Brett Simpson’s winning waves in the final of the 2009 Hurley US Open Of Surfing against 2008 ASP World Champion Mick Fanning. Video Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/hurley.com
Hurley US Open Of Surfing final day photo gallery (above).
Brett Simpson Wins The 2009 Hurley U.S. Open Of Surfing
By Casey Koteen
Brett Simpson has dreamed of winning the U.S. Open since he was a little kid. But his wildest dreams were never as fantastic and grand as his win Sunday. In front of what had to be the largest crowd ever seen at Huntington, Simpson solidly bested 2007 world champ Mick Fanning to win the much-hyped $100,000—the richest prize money in the history of surfing.
Brett Simpson gets his hometown crowd pumped up before the final against Mick Fanning. Photo: jackenglish.com
Huntington Beach has waited a long, long time to have one of its own win the U.S. Open, and in pure storybook form, HB’s favorite son put a dramatic end to that drought. As the final buzzer echoed out across the beach and pier, Simpson threw his hands skyward, claiming the highest peak of his young career. He was still in the shorebreak when he was absolutely mobbed by friends and family, fully clothed, tackling him in the shallows.
Local knowledge paid off in the form of $100,000 for Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson. Photo: jackenglish.com
“I couldn’t believe it when the heat finished, I’m still at a loss,” he said. “I can’t ask for more than to beat Mick Fanning in the final at home. With that, and the $100,000 and the 2,500 ‘QS points, I’m nearly in tears at the moment.”
It really was the stuff dreams are made of: Not only did he win the big check, he beat big league World Tour talent to get it, including two world champions. Simpo made the semis here last year, but that was against a mostly WQS-level field. This year he dusted current world number two and 2001 World Champ C.J. Hobgood in the semis, and proceeded to out-surf 2007 World Champ Mick Fanning in the final.
Kids, don’t try this at home! Kelly Slater shoots the Huntington Beach Pier like a bat out of hell yet loses out to Brazilian WCT surfer Adriano De Souza. Photo: jackenglish.com
The upset of the day, however, came courtesy of Adriano De Souza, who stopped a rampaging Kelly Slater in the quarters. In the days leading up to Sunday, Slater was racking up the high heat scores of nearly every round. On Friday he did it with a mind-bending carving 360 he called the best one of his life. And then on Saturday with an incredible backside tube on an unbelievably huge wave. But in their wave-starved quarter final, Slater never had the opportunity to advance, and Adriano got a little payback for Slater beating him in the final in front of his hometown at the Brazil WCT earlier this year.
Hurley US Open Of Surfing: Sunday’s Champions. Video Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/hurley.com
Fanning would take care of de Souza in the semis, maintaining his high heat scores, this time with a 15.07, impressive considering the conditions had shifted from the hollow, low-tide drainers of the morning, to fatter high tide Huntington peaks – conditions that would continue on for the final. As the opening bell rang for the Simpson/Fanning battle, the massive crowd on the beach rose to its feet, buzzing with energy. There was no way that a contest with this much incredible action would have a lackluster final, and it did not disappoint.
Throughout the entire event and into the final day (pictured) of the 2009 Hurley US Open Of Surfing the waves in Huntington Beach were going off! Photo: Checky
Simpo struck first, with a barrage of sharp backhand hacks on an open-faced left, racking up a 6.83. Fanning was right behind him on the next one, and got off two good top turns, but it was clear Simpo got the better of the exchange. The judges agreed and shot back a 5 for Mick. Out the back again, another set peaked up, with Brett and Mick sitting near each other. Again, Brett chose the first wave, slicing and dicing it for a 7.83, earned mostly off a fierce on-the-lip cutback. But Mick was right behind him, and unleashed a solid reverse on the end. Mick got a 7.5 but yet again Simpo had piped him.
It was a serious statement: Simpson was on. That one turn made it clear that any nerves he might’ve had about being in the biggest final of his life he’d brushed off and channeled into utter determination.
Air Simpo paid off in dividends Sunday at his homebreak. Photo: Steindler
The momentum was solidly in Simpo’s court with yet another set rolling in. It was a slightly bigger one, and you could feel Mick licking his chops to dismantle one of them and choke off Simpson’s growing momentum. He’d done this hundreds of times before to unfortunate adversaries. He took off on a left, but it went fat after the first lipper, and never had a chance to be a keeper. This time it would be Simpo on the second wave. He’d been watching the sets prior to the final in the press tent, perhaps the best vantage point on the beach, and sniffed out a walled up right with the most potential of any wave so far. After a vertical lip bash, he spotted the end section and locked on to it. Building speed, he launched into an aggressive no-grab frontside 360, landing cleanly on the whitewash and riding out smoothly to a deafening roar from the crowd.
It was a 9.1 and Fanning was on the ropes. The score put Simpson’s heat score up to a 16.93, the highest of the day. Perhaps more importantly, it put a new pressure on Mick’s game plan; he now needed a 9.43 to overtake the lead, and with time winding down he’d most likely have to do it on one wave. That meant waiting out the back for a good set. Waves had been pouring in through the front half of the heat, but as if Simpson cashed in a favor from the wave gods, a long flat spell set in. Eventually a chunky right rolled in, but Fanning uncharacteristically dug rail and fell on some heavy chop through a floater. It left Simpo out the back with priority with four minutes to go, and he used it perfectly, following Mick down the beach to keep him off a single wave set right.
That would be it for Fanning. The final buzzer sounded, barely audible above the roar booming from the beach. Simpo had done it: realized a childhood dream, earned the biggest paycheck ever in surfing, and won what will likely go down as the most thrilling U.S. Open we’ve ever witnessed.
With the win, he’s getting a massive boost toward his 2009 WQS campaign with 2,500 points. But more importantly, he’s won something beyond points or money: the confidence that he can go blow for blow with the most elite surfers in the world and win. Life changes for people that win the U.S. Open: they rocket up the ratings, their profile goes through the roof, and if they can play a cool hand for the second half of the WQS race, the U.S. Open dream can lead to a ticket on to the Dream Tour. It did for last year’s champ Nathaniel Curran, and it certainly looks like Brett Simpson could continue the dream.
Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing Results: ASP WQS 6-Star Men’s Event
Final: Winner Receives US$100,000
1. Brett Simpson (USA) 16.93
2. Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.50
Semifinals: 4 surfers remaining (winner advances)
SF 1: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.00 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.90 SF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.07 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.47
Quarterfinals: 8 surfers remaining (winner advances)
QF 1: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.50 def. Nathaniel Curran (USA) 10.27 QF 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.76 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.77 QF 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.10 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.00 QF 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.27 def. Michel Bourez (USA) 12.40