Sage Erickson riding the wild surf in Huntington Beach's US Open of Surfing - photo by




 A long, grueling day as the top seeds make their first appearance


It was an all-business day at the Hurley US Open of Surfing today as competitors slogged through the rest of the Round of 144 and 16 heats of the Round of 96. With a 90-minute fog delay in between it all, it meant a 13-hour day for those who watched every single heat. Fun, head-high peaks graced the South Side of the Pier during the best tides, providing plenty of opportunity for big scores.


Top of the list was rising star Julian Wilson in his Round of 144 heat, who posted a 9 and 8.33 with relative effortlessness. "I've been here a week and haven't surfed much," said Wilson. "But today was fun — some of the funniest Huntington I've surfed."


The fog eventually lifted for the Round of 96, where many of the top seeds made their opening remarks today. At the top of the heap was three-time world champ Andy Irons, who — as a WPS All Star — made his first appearance in Huntington in four years. Andy surfed exceptional in the challenging afternoon conditions, easily winning his heat. "Huntington's always been good to me," said Irons, who took a year off from the tour this year. "I kind of had some anxiety before my heat, you're in such a fishbowl here. But as soon as I hit the water, it all came back. Just stoked to be a part of it all."


Irons, along with Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons, CJ Hobgood and Rob Machado, will be a part of the upcoming WPS All Star festivities this weekend. With two PWC-assist expression sessions slated and a solid, double-overhead swell coming down the pike, it could all come together for some serious fireworks.


Other standouts today included Brazil's Miguel Pupo, who stuck the loftiest air of the day. Local Brett Simpson also shined, winning his heat and continuing his mission to qualify. ASP World Tour surfer Adriano de Souza and Travis Logie had a slug-fest with some solid high scores, and Modern Collective surfers Dusty Payne and Yadin Nicol put in solid efforts. Perhaps 2001 CJ Hobgood —who also won his heat — summed it up best. "Huntington's a tricky place," he said. "There isn't big difference between 3s and 8s out here, so you never really feel safe. But it keeps you on your toes, that's for sure."


The top seeds have to stay on their toes, as vets Damien Hobgood and Sunny Garcia found out in their heat today. Surfing against teenagers Nat Young and Tonino Benson, one would have thought this heat a foregone conclusion. But Young and Benson didn't bow down, and tail-whipped their way to a major upset. "That was, like, the hardest heat I've ever made," said Young. "I mean, those guys have been world champs and stuff."


Tomorrow will see the completion of the Round of 96, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Mick Fanning and Taylor Knox. The Women will also hit the water, featuring rising stars like Carissa Moore, Coco Ho and Malia Manuel, along with reigning world champ Stephanie Gilmore. All the action —starting with the women — begins tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. Men start at 1:30.




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