The seeding list at this year's Vans US Open of Surfing is, well... frightening. There simply are no easy heats and for the most part, every one is impossibly stacked. With underground rippers like last year's champ Hiroto Ohhara taking out CT superstars, can you really put your money on anyone to storm the competition?
Maybe, maybe not. But we'll give it a try.
Here are 5 guys and girls that you might want to watch over the course of this inimitably fun, week-long event they call The Open.
1. Johanne Defay
Coming in hot after a win in Fiji a month back and being last year's defending US Open women's champ, Johanne Defay knows precisely what it takes to win at Huntington. Raised on Reunion Island, she's also had plenty of experience surfing French beachies of all shapes and sizes. She's looking like she's finally realizing the potential that the likes of Jeremy Flores sponsored during her first year on Tour. Light-footed and vibrant, she just might be staring at a repeat victory this year.
2. Filipe Toledo
Last year was a big one for Filipe. After two CT wins and a win at the Oakley Lowers Pro, it looked like Filipe was on his way to sweeping the Vans US Open, too. Surprisingly, he was stopped dead in the Semis to settle on an equal-third. And while that's a totally stand-up result in any average pro surfer's book, it's not in Filipe's. He wants the win, or it doesn't count. Which is precisely what he'll be gunning for this year, most likely hucking full-rotation airs off sections, combo'd with a few turns and tail-blows before or after said full-ro. Don't believe us? Just watch.
3. Evan Geiselman
Smoking the amateur ranks and slated to be the next big thing out of the East Coast, let alone America, Evan's been grinding on the Qualifying Series (QS) a little longer than expected. Ranked No. 8 on the world QS rankings, he's fresh off a win at the QS6000 Chiba Open in Japan and could very well transfer this momentum to the bouncy SoCal peaks of Huntington. He's surfed the wave each year for nearly his entire life and, being from Florida, he was born and bred on turning small waves into excellent rides.
4. Courtney Conlogue
World No. 1 and halfway through her strongest CT season yet, three words: Home Court Advantage. Indeed, no one on tour (except perhaps Lakey Peterson, who's returning from injury at the US Open) knows the bumps and bounces and wobbles and speed-pockets of Huntington Beach like local girl Courtney. It's where she cut her teeth in comps, and in surfing in general. Expect a good show, if not a trophy-raise, from Ms. Conlogue.
5. Ethan Ewing
Barely sneaking into the Round of 112 just before the first alternate's cut as a wildcard, 17-year-old Ethan Ewing is midway through his dream year. Ranked No. 6 on the QS, he's climbed his little way up the ladder through one, very pivotal word: Approach. And Ethan's approach is different, refreshing, yet strangely familiar. Probably the yin to Filipe Toledo's bag-of-tricks-yang, Ethan doesn't concern himself with airs and has been winning with his picture-perfect bottom-turns and Fanning-style arcs in the pocket. That New Finesse. A finesse he can translate in waves just like those at Huntington Beach.