In an exhibition of supreme competitive savvy at the Huntington Pier, Caitlin Simmers and Griffin Colapinto have won the US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido.
In a battle of the next generation, 15-year-old Simmers defeated 19-year-old surfer from Hawaii Gabriela Bryan for the biggest win of her young career. The results set up both women for a solid run on the 2021 Challenger Series and puts them one step closer to qualifying for the 2022 Championship Tour.
"I don't really have much to say other than I'm really happy and stoked everything went my way," Simmers said after being chaired up the beach. "I noticed it was really high tide so I couldn't do what I did in my last heat where I waited 20-minutes for a wave so I just tried to get a quick start."
For Colapinto, he squared off against a highly focused, highly determined Jake Marshall in the Final. It was Marshall that jumped out to an early lead, but in perfect rhythm with the new long period southern hemisphere swell, Colapinto leaned into his tried and true formula of hammering a big maneuver out the back and then finishing with a big explosive hit on the inside.
"All day, baby, all day!" screamed Colapinto with his San Clemente support on the podium.
Simmers' Road To The Podium
Simmers has been building to this moment over the last couple of months. Back in August she won the Jack's Surfboards Pro on the south side of the Huntington Pier. She went on to make the Semis of the WRV Outer Banks Pro pres by Pacifico and followed that up with a runner-up at the Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro in her hometown of Oceanside.
Now she's one of the youngest surfer to ever win the Open -- Malia Manuel won the event as a 14-year-old -- and has also gone back to back at the US Open after winning the 2019 Pro Junior division.
To start Finals day, Simmers upset hometown hero Courtney Conlogue in the Semis. The two-time US Open winner, who at 29 years old was nearly twice as old as "the grom," has been competing in the event for 13 years and was in hot pursuit of her third win at the pier.
In the Final, Simmers got a quick start against Bryan and never looked back. Her blend of style and spontaneity ultimately proved to be too much for Bryan's powerful approach.
Cool and collected after the win, Simmers noted, "I'm not really trying to qualify ... I just want to have fun in France and Portugal, and just surf, and enjoy myself."
Colapinto's Long Road To Open Glory
Colapinto got close to winning the 2018 Vans US Open, but had his party spoiled by Kanoa Igarashi in the Final. The two have been competing against each other since they were 10 years old, and this time Colapinto got his rival and the Olympic silver medalist back in the Semifinals.
"I've surfed so many heats against him, I kinda knew what his plan was, and I knew what my plan was," said Colapinto.
In the Quarterfinals, Colapinto was able avenge another bitter loss. At the 2019 Vans US Open he came up short against Aussie rising star Liam O'Brien in the Semifinals, but like every other heat he surfed in this event, he appeared to be in complete control of both his emotions and his surfboard.
"This is the biggest win of my career," Colapinto told the crowd during the awards ceremony.
And Now On To Europe
With the first of four stops of the 2021 Challenger Series in the books, attention will now shift to Europe and start of the MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira on October 2.
Held at the iconic Portuguese pointbreak of Ribeira D'Ilhas, it's the first of two stops in the Old World. The second stop will be the Quiksilver Pro France.
There are 10,000 qualification points on table for whoever can top the podium. 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.
CS surfers are competing for a chance to advance to the elite Championship Tour in 2022. The top three results will be counted at season's end. 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 CT.