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MICHAEL GOULDING, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Kolohe Andino of San Clemente hadn enough points to requalify for the World Tour, and advanced from his first round heat with this wave at the Billabong Pipe Masters 2012 contest on the North Shore of Hawaii.
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Moments to remember from 2012 surf scene

Moments to remember from 2012 surf scene

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

It's time to wave goodbye to another year of fun waves, and exciting stories that came from the surfing community.

But 2012 was so much more than that perfect summer and epic fall Mother Nature blessed us with – remember those warm water, combo swell days with blazing hot weather? It's a mere faded memory now, as we head into the chilly morning, toe-numbing surf sessions of 2013.

This year started off in a somber way, with the mourning of an icon. Then summer time gave us the biggest U.S. Open of Surfing we've seen, and the unexpected news following that shocked just about everyone. Then, there were the pro surfers who make their marks around the world, bringing pride to Orange County.

Here's a few memorable stories from 2012 -- and let's hope for a new year filled with plenty of fun sessions, and aloha spirit out in the water.

Icon remembered:

It was the biggest paddle-out seen in Orange County as a circle the size of a football field stretched across the ocean near the Huntington Beach Pier.

Thousands of surfers came to pay tribute to Sean Collins in early January, to say goodbye to the Surfline founder, regarded as one of the most influential surfers of our time.

Collins revolutionized the way surfers sought waves, creating a surf forecasting website that allowed surfers to "Know Before You Go," the Surfline slogan goes. The Seal Beach surfer died of a heart attack at 59 on Dec. 26, 2011.

"I wish he could see the love of community in this world he created, and how many lives he blessed with his science," his son A.J. said.

While hundreds of spectators lined the pier, a few hundred surfers took to the water – some clutching flowers – and formed a large circle on the south side of the pier. They held hands, splashed water to the sky.

In August, Collins' family accepted an award honoring him with the SIMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Big news in surfing:

Since Nike took over sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing a few years back, the event has ballooned into something of extraordinary magnitude.

The world's top surfers came to town to participate. The crowds packed in – nearly a million in nine days – to be a part of the coolest surf event in Southern California, perhaps the world. Big-name bands brought buzz to the sand with free concerts.

The event itself – won this year by Australia's Julian Wilson and Santa Barbra's Lakey Peterson – would have been enough to make this year-in-review list.

But then, the bomb dropped in September when Nike announced that it – along with sister brands Hurley and Converse – was pulling sponsorship from the massive event. Why is this big news? Nike poured in a lot of money into the event and made it into such a monster, that finding a sponsor to fill those shoes will be a challenge for organizers as they try to make the U.S. Open of Surfing happen next year.

The U.S. Open is not a stranger to sponsorship change, having changed hands many times through the years. The future is unclear at this point, as no new sponsor has been named. But it will sure be interesting to see who comes in to take it over in 2013, and how they will try to reach the high bar that has been set. Will the world's best surfers continue to show up? Will the crowds come? Will we have to pay an entry fee to experience the U.S. Open?

The Nike decision could be a sign of things to come, as the company recently announced it was shifting out of surfing and moving its division and team riders over to Hurley. Another thing to look forward to in 2013 will be the transformation of Costa Mesa-based Hurley as it is given more resources to develop its brand around the globe, not to mention how its pro team will evolve with some of the best surfers in the world now flashing the Hurley logo on their boards.

Pro surfers make O.C. proud:

It was a milestone year for a few Orange County surfers who shined during 2012.

Santa Ana's Courtney Conlogue kicked it off in April, taking home her maiden World Tour win at the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic in Australia – a great accomplishment for the local surfer competing on her second year on the women's ASP World Tour.

Three Orange County surfers – San Clemente's Pat Gudauskas, Kolohe Andino, and Huntington's Brett Simpson – paddled among the world's best 34 competitive surfers on the ASP World Tour at some of the globe's best spots. Unfortunately, Gudauskas fell off tour for the 2013 season, but Simpson and Andino earned enough points to join the tour again.

It was Andino that really impressed during his rookie year on the ASP World Tour. It was a rough start, and things were looking dismal as he suffered an ankle injury in July, keeping him out of the water until August.

But the break might have been just what he needed to get his head in the right place. He came back blazing, making it to a few quarterfinals at tough events after his return, taking it one heat at a time and proving he deserves to be among the world's best.

He ended up ranking 23rd – not too shabby for his first year on tour, and also being the youngest person on the elite list.

Another shout out goes to Huntington Beach's Kanoa Igarashi, who had a phenomenal year on the contest circuit. At just 14, he excelled at everything he entered. Among his list of accomplishments: A Surfing America national championship title for the under 18 division, making the ASP World Junior Championships in Bali, and winning two divisions at the Rip Curl GromSearch national championships at Trestles.

Early next year, he'll be competing against the best young surfers in the world at the Rip Curl GromSearch international championships – and no doubt will be dominating throughout 2013 to show what kind of talent the future generation holds for years to come.


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