Hurley U.S. Open Of Surfing: Day 8

Slater, Fanning, Hobgood, Simpson, and Gudauskas advance to final day while Machado and Julian Wilson go down.

By Casey Koteen

How did Saturday go at the Hurley U.S. Open Of Surfing? It will without a doubt go down in the history books as one of the most electrifying days of surfing at Huntington ever. Actually, I’ll just go ahead and say it was the single most exciting day of competition seen here. I know, it’s quite a claim, so let me break it down: in yesterday’s write up, I called Nathaniel Curran’s tube from Friday the best barrel in U.S. Open history. At one point this morning, that honor was getting outdone heat by heat.

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WPS All Star Expression Session highlight clip. Video by Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/Hurley.com

In low tide, thumping HB cylinders, Pat Gudauskas opened things up with a very deep backside pit in heat 3, as good or better than Nathaniel’s only without an end hit. In the very next heat, C.J. Hobgood snuck into an ever deeper and longer one, disappearing behind a sandy runner, and pumping through a Hossegor-like section to earn a 9.7.

Then it was Kelly Slater’s turn a few heats later, and this was the one that will be etched into the stuff of legend. Just as the heat started a mammoth set marched in, and Slater clawed his way into a huge, dark wall. It was a gigantic set, but with no one on it, it was hard to tell how big it really was. As he dropped down the face and leaned into a full tilt, grab-rail bottom turn, suddenly the wave had scale, but it was hard to believe; this thing was a twelve-foot beast. Was this really happening in Huntington Beach? He pulled up the face and took a high line through a booming section, and disappeared behind the lip for a second, then came shooting out. The crowd was screaming even as he paddled into the wave, and went ballistic as he squeaked out the end section. It racked up the second perfect ten of the event. “I never thought I’d get a wave that big at Huntington,” he said. “It was easily the biggest wave I’ve ever caught here. I’ve never seen it bigger.”

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Hurley US Open Of Surfing Day 8 Standouts. Video by Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/Hurley.com

It may not have been as deep as C.J.’s, but it dwarfed it in size. Was it the best barrel ever at the U.S. Open? Bet your ass it was. Yes, it was an amazing day here, but I’ll try to keep a rein on the superlatives. After the barrel, Slater was absolutely frothing, with a giant smile stamped on his face, and raising his hands up to amp the crowd on his way back out on the jetski. Today he was back on the board he won Trestles and other World Tour comps on last year, that standard rounded pin thruster with black, sort of hand-print thingies on the rails. That one board has probably won him more contest prize money than a majority of pros make in their entire careers.

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Kelly Slater’s perfect 10. Video by Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/Hurley.com

Like yesterday, Slater racked up the highest heat score of the round, an 18.5. No surprise there. The big surprise was perennial U.S. Open favorite Rob Machado falling to Michel Bourez of Tahiti in heat 7. When you look at Rob’s U.S. Open record, no one even comes close on paper in the men’s main event. From 1995, when he first won it, he’s made the final six times and won the event in half of those finals. But Bourez had his number today, striking back at some thumping HB sections.

With Machado gone, the spotlight is now brightest on Slater and Fanning for winning the 100-large. However, there’s a problem: they’re on the same side of the draw, so assuming they both win their quarterfinal heats, they would meet in the semis.

But back to today: Huntington Beach local boy Brett Simpson advanced to tomorrow, the final day, already logging his best-ever finish here. In year’s past he’s seemed more eager as he advanced through heats. This year, he seems more prudent, measured. The cheerleaders are gone, his focus is all on the water. “I don’t want to get too excited yet,” he said. This, even after he won the Hurley Pro Trails later in the day, giving him a slot into the Trestles WCT comp in September. “I just want to focus on tomorrow and get an inch closer to the main prize.”

Defending champ Nathaniel Curran squeaked by in a wave-starved heat. In the very next heat though Pat Gudauskas continued his mission with an inspired performance. After stroking into a bombing left, Pat pulled in and logged a nice, deep barrel mentioned earlier, and came screaming out the bottom just as it closed out, for a 7.83. It must’ve psyched him up, ’cause his very next wave was a punchy right where he punted a big, extended frontside 360, right in front of Eric Geiselman. As if that weren’t enough, he got another backside barrel that put Geiselman on the ropes.

In the last men’s heat of the day Mick Fanning disposed of Julian Wilson. Tomorrow Fanning will face another young up and comer in Tahitian powerhouse Michel Bourez in the last quarterfinal. Here’s how the rest of the heats stack up, and they are all heavy ones: quarter one is Brett Simpson verse Nathaniel Curran, two is Pat Gudauskas against C.J. Hobgood, and three is Slater and Adriano De Souza.

