Head-to-head action unraveled at the Vans US Open of Surfing, Stop No. 4 of the World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series (CS), with four-to-six foot swell still providing plenty of opportunity. A critical day of competition started with the men's Round of 24, Heats 5 - 8, leading into Round of 16 duals. The day finished off with the women's Round of 16, Heats 1 - 4, to begin determining Quarterfinal showdowns.
Epic Head-to-Head Battles Provide First Glimpse of Quarterfinalists
Top-tier competitors left spectators wanting more after a flurry of morning action which set up the men's Round of 16 of head-to-head matches. The excitement continued into the men's Round of 16 and women's Round of 16 opening battles.
The event saw its highest single-wave score thus far as Ventura, California's Eithan Osborne stomped a massive, full rotation air to garner a near-perfect 9.67 (out of a possible 10). Osborne's explosive maneuvers are known around the surfing world and today he brought that firepower to the jersey in spectacular fashion, eliminating former CT heavyweight Willian Cardoso. This marks the 22-year-old's best result on the Challenger Series and he now looks to better that result..
"It was a closeout and I tried a big one yesterday that had everyone freaked out so I thought if I landed one I could get that nine-point plus and that was on my mind all morning," said Osborne. "I knew Willian (Cardoso) could just do two giant turns and get a solid score so I thought if I switch it up a bit (the judges) would reward it. I had the five to start the heat which isn't a big score but two solid scores have been getting through so that was the plan."
Caroline Marks Looks For A Third-Career Vans US Open of Surfing Title
Two-time Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Junior victor and one of the world's best, Caroline Marks, dominated once again with an 8.83 and 6.00 in her scoreline. Marks had to overcome one of Costa Rica's star talents Leilani McGonagle, who brought out the best in Marks as the two have competed against each other on the Qualifying Series (QS) for years leading up to Marks' CT qualification.
"Getting scores like that on single maneuvers definitely gives me confidence and it was nice to have really good waves today," said Marks. "Today was more typical Huntington and tons of swell so it's a little cleaner, and I was having tons of fun out there. I have tons of respect for Leilani (McGonagle). I've had so many heats against her and she's such an amazing surfer."
Former 2022 CT Rookie Class Clash In Big Showdowns
With the re-introduction of the CT Mid-Season Cut, rookies who narrowly missed out on keeping their spot among the world's best are hungry to return and showed that desire in dynamic form.
A showcase from the next generation of women's surfing provided a brilliant spectacle as 2022 CT rookie Molly Picklum took on Vans wildcard Bella Kenworthy. Picklum unleashed her backhand attack to garner an excellent 8.00 just before the 20-minute mark and backed it up with a 7.00.
"It's crazy, I got that one big turn for an 8.00 then just watched Caroline (Marks) do the same thing so if I get her it's going to be a pretty exciting Quarterfinal I think," said Picklum. "Things change when I put on the jersey and it's kind of weird because Bella (Kenworthy) and I are super close, and we do get along. We went on that trip to Mexico and I got to see how good she really is and I never felt safe out there."
Two 2022 CT rookie class competitors kicked off the Round of 16 featuring event standouts Imaikalani deVault and Liam O'Brien, going wave-for-wave in their affair. Massive one-turn maneuvers set the pace with O'Brien earning a 6.83 before deVault bested him with a 6.93, but O'Brien's backup had deVault scouring the lineup in hopes of overturning the heat. In the end, O'Brien held the lead despite a priority mistake in the dying minutes and moved into his third-consecutive Vans US Open of Surfing Quarterfinals appearance.
"This wave's always been really kind to me and there's just a novelty about it," said O'Brien. "I love coming here and I've been able to get a couple of big results in the past. Imai (deVault's) an incredible surfer and I like his surfing so I knew that was going to be a pretty tough heat, but I just stuck to what I needed to do."
Lucca Mesinas looks unstoppable with his current form, accruing an excellent 8.00 in his dismantling of rising star Cole Houshmand, alongside fellow 2022 CT rookie standout looking to requalify, Joao Chianca. Evan Geiselman (USA), Joel Vaughan (AUS), and former CT elite Ryan Callinan and Ezekiel Lau also earned their spots in the Quarterfinal finals with massive Round of 16 victories.
The next call will be made tomorrow, August 4 at 7:05 a.m. PDT for a possible 7:35 a.m. PDT start for women's Round of 16, Heat 5.
The Vans US Open of Surfing begins July 30 - August 7 at Huntington Beach, California. The broadcast will begin on Monday, August 1 at 7:30 a.m. PDT, and fans can watch LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL's YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check local listings for coverage from the WSL's broadcast partners.
*The Vans US Open of Surfing is proudly sponsored by Vans, Visit Huntington Beach, Red Bull, Flying Embers, Hydro Flask, Shiseido, 805, Pacifico, Sambazon, StillHouse, Youtheory, BF Goodrich, Fu Wax, Boxed Water, Just Egg.