The men's Qualification Series (QS) event at the 2014 Vans US Open of Surfing kicked off on Monday, with 18 heats completed in peaky one-to-three foot waves at Huntington Beach Pier. Competition saw several standout performances from World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers, while a field of up-and-comers delivered big upsets.
The US Open is the third of eight ASP Prime-rated QS events on the 2014 calendar, offering crucial points toward surfers' rankings.
Tim Reyes (USA), 32, entered his home-turf event fresh off of a win at the Prime-rated Mr Price Pro Ballito and commanded his Round 1 heat from start to finish. A former ASP WCT surfer, Reyes relied on his magic board and hoped to put together another standout performance in front of his hometown crowd.
â€œI'm feeling good right now and my boards are feeling insane,â€ Reyes said. â€œI ordered a bunch of new boards, but went back to the same board that I rode at the Mr Price Pro. Earlier this week the waves were really small, but it's nice to sleep in my own bed and surf my home spot. I enjoy surfing here with the good crowd and friends and family here. It's an awesome thing to be a part of.â€
Aritz Aranburu (ESP), 28, currently No. 28 on the elite rankings, was one WCT surfer to have a strong start at the Vans US Open of Surfing. The Basque talent's critical wave selection propelled him to a spot in Round 2. Aranburu is looking to solidify his position on next year's Top 34 with a strong standing on the QS, where he is ranked No. 54.
â€œI saw Tanner [Gudauskas] surf a smart heat and sometimes the biggest ones are not the best,â€ Aranburu said. â€œI knew which ones were the good ones and I tried to be patient. Every heat is important to me. I don't think that the Prime events are easier and I really enjoy competing in both the Primes and the CTs. Hopefully I can do well in both.â€
Alex Ribeiro (BRA), 24, delivered the upset of the day, eliminating defending event champion and current WCT competitor Alejo Muniz (BRA), 24. Ribeiro also topped Ventura locals Dane Reynolds, 28, and Conner Coffin, 21. Reynolds will advance with a second-place Round 1 finish.
â€œI saw the draw and knew some of the best in the world were in my first heat,â€ Ribeiro said. â€œI knew I'd have to get the best waves. Conditions were tough with the low tide, but I just tried to relax and have fun. I've been training three times a day, five days a week to prepare for this event and that win felt really good.â€
Vincent Duvignac (FRA), 26, posted a breakthrough performance at the Vans US Open in 2013 with a ninth-place result. On his first day competing there this week, he continued to display his skills, posting scores that were among the day's highest. He belted out a 9.13 single-wave score and a 16.00 heat total.
â€œI know I need a result here to say in the Primes for the rest of the year,â€ Duvignac said. â€œI knew it was going to be a hard heat and it's a relief to get through that one. I'll go back and watch that heat again to see what mistakes I made. A win is the goal for everyone.â€
Matt Banting (AUS), 20, currently on pace to qualify for the elite Tour, was electric in Round 1, combining seamless combinations on his forehand and backhand to produce a solid heat victory.
â€œLast year was a dream come true for me when I made the Semifinals and the ball just kept rolling,â€ Banting said. â€œThis year I thought I'd have a couple warm-up heats in the Pro Juniors and I was stoked to get a couple of sevens in that heat. It's always good to come back here.â€
Kanoa Igarashi (USA), 16, who is competing in the event as the trials wildcard, punctuated a day of world-class surfing, taking out a massive heat victory over 2012 event champion Julian Wilson (AUS), 25, Yadin Nicol (AUS), 29, and Dillon Perillo (USA), 24. Igarashi took to his backhand for the win, smashing the day's high-heat total of 17.66 out of 20 in the process.
â€œThis is probably one of the best heat wins I've ever had,â€ Igarashi said. â€œJulian (Wilson) beat me last year and I lost first round. I was laughing when I had him in my heat again this year and it feels so good to get the win over him.â€
The Vans US Open of Surfing runs from July 26 through August 3, 2014 and is webcast LIVE via www.vansusopenofsurfing.com. Full heat results and coverage of the event can be found on the Vans US Open event page.