The waves tempered off as morning turned to afternoon in Huntington Beach but a three-to-five foot swell was enough for Vans U.S. Open of Surfing competitors to find their rhythm in the water.
The most high-drama event of the day turned out to be the Quarterfinal heat, which pitted defending World Surf League Champion (and current World No. 1) Tyler Wright (Australia) against Honolulu’s Coco Ho. The Hawiian surfer managed a 7.83 wave to open the heat, while Wright retaliated with a 7.17 ride to capture the lead. But the ocean wasn’t done with these fierce surfers yet, snapping Wright’s board and forcing her to replace it on a shoreline speckled with sympathetic fans. As the minutes ticked away, Ho pulled out a 5.03 turn on a wave, eliminating the tournament-favorite Wright.
“I just went for it on that last one,” said Ho. “It’s for sure intimidating coming up against girls, like Tyler [Wright], because they can manufacture scores in very average waves, but in the same sense it pushes you and makes you surf harder, which is what I tried to do.”
Elsewhere in the day’s fierce competition, Johanne Defay of France (currently ranked No. 5 in the world) and Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb faced off on the water, with Weston-Webb pulling off the upset and advancing into the Seimfinal. World No. 2 Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia) was also de-throned today from the likes of a slickly surfing Sage Erickson of Ojai, CA, who also wins a coveted spot in the Semifinals.
“I don’t compete that much against Sally [Fitzgibbons] besides last year and it was aggressive,” Erickson explained. “I was feeling it. We’re going old-school elbow-to-elbow, which was cool to see from her. She’s always so kind and gracious, so to see her fired up was fun so I knew I had to keep level-headed and not get too much into the aggressive game.”
Home-brewed Courtney Conlogue owned the water against Pauline Ado (France) and is the final competitor to enter the Semifinals, completing the Women’s Championship Tour final four.
On the Men’s side of things, Costa Rican Carlos Munoz undisputedly owned Huntington Beach, bashing an outside section to score a near-perfect 9.00, while the Men’s hometown hero Kanoa Igarashi moved himself along to the next Round with ease, as did defending Vans U.S. Open of Surfing champion Filipe Toledo of Brazil. Also advancing: Alejo Muniz (Brasil), Hiroto Ohhara (Japan), South African Michael February and Noe Mar McGonagle (Costa Rica).
After the competition, Igarashi waxed poetic about competing on home turf. “We don’t always get a lot of big swells in Southern California,” he said. “When they do it’s like this and you just want to be on the best waves.”