Five observations painted in broad strokes cuz it’s about the forest not the trees!
“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it – that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” – Anonymous surf fans, Huntington Beach, July 30, 2018
Waist-high, tide-addled Huntington Beach. Really? A professional surf contest at Huntington Beach in 2018? In the summer?
Wait, every summer? Since, like, forever?
Yup, good old HB is still the time-tested venue of the US Open, that mid-summer affair that showers a bounty of qualification points onto an always impressive field of global surf talent as compensation for willingly subjecting themselves to some of the most unimpressive, uninspired and humiliating conditions in professional sport.
It is almost inexplicable — and wholly inexcusable — as to how and why this contest continues to dole out ten full racks of qualification points for a formula-driven tag on the outside, a coupla hops through the middle and a generic closeout bash or twist onto the sand.
Save me the tired old “the whole industry’s around the corner, bro” spiel: Huntington should have passed from relevance as of the Momentum generation, much less when their kids are knocking on the World Tour’s front door.
And just in terms of this year’s QS, Huntington ain’t a top ten venue, not even close. Did you see Arica or Iquique? Or the string of 1500-point comps in South Africa? Acapulco pumped… for a measly 1000 points. Even the usually HB-like Los Cabos Open went batshit and this year it was exclusively a women’s contest! For anyone other than the pedestrian beachgoer or guy drinking a beer on the pier at 8:30am, there is no legitimate reason that the Huntington comp should exist.
And yet the US Open persists. One of the world’s biggest contests in some of the world’s most lackluster surf. It’s never going away, even if every other contest on the QS were to go absolutely best-day ever for the next twenty years. Much less under the WSL reign of old backward-fins whats’er name.
Huntington is as close to the stadium experience as surfing has ever had, VIP experiences included, and you betcha that the WSL is hedging their bets on replicating it in the wavepool era, even if it’s in a ski lake in scenic King’s County.
But as much as I may snipe at the OC — perhaps unfairly, but more likely completely fairly— and deride the US Open as a scam, a farce, an exercise in the futility of properly governing professional surfing, there’s something to this here contest.
There’s something, there’s lots of something, that is ridiculous and completely idiotic and devoid of reason about the US Open.
Yet there’s also something completely familiar to every California surfer. And that is why I watched. With a full docket at a new job, I watched every heat of the US Open today, a display of masochism that might only be explained by… I don’t even know how to explain it, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.
Had I not been watching a surf contest with my very eyes, I would have thought that Mel and Coté’s responses to Kobayashi’s interviews were talking about how great the new hire from Pepperdine is at meeting his quarterly sales quota. Vanilla is not the word. Uninspired is not the word. “Professional” is.
Here are five observations from day one of the 2018 US Open, painted in broad strokes, cuz it’s about the forest, not the trees!
- The everyman’s struggle is real at HB. I’m not talking about the generic pro’s struggle or some other tired narrative. Oh no, not even. I’m talking about you, me, and every other plebe who crawls out of bed at five am to try to find some pocket of mediocre surf on weekend mornings around two kids, questions of livelihood, and the soul-crushing weight of adult responsibility writ large. The fact that this godforsaken contest gives away so many points and cuts a decent check puts a big segment of the world’s best onto a wave that is all too familiar to the time- and cash-strapped Californian who often has no recourse but to jump in at onshore, high-tide beachbreak X to stay sane. California has its gems. But we also have far, far more crumbly, gutless waves that are a quick turn and a couple of hops and a prayer for an end section. The US Open is impossible not to watch because of the same terrible surf that makes it so loathsome: Tom, Dick, and Harry and Mariano wanna see some top-form grom or big-name pro tear the shit out of the same surf that we subject ourselves to for too much of the year.
