Saturday Update From The U.S. Open Of Surfing

This time last year at the U.S. Open, American surf fans were crossing their fingers that a domestic pro would make the final. Of the sixteen surfers that made their way into the final day last year, a scant four were American, and the odds weren’t looking good. Though Floridian C.J. Hobgood went on to win the event, this year it’s a completely different story going into the final day. An American story.

But it’s not a trend that’s unique to this event, it’s been happening on the WQS as a whole this year. One of the biggest crops of potential U.S. qualifiers seen in a long time has been flowering out on The Grind. It’s now halfway through the contest year, and with an impressive number of Americans in striking distance of making next year’s WCT, it turns the U.S. Open–a six star event with massive points on the line–into a pivotal point for them. In numbers, momentum, and emotion.

Brett Simpson is one of the young Americans that’s exploded into the top WQS ranks this year, ranked fifteenth on the WQS coming into the comp and having his best year ever. At 15th, if the WQS ended today, he’d just squeak on to qualifying for the WCT. However, we’ve got until December, with tons more big contests on the docket. Still, a good result here would be HUGE for Simpo’s campaign, and give him some solid momentum going into the Euro leg of the WQS, where it’s notoriously hard to keep focused.
HB can be a tough place to keep focused as well, but it just so happens that Simpo is a Huntington guy and knows this better than anyone. The hometown thing can work for and against you, and he’s learned how to play it right. So you won’t be surprised to know that he had the biggest cheerleading squad on the beach. Literally. There were at least a dozen H.B. High cheerleaders at the water’s edge for his heat this morning, complete with “Go Simpo!” signs, pom-poms, and rousing cheers.
Last year, Simpo had a cheerleading squad as well, but it was in this same round in 2007 that he went down to Australian Chris Davidson in round 5. But this year something was different. Or was it? Simpson had to be dreading seeing the heat list come up, with, you guessed it, Davo in his round 5 heat, again. But this time, it was Simpson and Florida’s Eric Geiselman that sent the Australian packing. That would signal the beginning of a string of heats where the international contingent was solidly ousted by cheeky Americans. The very next one Dane Gudauskas and Cory Lopez followed took out Australian Adam Melling. The American firepower continued with Nathaniel Curran and Chris Warning sending home Tahitian Michel Bourez. Then Torrey Meister and Roy Powers combined to put down Aussie Kirk Flintoff. It wasn’t until heat 7 that the bleeding was stopped, and mostly because of circumstance as it was an all-international heat.

Before the international drilling, another hometown favorite {and WCT powerhouse}, Timmy Reyes dismantled the first heat of the morning. Reyes has been shaking a cold, but you’d never know it as he’s looking ultra sharp and consistent. Though by his own admission he typically does better in pointbreak waves and bigger surf, he’s made it a personal mission here to finally take home some hardware. “I made the semis here four or five years ago,” said Reyes. “But really, I want to make the final. I’d rather lose out early than make it that far and not make the final.” There are loads of people that want to see him do it, including just about everyone in Huntington Beach. Reyes said he’s starting to feel better today and will be 100% tomorrow. Considering his level of surfing while under the weather, at 100%, Reyes will be tough to beat.

Another American that’s a favorite to take it all is Cory Lopez, who’s familiar with winning at the U.S Open. Lopez will be meet Simpo in the round of 16 heat tomorrow morning, the winner of which will move on to the quarters. Lopez is enjoying his first year off the WCT after being on it for eleven seasons. While he has no use for the points, you know he’d love to win just to let the world know that he’s still as on top of his game as ever. On the other hand, for Simpson, a victory over Lopez would represent more than just points; beating a WCT level competitor would be a gigantic emotional boost. This is the level of surfer he needs to prove he can beat in order to rightfully claim a spot on tour. No doubt it will be a ringer of a heat tomorrow morning.

Another big one will be local shred-frother Dane Gudauskas, who’s looking to post his best WQS result of the year, up against Eric Geiselman. Dane’s flying the Gudauskas brothers’ flag high, as brother Pat and Tanner bowed out earlier (although Tanner is in the O’Neill Junior Pro final tomorrow). “I could potentially be my best result,” said Gudauskas, “but I’m just to stoked to make it to the quarters. This contest is the most insane. Sometimes when you’re overseas it can feel like you’re super far away and no ones paying attention. But here there’s 100-thousand people on the beach, you’re on the jumbotron, everyone’s screaming, it’s just an incredible experience.”

Also look out for Nathaniel Curran, who is on a hot steak on the WQS after posting solid results through the Brazil leg that rocketed him up to fourth place coming in. He also put up the highest heat score of Saturday.
There are some incredible heats coming up tomorrow morning, there’s a preview below. So get your ass down here, the south swell is filling in and the beach is swarming with scantily clad ladies. Some heavy shit will be going down in the morning, and a U.S. Open champ will be crowned by tomorrow afternoon.
Round of 24 Heats, starting at 7:30 a.m.
Heat 1: Timmy Reyes vs. Dusty Payne
Heat 2: Damien Fahrenfort vs. Tim Boal
Heat 3: Brett Simpson vs. Cory Lopez
Heat 4: Eric Geiselman vs. Dane Gudauskas
Heat 5: Nathaniel Curran vs. Roy Powers
Heat 6: Chris Waring vs. Torrey Meister
Heat 7: Shaun Cansdell vs. Gabe Kling
Heat 8: Marlon Lipke vs. Joan Duru

Results from Round 5 of the Honda U.S. Open Of Surfing presented by O’Neill
Heat 1: Tim Reyes (USA) 16.67, Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) 12.33, Hodei Collazo (ESP) 10.00
Heat 2: Tim Boal (FRA) 15.84, Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.13, Nick Rozsa (USA) 9.94
Heat 3: Brett Simpson (USA) 14.03, Eric Geiselman (USA) 13.00, Chris Davidson (AUS) 5.50
Heat 4: Dane Gudauskas (USA) 12.20, Cory Lopez (USA) 12.13, Adam Melling (AUS) 8.40
Heat 5: Nathaniel Curran (USA) 17.00, Chris Waring (USA) 12.10, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.33
Heat 6: Torrey Meister (HAW) 10.80, Roy Powers (HAW) 10.67, Kirk Flintoff (AUS) 9.67
Heat 7: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 13.83, Marlon Lipke (DEU) 12.27, Yuri Sodre (BRA) 6.13
Heat 8: Joan Duru (FRA) 12.67, Gabe Kling (USA) 12.23, Nathan Yeomans (USA) 8.94