Vans US Open of Surfing

Tatiana Weston-Webb Claims First CT Win at Vans US Open

Anna Dimond

After seven jam-packed days in Huntington Beach, Calif., Tatiana Weston-Webb has won the Vans US Open of Surfing by beating fellow Hawaiian Malia Manuel in the Final.

Tyler Wright, meanwhile, has taken the lead from Courtney Conlogue in the women's world title race. For Conlogue, it was a painful loss on home turf. For Weston-Webb, the win was pure ecstasy, her first since joining the elite tour last year.

The CT sophomore wins her first elite-level event, in a tense final against Malia Manuel.

"I have no words with how I am feeling right now," she said. "Thank you to all of my sponsors and support crew. I am so happy.

Together, her win and the rankings switch-up reinforce the stealth significance of the annual surf-fest. With small-scale waves, a huge, skin-baring crowd and sunshine for days (literally), the women's Championship Tour event seems innocuous, like a little detour between Fiji and Trestles. But as the halfway point for the women's CT season, this is when the title race heats up; when the top-end of the rankings gets jammed with a few frontrunners and every heat is a crucial step toward the big prize.

Tyler Wright checks in with Kaipo after winning her Quarterfinal heat and taking No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard.

It's also a place where surprises unfold by the minute. On Sunday, it was Weston-Webb who wowed with her small-wave game, something she's had to work on since joining the tour last year. Throughout the Open, she rode an epoxy board that gave her newfound speed and maneuverability, which she credited with helping her A-game.

Malia put on impressive performances all the way to the Final. While she's been a perennial Top 10 finisher, her competitive fire burned strong in HB.

As Weston-Webb surfed her way through finals day, she left a trail of huge losses in her wake. Having quickly become known as a giant-killer when she arrived as a rookie in 2015, Sunday saw her step back into that role as she took down Conlogue in the Quarters, then Lakey Peterson in the Semis, and finally, Malia Manuel in a hard-won Final. Not only is she now a spoiler in the world title race, but she's in the Top Five.

Lakey Peterson (USA) prepping for her Quarterfinal bout with Sage Erickson (USA). Lakey Peterson meant business in Huntington Beach. Just one contest back from injury, she's already shaking up the world title storyline. - WSL / Jackson Van Kirk

Peterson, the contest's other spoiler, made a dent before her Semifinal loss and, if she keeps it up, adds a new dimension to the tour for the back-half of the year. (Note to self: Six months away from work can make a huge difference.) After missing the first half of the year, she came out firing at Huntington, hacking her way to win heat after heat. She now sits at World No. 14 on the rankings -- not bad for just one contest in 2016.

Along with Lakey, Tyler and Courtney, the rankings have been shaken up elsewhere following the action at the Open. Tatiana jumps from World No. 6 to No. 4, and Malia holds strong at World No. 8. The CT women surf next at the Swatch Women's Pro, September 7-18.