It was totally awesome. I was totally there. The waves were still huge from the giant swell sent to Huntington courtesy of a Tahitian storm. Many of the massive wave would just wall out, crash and blow mist up the beach.
The US Open was down to the Round of 16 which meant 2 man heats . So all the crowd had to watch was Kelly Slater in the white jersey, Nic Muscroft in the red jersey, and huge, huge waves.
Then on the horizon, yet another behemoth starts rolling in. Muscroft and Slater start paddling to get over it. But then the crowd collectively realized, Kelly Slater wasn’t paddling over it…he was paddling into it. In unison the crowd let out a gasp as if we were all in a campy Franky Valley movie. Slater went racing down the impossible face at ramming speed. He was nearing the bottom and safety once again, when he started trimming himself back up into the curl. Another gasp from the crowd. Slater disappeared into the barrel and all was silent. Time stood still and wave rolled on. Then Slater triumphantly streaked out of the curl just as it was closing on the far side. We, the crowd, erupted in surfing delight. The white wash burst around him with such force that his leash snapped.
It was totally awesome. I was totally there.
[youtube width=”550″ height=”445″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HthGZsDaZtk[/youtube]
My wife and I went down to watch the men’s round of 16 at the Hurley US Open yesterday. (Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for the women’s semis and finals, which was a bummer.) But the waves were still going berserk and the jet skis (PWCs) were still towing competitors out to the line up. Not common in Huntington, there were even some serious barrels ridden this round. Crazy. Kelly Slater rode a particularly huge wave, got covered up and emerged victorious with a 10. Couple broken boards, couple upsets (Rob Machado did not win his heat)…it was a stacked and exciting Round of 16.
As I’ve said before, I think Rob Machado is becoming a kind of mystic guru of surfing. One day, surfers will seek him out at secret surf spots for nuggets of surf wisdom. He’s not surfing on the world circuit anymore, but he does show up as select contests. Today in his heat, he really seemed to be surfing just for fun of it. The waves he took and the way he rode them did not seem to be for the judges, just himself. Yet, he still took second and moved on to the next round. He’s definitely super graceful in his surfing style compared to the other competitors. He glides into turns and peaks, rather that crashing them or snapping into them like the others. Cool to watch.
The last heat in the Round of 96 was definitely a stacked affair. Mick Fanning, Rob Machado, Brent Reilly and Owen Wright in the same heat and only two guys can move on. When all was said and done, it was Mick Fanning who took first and Rob Machado who slid into second. But based on everything I saw in the Round of 96, Mick Fanning definitely impressed me the most. At this point, if he keeps surfing with the speed, vigor and verve he did this morning, he is my pick to win the US Open this year. Seriously, he scored a 17. The next highest score in the whole of the Round of 96 was in the 15s. The 17 came from two 8+ waves with a 7 to spare. He’s surfing fast, he’s surfing big.
Watch the action live! They have the video feed up now too.
There was a lull right at the beginning of the heat. Each surfer had one waves and there there was a good 5-10 minutes of waiting. It was starting to look like the biggest second wave was going to take the heat. But then the swell rolled in and Kelly Slater exploded with a 9.3. From there on out it was just a scramble for second and Slater started playing with the waves and having fun.
What was most amazing though was the crazed frenzy that happened when Slater tried to get out of the water. Ladies of all ages flooded the shorebreak causing the 9 time champ to head back into the water and wait for security to come and escort him out. Poor, poor dude. I heard one old bitty say, “I just want to touch him.” It was madness!
Also note that Kelly Slater is riding a quad fin board here…not unlike my Harbour Electric!
Taylor Knox making a good showing in his heat during the Round of 96. But it was Spain’s Gony Zubizarretta who would attain first place in this heat. But Knox clearly dominated the show both in and out of the water with is mowhawk and sweet ‘stache. Bikini-clad chickies besieged him upon exiting the water looking for a photo op.
The lulls between sets are still excruciating at times, but the wave size is really starting to pick up. Lots of 4s and 5s out there for the surfers to really cut loose on. Stephanie Gilmore scored an 8.6 on a nice overhead wave. She secured first place with that wave alone. Jessi Miley-Dyer and Malia Manuel took first and second from heat 3, Stephanie Gilmore and Megan Abubo took first and second from heat 4. Heat 5 (sorry, no pics) was won by Paige Hareb with local favorite Sage Erickson grabbing second.
The fog finally lifted this morning and the final heats of the Round of 144 were completed. The Round of 96 began and some of the bigger names started showing up to surf. Some of the bigger shocks so far are that Bruce Irons, Damien Hobgood and Sunny Garcia are all out already. There have been some good waves out there, but some of the heats are definitely getting better sets than others. The swell is still inconsistent. But the storm in Tahiti is promising some extreme end-of-competition action. Local boys Brett Simpson (Huntington Beach) and Tanner Gudauskas (San Clemente) competed in the same heat. Both succeeded and will be moving on to the Round of 48. We’ll have to keep our eye on those two… Hope to get back down there tomorrow and get some pictures of the ladies in their next heats.
Originally I had gone down to the pier to take some photos of Kelly Slater in his first heat at the US Open. (Keep track of the heats here. Live video coming on Thursday.) But then a wicked fog bank rolled in and the competitions got stalled. I waited for it to lift for a bit, but it was holding on pretty tight. There was fog yesterday too, so the heats were really getting backed up. As it was, Slater wouldn’t be on for another 90 minutes even if the fog lifted. So I grabbed my board and went out for a quick session while the fog lifted. But the time I got back from my car, the beach was clear as a bell and the heats were back on. No matter though, I still had time for my Obligatory 3.
The waves were fun today, but like yesterday, I had to work extra hard not to outrun them. The faces would be great for drop-ins, but then the waves would mush out into these a-frames that would almost crumble at the peak. From there on out it was all about positioning to keep the ride going. And the water is still warm and trunkable, so it all made for a short but enjoyable surf session.
While out in the water, I could hear the horns beginning and ending the heats so I knew when it was time to pack it back up and get my camera. But when I got down to the beach, they’d switched the order up and Slater was no longer set to go in the first heat. Still, I did see Bruce Irons get fourth in his heat. Poor dude, just had no waves come his way. And I did take lots of photos, so those will be coming tout de suite.
Can you feel it? Can you feel the swell building? Oh Jack Lordy, things are going to get nuts and they are going to get nuts quick. The Oakley iPhone App predicted 1-3 today in Huntington. Donnie and I went out at 9th Street to steer clear of the pier since the US Open is currently running the round of 144. (Keep track of the heats.) But those were no 1-3s out there today. They were solid 3s and great fun. It was a logging day for sure. Crumbly a-frames rolling in and making for long, fun rights and lefts. (Get out there before it gets crowded!) Donnie and I got some great waves out there and we definitely had a high wave count today.
Down by the pier things were probably just as good or better. What great waves for a contest. It’d been junk up until today so I was curious what was in store for the rest of the competition. I went on Surfline.com to check out the forecast for the rest of the week. Dude. It’s going to get nuts. Look at Friday! “Occasionally 10ft.” I like that this sentence ends with a period. Apparently, it is just a statement and not at all an exclamation as in, “Holy Crap! Occasional 10 footers! Are you even kidding me?!”
El Porto, although not “occasional 10ft,” will also be at code orange on Friday. So don’t be surprised if all I come back with this week are some pics.