For the first couple of rounds of the Vans US Open of Surfing - Men's QS -- stretched out over the past four grueling days -- Championship Tour surfers were skewering an assortment of ratings leaders, hopefuls, long shots and trialists from the Qualifying Series. But the QS got its revenge in Round Three.
A number of CT surfers looking to backup their re-qualification efforts fell by the wayside at Huntington pier today, including Kolohe Andino, Sebastian Zietz, Jack Freestone, Joan Duru and Ethan Ewing.
On a day filled with quips from numerous pros and pundits, they noted that the season may be half over for the CT. But it's really just getting fired up on the QS, and only a few ratings leaders actually seized their opportunities. The US Open is just the second of five crucial QS10,000 events and the ratings chase has really just begun, but the in-between spaces are where races are won. A good result in Huntington lays the foundation for a legitimate run at qualification. And there is no doubt an inevitable shake-out on the leaderboard is due after the Open.
As is the norm for south side Huntington pier, a slight decrease in size from a newly arriving southwest swell (as opposed to the decaying, more southerly hurricane swell) actually improves scoring opportunity. Mainly, there are more rights running against the grain off the "T" in the pier, and the zippy lefts running directly at the pier have a touch more open face with which to work.
The template for the day was unveiled in the first big clash of the morning in Heat 1. Currently ranked World No. 29, Huntington local Kanoa Igarashi turned his home-court advantage into advancement over both Andino and Ewing. The 19-year-old moves into the Round of 24 and gathers some much-needed confidence to go alongside a stack of valuable QS points.
The United Colors of the QS -- led by Costa Ricans Carlos Muñoz and Noe Mar McGonagle, South African Michael February, Aussie Davey Cathels, Kiwi Ricardo Christie and 2015 US Open Champ, Japan's Hiroto Ohhara -- once again underscored the qualifying tour's depth and range.
For the second day in a row Muñoz spearheaded the charge, scoring the highest single ride of the round -- a 9.00 bolstered by a whipping backside lip ride. Cathels took the highest total heat score of the day -- 14.70 -- on the back of a pair of pocket 7s, while Floridian teen idol, Evan Geiselman, impressed the judges as well as a flock of adoring fans, with his progressive game.
Two-time US Open champion and event favorite, Filipe Toledo, survived a wave-starved heat with a total heat score under 11.50 points, hardly a barn-burner for the Brazilian, who's looked unstoppable at times. But as has been proven many times in the past, winning the US Open can often be as much a battle of attrition as it is a march to glory.
With a fresh southern hemisphere swell pulling into town as the weekend and the money rounds approach, Round Three looks like just a prelude to an entertaining finish of a legendary event.
Catch more of the contest when the action resumes Friday morning starting at 7:30 a.m. PDT.