Tomorrow, one of those names is going to be $100,000 richer. Odds are obviously on Slater—he’s had the high heat score in the last two rounds, he’s on the board that he had one of his most dominant seasons ever on, and he appears to be completely in the zone. After his mind-bending carving 360 on Friday, he said he was just getting warmed up. That seemed hard to believe, but after today’s mega-barrel, he proved he wasn’t kidding. It’s scary to think about what he might do for an encore tomorrow…Andy Irons Hurley US Open Of Surfing

Andy Irons’ mega floater in the WPS All Star Tow In Expression Session. Photo: jackenglish.com.

Hurley U.S. Open Round of 16 Results: (1st and 2nd advance) Heat 1: Brett Simpson (USA) 14.93, def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.50 Heat 2: Nathaniel Curran (USA) 6.60 def. Alain Riou (PYF) 5.97 Heat 3: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.23 def. Eric Geiselman (USA) 7.96 Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.17 def. Daniel Ross (AUS) 11.30 Heat 5: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.50 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 10.00 Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.50 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 9.90 Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.40 def. Rob Machado (USA) 10.50 Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.00 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.84

Courtney Conlogue

2009 Hurley US Open Of Surfing Champion Courtney Conlogue. Photo: jackenglish.com

Courtney Conlogue Wins Hurley U.S. Open Of Surfing; Malia Manuel goes runner up in the main event, and wins the Nike 6.0 Junior Pro.

By Ryan Brower

Two years running a woman without a driver’s license has taken home the victory in the U.S. Open. In a tense final, Huntington hometown girl Courtney Conlogue seized the title from defending champ Malia Manuel. This year, though, the added element of the best day of contest surf in Huntington ever made it another one for the books. “A sixteen-year-old, a fifteen-year-old, the huge surf, the jet skis, the 50 year anniversary, the prize money – I could just go on and on,” Malia humbly stated.

The two girls didn’t have easy roads to the final today, though. Malia had to better Aussie Laura Enever while Courtney battled to take down the likes of Carissa Moore. With Huntington pumping again today, Courtney showed off her vicious backhand attack that has been groomed at that very spot, and that had the entire crowd in rapture yesterday after her gutsy performance in the quarterfinals. “It’s incredible to surf these waves in my hometown,” she said.Courtney Conlogue

Courtney Conlogue. Photo: jackenglish.com

Courtney pulled from her backhand catalog once again, starting off with a lip destructing 8.17 immediately after Malia had racked in a 7.17 that lined up for her all the way to the inside. Malia struck back with a mushy right that allowed her one cutback, giving her a 5.5 and putting her in the lead until Courtney answered right back with a keeper 6. The game of see-saw came to a halt when Courtney took a walled up left that allowed her one giant backside hit, putting a 9 in her lap as she sat from that point on in the driver’s seat having Malia comboed. Courtney”s road to the top spot on the podium was freshly paved after that.

Malia’s workload was a bit longer today in Huntington—only an hour before the Women’s final she was carried up the beach as the Nike 6.0 Womens Pro Junior champ. In the Pro Junior event today she nabbed the win in the dying seconds, beating Coco Ho, Canelle Bullard, and stealing the lead from Sage Erickson. “Sage almost had it in the bag and then some miraculous wave came and I got to pick it up and got a score,” Malia stated.

Though she didn’t double-up on titles or repeat as US Open champ, remember she is only fifteen, and the junior pro wins are really where her major focus is at this point in her career. “I’m glad I got the 6.0 win to get points and qualify for Narrabeen [ASP Pro Junior World Championships],” Malia said.

Both Courtney and Malia are blowing their own expectations of themselves out of the water. For the final of the biggest surfing contest in the world to consist of two girls under seventeen tells you that these girls (their teenage peers included) are morphing their sport into something that is all their’s.

Courtney’s been surfing the U.S. Open since the age of twelve, and she finally achieved the biggest win of her young career in front of her home crowd today. As she lifted the piece of her pier that served as her trophy, her crowd erupted for their beaming star. “I’m going to remember this one forever and I’ve got my own piece of the pier for life,” Courtney stated. Though the drive home won’t be far for her, Mom will be driving remember.

Women’s Hurley U.S. Open Final Results:

1. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 17.17

2. Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.67

Women’s Hurley U.S. Open Semifinals Results:

Heat 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11,17 def Laura Enever (AUS) 6.27

Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.33 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 7.47