Full Pro Women 2023 Standings

Words by David Haefele
Photos by Kathryn Lockwood (Website | IG), DingoSaidSo (Website | IG) and David Haefele (IG)

This post was originally published on this site

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