- WSL / Kenneth Morris

The World Surf League (WSL) kicked off opening day at the Vans US Open of Surfing, Stop No. 4 of the Challenger Series (CS), in two-to-three foot swell at the iconic southside of the Huntington Beach Pier. A full day of men's competition witnessed Southern California competitors felt right at home with dynamic performances amid international talents, and made their moves in the Round of 96 Heats 1 - 16. Remaining Round of 96 competitors will debut Sunday, July 31, to determine the Round of 64 draw.

Two-Time Vans US Open of Surfing Victor Kanoa Igarashi Decimates Debut
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) Opening day witnessed a brilliant showing from two-time Vans US Open of Surfing victor Kanoa Igarashi. - WSL / Kenneth Morris

One of surfing's most recognized faces, Kanoa Igarashi didn't disappoint in his debut with the day's best 14.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total. The Huntington Beach hometown hero has this event at the forefront of his mindset as soon as set up begins and relishes his time at home. After his Semifinal finish in 2021, Igarashi looks to get back atop the podium for a historic third Vans US Open of Surfing title.

"It's so special to me, and when I get into town I just start getting so excited when the setup starts going a few weeks before the event," said Igarashi. "Even when they start taking it down it's always one of the sadder moments of the year. It's such a historic event, especially for me growing up. The first day is done and I got the job taken care of, but as the event progresses and the flow of the event gets more consistent, that's when I feel even better."

North America Contingent Command Opening Affairs

A notable first heat featured current Championship Tour (CT) No. 18 Kolohe Andino taking on Challenger Series threats Te Kehukehu Butler, Jorgann Couzinet, and Kauli Vaast with Butler earning an excellent 8.17 (out of a possible 10) to overtake the affair as Andino advanced.

Kei Kobayashi (USA) Southern California's Kei Kobayashi (USA) found his form for a critical Round of 96 win. - WSL / Beatriz Ryder

Andino's fellow San Clemente, California surfer Kei Kobayashi earned a massive Round of 96 win in his Vans US Open of Surfing debut. The 23-year-old hasn't found the result he's wanted thus far in 2022 on the Challenger Series, and looks to capitalize on a wave he's competed at his entire career.

Fellow Californians including 2022 CT rookie Jake Marshall, emerging talent Levi Slawson, last-minute alternate Crosby Colapinto, Eithan Osborne, and Cole Houshmand added their names to the Round of 64 with clutch performances.

"This is definitely the turning point of the season for me and at every event you're looking to get on the podium," said Kobayashi. "I'm feeling really confident for this event. I've overcome an injury I dealt with the first few events but I'm excited to put together a good showing here. I know how much time I've put into all aspects of my life with training, spending time with family, and all the mental training, and I'm grateful to see that push around all sports."

Mexico's next qualification hope Alan Cleland debuted in dominant form to overpower 2022 CT rookie Liam O'Brien, former CT competitor Keanu Asing, and Kauai, Hawaii's upstart Kainehe Hunt. Cleland took control of the heat a 7.00 and backed it up quick with 4.00 before closing the down the heat with a 6.33 and notching his first Challenger Series heat win.

Road to Requalification Continues For Mid-Season Cut Fallouts, Early Upsets Ensue
Lucca Mesinas (PER) Lucca Mesinas (PER) utilizing his signature backhand attack for an early victory. - WSL / Kenneth Morris

2015 Vans US Open of Surfing victor Hiroto Ohhara took on emerging Challenger Series threats including Kyuss King (AUS), Shion Crawford, and 2022 CT rookie Lucca Mesinas, as he looks to requalify for the Top 32. Mesinas stole the heat win in the dying seconds, with King advancing, as his quest to requalify landed him here in Huntington Beach where he's competed his entire career on the Qualifying Series (QS).

"It's always good to compete here and I think this is the wave I train the most, even more than home," said Mesinas. "I really like California and it's always special to be here, and seeing the crowd coming down today is exciting. I've had so many thoughts about how I was on Tour, than I fell off and wanting to get back so quick but not getting results. Now, I'm just enjoying the moment again and I'm in a really good mindset."

Alejo Muniz (BRA) A clash of world-class competitors unraveled with Alejo Muniz (BRA) separating himself from the pack. - WSL / Beatriz Ryder

Former CT competitor and 2012 Vans US Open of Surfing victor Alejo Muniz stunned the event with a brilliant performance alongside East Coast's Evan Geiselman, to eliminate current Challenger Series No. 1 Rio Waida, coming off back-to-back victories, and fellow Brazilian Peterson Crisanto.

"Rio (Waida) is the guy to beat this year and it was great to surf against him after he got me in Manly," said Muniz. "I thought that was the hardest heat of the first round on paper. I've been here so many times and this was the biggest win of my career so far. I've been training a lot and when you believe in yourself and find the waves, it all works out."

Also notching vital opening day wins, former CT elite Ezekiel Lau and Willian Cardoso, Gatien Delahaye, Tristan Guilbaud, Mihimana Braye, and Keanu Kamiyama all made their way into the Round of 64.

The next call will be made tomorrow, July 31 at 7:05 a.m. PDT for a possible 7:35 a.m. PDT start for men's Round of 96 Heat 17.

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