HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Saturday, July 27, 2013) - Conner Coffin (Santa Barbara, CA), 20, and Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), 19, have won the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 4-Star Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Junior in peaky two-to-three foot (1 metre) waves at Huntington Beach Pier today.
The Vans US Open Pro Junior plays a crucial role in surfer's qualification campaigns for the ASP World Junior Championships and has also drawn several of the globe's top under-21 talent competing in both the men's and women's main events.
Conner Coffin secured back-to-back US Open victories, dominating the international field of Carlos Munoz (CRI), 20, Jake Halstead (La Jolla, CA), 19, and Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), 19, from start to finish with selective wave strategy. Coffin would ride only three waves in his heat, securing an 8.17 and 7.60 to secure the win.
"I almost didn't go on that first little left," Coffin said. "I thought there were going to be more waves, but that first one kept walling up on the inside and it felt good to start with an 8. It was a gnarly final and I knew an 8 wasn't going to cut it. I felt a little relieved when I got the 7, but knew the guys were capable of big scores. I knew Carlos (Munoz) could throw some crazy Hail Mary and pull it. I was shaking during the last two minutes. I was so nervous, but this is the best feeling ever, winning and having my family chair me up the beach. Last year was awesome and I'm just so happy to win again."
Bianca Buitendag, who finished fifth in the Women's WCT event, got the best of the high-scoring affair in the Women's Pro Junior Final, belting a near-perfect 18.10 heat total to secure the win over defending event champion Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), 19, Brazilian-turned-Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), 16, and Frankie Harrer (USA) 15.
"I'm really happy," Buitendag. "I had tough competitors in that heat and Nikki (Van Dijk) and and I have been competing against each other for the last two years. I knew I had to pull out my A game and it was a relief after getting knocked out of the quarterfinals of the women's event this morning. I'm lucky that I got that first set. It put me in to a good frame of mind. Winning this event means a lot to me, there are so many people watching and so many people excited about women's surfing."
While Pro Junior champions were crowned today, Men's ASP Prime and Women's WCT competition continued to whittle down the field, deciding Men's Quarterfinalists and Women's Semifinalists.
Carissa Moore (HAW), 19, 2010 US Open champion, blitzed the highest single-wave score of Women's Vans US Open competition of a near-perfect 9.50 for a powerful three-turn combination on a left breaking in to the Huntington Beach Pier, vaulting the former ASP Women's World Champion to the lead over fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho (HAW), 22. Moore would eventually hunt down a righthand runner in the final minutes of her heat, solidifying the round's high heat total of 16.83 and a spot in the Semifinals.
"I was looking for the rights out there and then that left came to me, but it's tough out there," Moore said. "There aren't a lot of waves out there so I was really happy get that 9.50. The crowd has been amazing out there and Im' excited to make it to the final day."
Courtney Conlogue (USA), 20, current ASP WCT No. 4, kept her hopes of a local victory alive, besting Australian Laura Enever (AUS), 21, compliments of her intimate knowledge of the Huntington Beach Lineup. Conlogue got off to a quick start during her Quarterfinals heat amidst the slow high-tide conditions and would dominate the affair from start to finish.
"With that the high tide was pushing in, I knew it was going to get inconsistent and softer," Conlogue said. "I wanted to get a quick start and build my scores rather than wait for that big banger score because it might be only two sixes that get you through. I'm happy I got that one left off of Laura (Enever) because it was one of the those waves where you could manufacture a score. I had a good heat and I'm happy to get through that one."
Tyler Wright (AUS), 19, current ASP Women's No. 1, got the best of Bianca Buitendag in a slow high-tide heat, besting the South African by a score of 15.10 to 12.74 in their Quarterfinals match up. Wright's Semifinals berth marks her career-best result in Huntington Beach and the talented Australian is beginning to find her way around the tricky lineup.
"The tide's really come in and it's all about the carves," Wright said. "I don't mind it. It's kind of tricky because there's not really a bottom to the wave sometimes and you've got to just do your best. I've always struggled here and been trying to figure it out. I just want to go out and surf my best in every heat and push my limits and have fun."
Pauline Ado (FRA), 22, was responsible for the day's biggest upset, besting 2011 US Open Champion Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 22, in a hard-fought Quarterfinals clash. Ado would fight back to surpass the Australian, belting an 8.50 to secure the heat win and the best result of her year.
"The 8.5 turned the heat around for me," Ado said. "Before that wave Sally (Fitzgibbons) had two good scores, so I told myself to forget about the scores and just surf. This event gives me a lot of confidence. I've had highs and lows this year and need points on the rankings, but I've been focusing on having fun and I'm just going to keep on doing that."
Kolohe Andino (San Clemente, CA), 19, who is now the only Southern California local remaining in Men's competition, continued his tear on the Huntington Beach lineup, eliminating defending event champion Julian Wilson (AUS), 24, to secure his Quarterfinals berth.
"I'm stoked because I was pretty nervous halfway through the heat," Andino said. "I wanted to do well so bad because Julian (Wilson) is such a hard competitor. I knew I had a decent chance of losing because he's so good. There were no waves in that heat and I was so nervous. I had a good left and only got a 4 because I surfed it so bad. I'm really stoked to make it to the next round and I'm just trying to take it as it comes."
Bede Durbidge (AUS), 31, unloaded the high heat-total of Men's ASP Prime competition today, belting the Huntington lefts on his backhand for a 16.50 out of 20 heat total and a spot in the Quarterfinals.
"I definitely stick to power surfing, and those lefts were my number one game plan," Durbidge said. "If there's an air section I'm going to go for an air for sure and I'm improving on them lately. That heat was all about backhand snaps out there this morning. I'm happy to get through that one and I'm going to get a good night's sleep and come down on finals day tomorrow. I know I'm going to have to be on my game tomorrow. My approach is to be on the best waves and that's what I'm going to look to do.
Men's and Women's champions will be crowned tomorrow. Watch the Vans US Open of Surfing LIVE via http://www.vansusopenofsurfing.com.