April 29, 2022, Southern California, USA - Before Logan Webber and Seain Cook finished their marathon of a day in Panama City Beach two weekends ago, defeating Marty Lorenz and Caleb Kwekel in a breezy and chilly sunset final; before Carly Kan and Kaitlyn Leary fell to Brazilians Larissa and Lili Maestrini on that same beach; before Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez triumphed in their quarterfinal alongside Molly Turner and Jessica Gaffney, and the celebrations for qualifying for AVP Austin began, there was another qualifier taking place.
It was a little-known tournament, this one, a CBVA across the country, in Santa Monica, California. It wasn’t a one-tournament qualifier, as Panama City Beach was, but a three-tournament series, one in which teams take their best two finishes.
The top team at the end of the series will punch its ticket into the AVP Hermosa Beach main draw.
It called for a decision to be made by Californians: Do they travel to Panama City Beach, Florida, in hopes of qualifying for Austin, or do they take advantage of a diluted field in an attempt to grab a head start for Hermosa Beach?
“Jake [Dietrich] and I linked up because we both couldn’t swing the Panama City event,” Hagen Smith said. “He having a baby on the way rather soon and for myself, finding a partner that I felt like the $2,000-plus price tag for flight and hotel accommodations [in Panama City Beach] would have made it worth it. It turned out to be a great partnership for the event.”
He’s not kidding, Smith. While they spurned the opportunity to qualify for Austin, they put themselves firmly in the lead for the race to Hermosa Beach, winning that CBVA in Santa Monica, setting themselves up for the chance to seal it up this Saturday in Manhattan Beach, where the second tournament of the series will take place.
“It was a great win to start off my competitive season,” Smit said. “Each season I’ve been trying to work on my game more and more, without worrying so much about how myself and a partner will play. This year starting off without a locked-in partner has allowed me to really put myself first in training and I think so far it has been working.”
Whether or not he and Dietrich are locked in for the season, they are certainly locked in for the remainder of the Hermosa Beach Wild Card series, which ends with a CBVA on May 28 at the Hermosa Beach Pier.
They lead the field for the men, followed by Leor Schiffer and Alexander Biz, Dylan Maarek and Curt Toppel, and Tomas Salava and Kyle Stevenson. At the top of the women’s field is new mom Agniezska Pregowska and Heather Friesen, Taylor Hagenah and Ensley Alden, Chanti Holroyd and Alexandra Loitz, and Simone Gibson and Victoria Ashkinos.
“I think the three-event qualifier setup will let the better, more deserving teams shine through more so than a one-off qualifier,” Smith said. “Especially when you compare this event to Panama City, two matches on day one, five matches on day two, all bets are off for who will end up alive towards the end of the day. With the three-tournament system, better teams will rise and show their consistency.
“It made it a little more high stakes than your standard CBVA. You could feel that people wanted this a little more than your average CBVA open, especially with the field being split between here and Panama City Beach, those that stayed really needed to make this choice the right one. Thankfully we did and pulled out the win.”
No such choice was needed this weekend. It will be a full field in Manhattan Beach.
The stakes for these CBVAs are only growing higher.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew