If you know anything about the U.S. Open of Surfing
, you know that the opening weekend serves sort of like a test-run. The scaffolding is up, but work is still being done. The crowds come out, but not nearly in the numbers of the second weekend. The vendors set up, but empty booths remain. The surfers show up, but the A-listers are only freesurfing or cruising around town.
That's now behind us. In windswept conditions, the Junior divisions began and the trials for the Men's Prime event were completed. Fortunately, Luke Davis of Capistrano Beach, one of the prettiest of the pretty-boy Orange County surfers qualified into the Main Event, along with Hawaiian Torrey Meister, Maxime Huscenot (France) and Jano Belo (Brazil). All is well. Now, be ready. From here on out, the energy level cranks up with each passing surfing heat, with each late-afternoon concert with each day that the final weekend creeps closer.
Every year the event seems a bit bigger than it was the year before. This year, the nine-day event is swallowing 14 acres of sand on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Nike is the headline sponsor, so everything seems a bit bigger and more extravagant. Now, if they could figure out how to dictate the swell forecast.
Despite difficult conditions, the talent-level being what it is these days in surfing, it actually appeared fun out in the choppy lineup this weekend. The Junior boys were using the punchy beachbreak conditions to launch aerials wherever a closeout could be found. Every top local prospect from HB to San Clemente was on display, including SC's Kolohe Andino, Costa Mesa's Colin Moran, Newport's Andrew Doheny and Davis. Each advanced through to the quarterfinals.
Today, the women's main event took over. For the first time ever, the women's division is an ASP World Tour event. Though the world champion has already been decided (congrats, Carissa Moore!) there are valuable rating points available for those on the cusp of re-qualification and a hearty prize purse.
Enhancing the excitement is that a young woman from Santa Ana, who cut her teeth on HB's challenging wave conditions, is part of the World Tour draw. Courtney Conlogue was in the first heat of the women's event and put her homecourt advantage on display, winning in dominating fashion.
This is just the beginning. The Men's Main Event gets started on Tuesday morning, Two-time defending champ, and HB local, Brett Simpson is in Heat 22. Some guy with a girly name–Kelly something–is in Heat 12.
Get down there (early, because finding parking is a b—h!). Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated (plenty of energy drinks for your unhealthy consumption!). And be nice to your neighbor–it's going to get tight down there.