Under Snowcapped Mountains, San Clemente Teen Takes Horseback Victory Lap After QS Win - Stab Mag

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Under Snowcapped Mountains, San Clemente Teen Takes Horseback Victory Lap After QS Win

Quentin Tarantino would be proud (and probably confused).

elsewhere // Feb 28, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 2 minutes

This month, the North American Qualifying Series has been making it’s rounds through Central California.

And, it’s been cold.

Cold enough that a very rare dusting of snow coated the coastal mountains around the contest venue. Cold enough to wear a hood, booties, and (maybe) gloves. Cold enough that I even heard some local blue-collar heavy say “Fuck, it’s been cold.”

The contest happened just behind that big chunk of rock, also known as “The Rock”. Photo by Marco Mazza.

Apparently though, cowboys don’t feel cold.

To prove this point, 19-year old Taj Lindblad belted past a field of his fellow San Clemente fellers without booties, gloves, or hood. He then proceeded to climb atop his horse, Ranger, and chair himself up the beach.

“I spend a lot of time on a ranch up there, which is where I keep my horse. The people who own it are pretty much family,” says Taj, without the country accent I strangely expected from him. “A couple weeks before, we went for a ride on the beach, and they were saying “Imagine if you won the contest, and instead of getting chaired up, you rode your horse!” I thought it was sick, but didn’t take it that seriously. Obviously I still had to win (laughs).”

“Then, I ended up making it to the finals,” Taj grins. “With 10 minutes left, I was winning and Nolan [Rapoza] needed an 8 — which is easy for him because he’s so gnarly. I was looking around at the snow-capped mountains and The Rock, trying to keep my head clear, and then I saw my family with the horses in the parking lot. I was thinking, “Oh, this is gnarly.” 

With about 10 seconds left, Taj went on one last wave, and it looked like the final was finished. Nolan, however, found a sneaky insider and bashed it. He needed an 8, and his wave was genuinely close.

“The horses were on the beach next to me, and I was like, “if he gets the number, I don’t know you guys” (laughs). He didn’t get the score though, and all my friends were yelling at me to get on the horse, so I did,” remembers Taj. “It was sick, I just hope I didn’t seem too showboaty. It feels like home and my horse is there. I’d never be able to do that anywhere else. I was stoked.”

With the win, Taj earned himself 1000 points, a #5 ranking on the Q’ey, and a seat at the very exclusive surfing cowboy table — alongside SEOTY entrant Torrey Meister.

I expect he trotted to the local Sweet Springs Saloon to celebrate his win.

No amount of backwash is as scary as getting bucked off your horse. Photo by Scherer RunAmuckPhotography/World Surf League


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