The 2013 Vans US Open of Surfing returned to Huntington Beach Pier for another big day of competition, starting with some close Round 2 battles from the ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers in peaky two-to-four foot waves.
Tyler Wright (AUS), 19, current ASP Women’s No. 1, got off to a slow start in her clash against wildcard Leila Hurst (HAW), 19, but found two back-to-back righthanders in the final minutes of her heat, escaping a potentially dangerous Round 2 exit.
“I was nervous going in to that heat,” Wright said. “I haven’t been nervous in a heat in a long time. I had a slow start and I know going up against a wildcard, they have nothing to lose. Leila (Hurst) has been ripping and I was fortunate to find two little sneaky ones in the end.”
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 25, reigning five-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current No. 5, was another top seed to survive a close battle, besting 2001 World Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 30. Gilmore felt admittedly rusty after a long hiatus from competition, but is out to put in a strong effort in Huntington Beach.
“I feel like I haven’t surfed an event in awhile,” Gilmore said. “It was good to get going in that heat and refreshing to get a win. I was definitely feeling a little sluggish. I’ve had a lot of good things going on between events, but my foot feels fine now. I’m not in the best position for a World Title this year, but I want to put in a good performance.”
Lakey Peterson (USA), 19, defending US Open Champion, dominated her Round 2 affair against fellow Californian Sage Erickson (USA), 22, belting the day’s high heat total of 16.76 out of 20 with committed forehand combinations. Peterson would leave Erickson in a combination situation while keeping her hopes of a repeat victory alive.
“I had a really funky round yesterday,” Peterson said. “I was really nervous and I have high expectations because of last year. It’s my first time entering an event as defending champion and I was out of rhythm and tried to slow it down today. I caught a few waves and stayed on it and I’m stoked to make it through. Sage (Erickson) is my best friend so it’s really a bummer when I have to surf against her.”
Laura Enever (AUS), 21, took an impressive come-from-behind win over Malia Manuel (HAW), 19, with last minute heroics, earning a combined 16.37 heat total on her last two waves to secure the victory. Enever, current No. 9 on the rankings, was relieved to survive her Round 2 affair and knows a top performance at the Vans US Open could be crucial towards her requalification campaign.
“I don’t even remember that last eight minutes and Malia’s an amazing surfer,” Enever said. I’m just happy I could get a few waves at the end and make it through. I know both Malia and I have a couple of 13ths this year and want to stay in to that top 10 to requalify. I’m happy I could just get a little roll going.”
Men’s ASP Prime action immediately followed Women’s Round 2, with ASP World Title hopeful Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, igniting the day’s highest scores with powerful forehand railwork to lead the remainder of Round 2.
Smith, former runner-up at the US Open, rode a new board to adjust to the slower conditions. The South African powerhouse seemed unfazed by the last minute equipment change, unloading a 9.17 and 8.17 for ferocious forehand surfing on the pier bowl rights.
“I rode a new board for the first time in that heat and it went well,” Smith said. “I think the trick out there is really just catching waves because there aren’t many of them at the moment. You don’t have to do a whole lot out there to get big scores and just have to look like you’re not fighting the wave. Conditions are really tough and I knew I needed a wider board. It ended up working out.”
Beyrick De Vries (ZAF), 20, continued his dominance at the Vans US Open with a massive Round 2 victory, besting Brazilian ASP WCT surfers Alejo Muniz, 23, and eliminating Filipe Toledo, 18. The humble South African has been building momentum following recovery from a serious knee injury and is taking a more dedicated approach towards global competition this season.
“I tried to get a little warm-up before the heats and it seems to be working,” De Vries said. “I’ve been trying to get in to a routine and not putting pressure on myself and fun seems to be the way to go. At the same time I’m trying to dig deep. I really want it a lot more than last year and feel that my competitive streak inside me has gotten a lot stronger too.”
Topping off the day’s proceedings would be some exciting match-ups from the sport’s most promising young talent with the completion of Men’s ASP Pro Junior Quarterfinals and Women’s Pro Junior Semifinals.
Tomorrow’s Vans US Open of Surfing schedule is jam packed with action – the day begins with Round 3 (Heats 1-8) of the ASP Men’s Prime at 7:30am local time, followed by Women’s WCT Round 3 (Heats 1-4), and Junior Men’s Semi Finals (Heats 1 & 2).