Waves pick up for surfers at U.S. Open of Surfing
HUNTINGTON BEACH – It's not a common sight to watch Kelly Slater come in last place during an early-round heat.
The 11-time world champ just couldn't find the waves to post up his usual big scores, while former U.S. Open of Surfing champion Nathaniel Curran seemed to find every right wave out in the water to score a high 18.06 (out of 20). Yadin Nicol – who was matched up last year with Slater in last year's U.S. Open final and lost – also got the better of Slater on Thursday during the three-man heat.
Don't worry Slater fans. It was a non-elimination round, meaning Slater will continue to surf on Friday for a chance to defend his U.S. Open title.
The action continued with waves picking up a bit with a new swell showing for competitors on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. The men's surfers got to let loose a bit with no chance of being eliminated, with winners of the rounds get to take a break and advance to the round of 16
"A lot of stuff went down today that was mind-boggling," said webcast announcer Mike Parsons. "The energy of the event really lifted today, it's definitely the best day of surfing."
It was a chance for aerialists to put on a show for the crowds, with Brazil's Gabriel Medina taking to the sky to post up a high heat total of 19.03. He was followed by Hawaii's John John Florence, flaring up to take first place with a 15.57.
"I've actually been really nervous out there - there's been a lot of people watching," Florence said as girls flocked to him for photos.
He said there were a lot of lulls between waves – giving too much time for him to sit there and think.
"I've just been doing my best. Sitting there is stressful," he said.
In that same heat, San Clemente's Pat Gudauskas came in the second spot, and now must face stand-out junior Hawaiian Keanu Asing in the next round.
Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson was up next, and he also came up on the second spot, taking a back seat behind Julian Wilson. Wilson had a slow start to the heat, but in the second half posted up big scores.
"You're just kind of rolling the dice out there," he said.
Wilson said he was going for the big scores with one big air, and he didn't want to have to hassle Simpson. Wilson, of Australia, was bombarded with photo and autograph requests as he got out of the water.
"It's unreal to have everyone down here watching. That's why we come to Huntington, for the crowds," he said. "It's not so much for the waves."
The day started off with the women in the water, with the crop chopped during the morning heats.
Tyler Wright lost out to Malia Manuel, and current World Champion Stephanie Gilmore lost out to Sage Erickson. Coco Ho won over Laura Enever.
Orange County's Courtney Conlogue will go up against Manuel with the women's action resumes with the quarterfinals.
The Juniors quarterfinals got underway, and Orange County surfers had mixed results.
Huntington Beach's Kanoa Igarashi won his heat, with strong local knowledge at his home break. San Clemente's Trevor Thornton was knocked out. In the final heat of the Junior quarterfinals, three Orange County surfers went up against each other – Huntington's Derek Peters, and Newport's Taylor Thorne and Andrew Doheny.
Thorne took second spot to continue on to semifinals, while Doheny and Peters were knocked out.
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