The world's elite surfers debuted today during the 2019 Vans US Open of Surfing Presented by Swatch, a WSL Men's and Women's QS 10,000 event and one of the largest action sports festivals in the world. Rounds 1 and 2 of the Men's event saw CT defeat and QS contender victories with plenty of action on tap by both land and sea. Alongside the surfing, the Vans US Open of Surfing also hosts skateboarding and BMX competitions alongside authentic community activations and artful entertainment in Surf City USA.
Seth Moniz returned to the location that helped skyrocket his career last year, since it was at Huntington Beach where he stomped one of 2018's best aerial maneuvers in competition and went on to secure a 5th place finish at the 2018 Vans US Open of Surfing that all but qualified him for the 2019 CT. Today, he progressed out of Round 2, sealing second place advancement with a buzzer-beater frontside air reverse to edge out Vans US Open rookie Gatien Delahaye, 11.10 to 10.20 (out of a possible 10).
"Everyone got a score, I didn't really see everyone's waves, but I knew Gatien only needed a small score and I thought he might of had it," said Moniz post-heat. "So I just walked up the beach, wasn't expecting much. I wasn't expecting to make it, but I made it so I'm happy." Ahead of Moniz, Charly Martin (FRA) also advanced with a 13.26 combined heat total.
The Hawaiian is currently ranked #14 on the CT and the Vans US Open of Surfing marks the fourth QS event of 2019 for him. "I'm putting all my energy into the (Championship) Tour," Moniz continued. "Doing these QS's, I feel like I'm a little bit lazy and my preparation isn't as good... Both tours are a different kind of hard, with different formats. You have to adjust to both of them with their different waves. It's fun though, it's a challenge and I'm loving it."
Alex Ribeiro secured the single highest wave score of the event, an excellent 9.40 for a big air reverse to blow tail snap reverse midway through Round 2 Heat 2. The beach crowd answered back with an eruption of cheers and Ribeiro went on to drop another good score, a 7.60, for the highest total of the day, a 17.00 (out of a possible 20).
"It's pretty fun out there, it's a little bit smaller than yesterday so it's hard to find the waves," said Ribeiro. "It's good to keep the focus and do better and better heat by heat. I love this contest, it's a great contest. It looks like my home break and I feel at home here. I'm expecting good results here, I'm 8th in the rankings, but I don't keep the future, just heat by heat and wait for results."
The goofy-footer from Praia Grande dismantled competitors with an aggressive approach to the shifting peaks and will put his confidence to the test again against Martin, Jack Robinson and Nicholas Squiers once competition resumes. Back from a foot injury that sidelined him in 2017, Ribeiro looks stronger than ever after winning the Burton Automotive Pro QS 6,000 in Australia earlier this year and placing third at the Claro Open Pro - Copa Tubos in Peru. The Vans US Open of Surfing marks the Brazilian's ninth QS competition of 2019 and the palpable opportunity to increase his No. 8 ranking on the QS.
In the penultimate heat of the day, former CT athlete Patrick Gudauskas opened his campaign at the Vans US Open of Surfing with a 6.33 with a combination of carving and explosive maneuvers, followed by a 6.90 to easily take the heat win. He will now match up against Yago Dora, Evan Geiselman and another TBD heat-winner during Round 3 Heat 5. Alongside the competition, Guaduaskas and his brothers, Dane and Tanner, are also very involved in the community portion of the Vans US Open of Surfing, including their annual Stoke-O-Rama event. This kids-only surf session and family-friendly beach day is supported by the Guaduaskas' Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation non-profit, with all proceeds from this year's event donated directly to the Huntington Beach YMCA.
"I love it all, the (Vans US) Open is such an iconic event for us, being from California," said Gudauskas. "It's really a lot of fun for us, we've been stoked to give back with the Stoke-O-Rama events, super cool seeing that generation. It's really special, I think they'll be the next crew that takes over. I love the whole crowd and the waves are super fun so just trying to bring that energy."
Guaduaskas also has another motivation propelling him forward this year -- fatherhood -- and is learning to balance family with his competitive drive.
"I really wanted to just perform in the events I was doing and just take that same intensity I had last year into those. There's been a couple tricky events for different reasons and I really just actually put a lot of energy into this event. I came home and just have been inspired about becoming a dad and putting on a good show for my family. That's my main focus, I'd love to go deep and win, that's something I've really been striving toward my whole career."
Vans US Open rookie Cole Houshmand survived his first two rounds of competition today at the famed beach break and is steam rolling forward at just 18 years old. Round 2 saw him advance in first ahead of dangerous competitor, Robinson, with a 13.24 combined heat total.
"This year has been amazing," said Houshmand. "It's my first full year on the QS since I aged out of the Pro Juniors. I've gotten two third place finishes in (QS) 3,000s and a few other small results, so really happy with my ranking and performance so far."
Houshmand received the wildcard into the Vans US Open of Surfing last minute, and knew he had to capitalize on the opportunity without putting too much pressure on himself. "I'm really just taking it comp by comp and not overthinking it too much. My goal this year was to finish top 100 and get into (Vans) Triple Crown at the end of the year. Anything better than that I'm stoked. Hopefully get a good ranking this year and make a run for it the next few years and see how it goes. My overall goal is to obviously get onto the CT whether it's this year or in the next few."
A string of bad luck for veteran competitors ensued as CT athletes Frederico Morais, Ricardo Christie and Sebastian Zietz were eliminated from Round 2. All three surfers tallied high six-point rides in their respective heats, but were narrowly edged out, as was the case with a scoreline tie between Christie and Robinson during Round 2 Heat 3. Both earned a two-wave total of 12.77, but advancement was ultimately Robinson's due to a higher single wave score over Christie, 7.00 to 6.77.
Samuel Pupo earned the highest single wave score of Men's Round 1, an 8.27 for a radical front side air reverse, and will surf again in Round 2 Heat 16 once the competition resumes. Brother of former CT veteran Miguel Pupo, Samuel is acquiring a name for himself with a couple wildcard appearances on the CT (2018 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal and 2017 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach) and is awaiting a breakthrough result.