2008 U.S. Open Men’s And Women’s Contenders

Taras

Men’s Contenders
Big guns come out firing for the Honda U.S. Open Of Surfing Presented By O’Neill

Sure, there are tons of sideshows, entertainment, and random distractions on the beach during the U.S. Open, but the real reason this whole giant circus happens every year is because of this: the main event, with some of the best surfers in the world vying for points and prestige.
From elite pros coming from all corners of the globe to local shredders who want the chance to scalp some names, it’s truly a diverse affair. Last year, young Frenchman Jeremy Flores blasted his way into the finals, nearly taking it all. Even so, it’s been three years straight that American surfers have won the Men’s title. Still, Australian surfers have been riding high on Mick Fanning’s world title (the first Oz men’s world title in eight years), so look for them to be frothing to stick it to some seppos on their home turf.
In addition to a huge international contingent amped to make waves in the industry’s epicenter, there are also some big U.S. surfers, like Rob Machado and Cory Lopez, who are no longer on the WCT but will be major threats at Huntington. In fact, both Rob and Cory are past winners.
So plant yourself on the sand, the bleachers, or the pier, and get ready for the real deal entertainment. – Casey Koteen

Faces To Watch

Rob Machado Bielmann/SPL
Age: 34
Stance: Goofy
Home: Cardiff, California
Sponsors: Hurley, Reef, Dragon, Channel Islands Surfboards, Boost Mobile, Nixon, Callaway Golf
The Dirt: Rob can win this thing in his sleep—or at least look so casual doing it that you’d think he was catching Zs in between waves. It also doesn’t hurt that the crowd goes bananas for him, which not only might earn him a little bump on a score every now and again, but it also does a good job of psyching his opponents out.

Dane ReynoldsDorsey
Age: 22
Stance: Regular
Home: Ventura, California
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Channel Islands Surfboards, DC, Boost, Monster Energy, Komunity Project
The Dirt: Dane’s doing well on the WCT this year, and the pressure’s pretty well off to earn WQS points. So he’ll likely be cutting loose, which means lots of huge tail wafts and big gaffs. But it can cut both ways with Dane. If the waves are good, he’ll be surfing hard to keep going and have fun. But if it’s flat, his amp factor may wane. Either way, it’ll be exciting and his heats will be required viewing.

C.J. HobgoodStraley
Age: 28
Stance: Goofy
Home: Satellite Beach, Florida
Sponsors: Globe, Body Glove, Vestal, X-Trak, Smith
The Dirt: C.J. won last year’s event, which actually kick-started his year competitively. Prior to the U.S. Open, he was having a shaky WCT start, but rebounded in a major way, winning a bunch more domestic WQS comps and then going on to shoot up to 11th place on the WCT by year’s end. Even though he’s doing better on the World Tour this year, he’d be excited to relive last year’s emotional victory.

Timmy ReyesNelly
Age: 26
Stance: Regular
Home: Huntington Beach, California
Sponsors: O’Neill, T. Patterson Surfboards, Jack’s Surf Shop, Arnette, Vans
The Dirt: We called Timmy out as a contender last year, and it turned out he wasn’t quite ready to jump back in the ring after a serious knee injury. But this year, Timmy’s back on the WCT and surfing stronger than ever. And even though by his own admission he does better at reefs and pointbreaks, you can bet Timmy will be gunning hard to win this event in his own backyard.

Jordy SmithBielmann/SPL
Age: 21
Stance: Regular
Home: Huntington Beach, South Africa
Sponsors: O’Neill, DVS, Vestal
The Dirt: During the U.S. Open last year, Jordy was smack dab in the middle of a gnarly bidding war for whose logo would be plastered on the nose of his board. You could tell it was a hectic time for the youngster, and the circus that is H.B. didn’t help his concentration either. This year, though, Jordy’s got a singular focus: winning. He’s won big six-star WQSes before, and he’ll be frothing to put this one in his résumé, too.

Brett SimpsonStraley
Age: 24
Stance: Regular
Home: Huntington Beach, California
Sponsors: Hurley, etnies, Dragon, Huntington Surf and Sport, T. Patterson Surfboards, Toyota Of Huntington Beach
The Dirt: Simpo’s another local boy who should be able to use his years of mastering the pier’s funky peaks and deep spots to good use. He’s surfing stronger and more confident than ever, and if he can maintain that through his heats, he’ll be a favorite to make it to the later rounds where he’ll bruise some egos.

Women’s Contenders
The world’s best wahines vie for American glory at the Honda U.S. Open Of Surfing Presented By O’Neill

English

While the Men’s arena at the U.S. Open is a high mark in American surfing achievements, the Women’s is equally as significant.
Just take the two finalists from last year’s competition: Australian Steph Gilmore and America’s own Karina Petroni. After strong showings at The Open, both girls were propelled on to accomplish additional amazing feats in ’07. Gilmore, who took first place in the event, went on to become World Champ. Talk about a competitive catalyst, it doesn’t get any better than that. And her good friend Petroni, who’s seen her share of peaks and valleys in her campaign on the WQS grind, took the impetus from that monumental placing, built on it through the end of the season, and earned herself a coveted ticket to the 2008 WCT.
Of course, last year’s a thing of the past, and both Gilmore and Petroni will be battling it out for this year’s title, along with a slew of other talented and hungry competitors.
But if the past can tell us anything about the future, not only will this year’s women’s bouts be extremely thrilling to watch, they’ll also likely provide a crystal ball glimpse into what the rest of the year holds for whoever makes it to the grand finale. — Mike Fish

Sofia MulanovichEnglish
Age: 24
Stance: Regular
Home: Lima, Peru
Sponsors: Roxy, Red Bull, Reef, Channel Islands surfboards, Movistar, Lan, DaKine
The Dirt: Coincidentally, at the ripe age of thirteen, Sofia made her breakout surfing performance at the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach. As a novice competitor, she made it to the quarterfinals in the fabled event. And from there, her ascent to the top was rapid and steady, until she finally became Peru’s first and only ASP World Champion in 2004. She’s been consistently sitting at the top of this year’s 2008 WCT rankings, thanks to a progressive and powerful shred arsenal, so expect her to be a serious contender. Seriously, if she can do that much damage as an inexperienced thirteen-year-old, just think what she can do these days.

Steph GilmoreSteindler
Age: 20
Stance: Regular
Home: Tweed Heads, NSW Australia
Sponsors: Rip Curl, DHD Surfboards, and Creatures of Leisure
The Dirt: Steph’s the defending women’s champ at U.S. Open this year. Oh, and let’s not forget that she’s also the defending ASP World Champion. Those facts pretty much say it all: combine her rock-solid ripping, as well as her formative years spent alongside the likes of Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson as a “Coolangatta Kid,” and this Aussie’s probably the most serious threat at Huntington Beach this year.

Karina PetroniStraley
Age: 20
Stance: Regular
Home: Atlantic Beach, Florida
Sponsors: Vans, Oakley, Sobe, Channel Islands, Casio Gz-One Mobile Phones, Aqua East Surf Shop, and Sticky Bumps
The Dirt: Karina turned heads at least year’s event with a fluid, high-octane performance, which gained her second place and later helped to push her toward a spot on the 2008 World Tour. Outspoken about her passion for competition, while exhibiting first class sportsmanship and deft wave prowess, she’s going to be looking to one-up her result last year. Not to mention, as a native Floridian, she’s an expert at taking apart shifty beachbreaks like Huntington.