Surf fans don't have much time to process the incredible performances of World Champions Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore at Trestles. In just four days, the inaugural Challenger Series kicks off at Huntington Beach.
Thirty-four miles north of Trestles, in Surf City USA, the US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido will feature some of the sport's heaviest hitters and a supporting cast of the world's best surfers all battling for the goal of qualifying for the 2022 Championship Tour.
For the men, newly minted Conner Coffin, who is fresh off a fourth-place finish at the Rip Curl WSL Finals, will be trying to ice the cake on what has been the best year of his career. He will be leading a dynamic local Californian contingent that includes Huntington local, two-time U.S. Open of Surfing Champion, Olympic silver medalist, and World No. 8 Kanoa Igarashi, World No. 6 Griffin Colapinto (who Igarashi defeated in the 2018 Final) and Kolohe Andino, who returns to competition after injury.
Those four will be the favorites, though there is a clutch of overseas CT stars who will be vying for the huge prize money and one of the sport's most prized trophies.
Jack Robinson, fresh off his breakthrough CT win in Mexico, will be competing. With his CT place assured for 2022, he will be all the more dangerous given he has nothing to lose.
That stands in direct comparison to a legend like Michel Bourez, who travels from Tahiti to California knowing this is the first event of four which could keep his CT career alive. Having first surfed in the event in 2008, and having been a mainstay on the CT since 2010, the Open now represents a huge chance to continue his incredible legacy. No pressure, then.
He, at least, won't be alone. Australian powerhouses Wade Carmichael and Connor O'Leary, Brazilian trio Caio Ibelli, Peterson Crisanto and Alex Ribeiro have plans of their own. While rookie South African Matthew McGillivray will all be fighting tooth and nail to maintain their top table status.
For the women, World No. 6 Caroline Marks leads a field that also includes previous event winners Sage Erickson, Courtney Conlogue and Lakey Peterson. Marks, who this year has narrowly missed out on both the WSL Finals and an Olympic medal, will be desperate to get back that winning feeling.
Conlogue, who won her one and only U.S. Open at her home break back in 2009, will have huge local support. For Peterson it will be her first event since she suffered a serious knee injury back in March. The 2012 Open winner, can she rekindle the magic?
Of the CT surfers surfing at Huntington who were relegated through the course of the 2021 season, the most obvious candidate for a win is Erickson. The 30-year-old won her only CT event at the U.S. Open in 2017, and won again in 2019. If the veteran can find that form again, she'll have every chance of securing a ninth year on the CT.
Her biggest threats will come from those CT surfers in the same recently relegated boat as her. Former CT Rookie of the Year Brisa Hennessy and the Australian natural-footers Isabella Nichols, Macy Callaghan and Keely Andrew all have the pedigree to make their presence felt through the Challenger Series. They know a strong start at the U.S. Open will be crucial to their dreams.
The first of four Challenger Series events this year, there are 10,000 qualification points on table for whoever can top the podium at the Open. The 96-man and 64-woman fields are made up of Championship Tour surfers, as well as competitors drawn from the seven WSL Regional Qualifying Series around the world.
On the Challenger Series, surfers compete for a chance to advance to the elite Championship Tour in 2022. For the men, that means finishing in the top 12. For the women, a top 6 finish in this year's condensed four-event season earns a spot to the big leagues.
Championship Tour surfers can compete on the Challenger Series regardless of where they sit on the CT rankings, which means the draw for both men and women is absolutely stacked with talent.
The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido runs between September 20 - 26, and will be streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com.