- The complete and utter lack of falling. This was in part because the waves were, well, shitty. But they were shitty in that way that enabled guys to catch the wave mid-pier, tag a round turn out the back and hop or pump to an inside reform where one last maneuver awaited. It was shitty surf complemented by perfect surfing. Perfectly safe, perfectly predictable, perfectly uninspiring, a real representation of what surfing looks like without judging criteria that can adapt to surfing post-Dane. That is, unless you’ve found yourself trying to milk that same hack-pump-pump-pump-air reverse combo out of shit surf. And if that is your struggle, then every heat was a clinic in how to best surf that crappy summer shorebreak peak just down the road from veritably every California surfer anywhere in the state. You may not get wowed, but you’d be hard-pressed not to learn something about surfing shitty waves from watching the US Open.
- Professionalism is the go. The poor up-and-comer on the QS who isn’t a teetotaling Ned Flanders…after every interview, your favorite voices of reason bent over backwards to congratulate the maturity, professionalism and polish of a bunch of late adolescent kids who, by my estimations, would be way more interesting if they were fucking or fighting their way through life and surfing. This was especially true with San Clemente boy wonder version 6.0 Kei Kobayashi. Had I not been watching a surf contest with my very eyes, I would have thought that Mel and Coté’s responses to Kobayashi’s interviews were talking about how great the new hire from Pepperdine is at meeting his quarterly sales quota. Vanilla is not the word. Uninspired is not the word. “Professional” is.
- In spite of Kobayashi’s top marks on the day, California doesn’t have another WT candidate at the moment, much less a title contender waiting in the wings. Every corner of Southern California was represented in the early heats and it is official: the next generation is hopeless for raw talent, leaps and bounds behind the Brazilians and Aussies. I don’t say it out of spite or favoritism. I say it because it’s true. The average performance by Californians reminded me of college kids interviewing for internships as tax professionals. And that was the surfing, not the interviews.
- WSL propaganda is, uh, lacking. Based on the fact that they talked about beer as if it was a cleaning product that my kitchen just couldn’t do without out, I’ll be passing on any Michelob purchases in the near future. After seeing them on camera, I also wouldn’t trust the people that make Michelob Gold with my children, not even the female one. I also wouldn’t trust anyone hosting an Air BnB WSL Experience with my money (or my children). And to round out the ads cycling through, I’m pretty sure Wade Carmichael put his wetsuit on over his Australian Merino wool WSL embroidered sweater in his advertising debut. Somebody please confirm whether this was homage to Victorian seafaring culture or just poor editing.
Vans US Open of Surfing Men’s QS Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Kei Kobayashi (USA) 13.37, Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 11.83, Kalani Ball (AUS) 5.93, Imaikalani Devault (HAW) 5.83
Heat 2: Mateus Herdy (BRA) 13.34, Tomas King (CRI) 12.43, Jordy Collins (USA) 10.74, Tomas Tudela (PER) 9.76
Heat 3: OneyOnwar (IDN) 13.10, Joh Azuchi (JPN) 12.90, Shane Campbell (AUS) 10.60, Santiago Muniz (ARG) 7.30
Heat 4: Mitch Crews (AUS) 12.50, Finn McGill (HAW) 9.53, Rio Waida (IDN) 8.27, Krystian Kymerson (BRA) 2.94
Heat 5: Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 11.87, Tanner Hendrickson (HAW), 10.83, Ryland Rubens (USA) 10.37, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 8.94
Heat 6: Mihimana Braye (PYF) 12.60, Cody Young (HAW) 11.20, Koa Smith (HAW) 10.70, Jacob Wilcox (AUS) 9.17
Heat 7: Parker Coffin (USA) 10.33, Timothee Bisso (FRA) 10.06, Jackson Butler (AUS) 8.27, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 3.37
Heat 8: Marco Fernandez (BRA) 13.70, Kyuss King (AUS) 12.70, Samuel Pupo (BRA) 12.20, Marco Fernandez (BRA) 11.77
Vans US Open of Surfing Men’s QS Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Kei Kobayashi (USA) 13.17, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 12.04, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.90, Carlos Munoz (CRI) 11.70
Heat 2: Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.34, Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.30, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 13.06, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 10.77
Heat 3: Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 13.17, Yago Dora (BRA) 11.50, Marco Giorgi (ARG) 10.14, Mikey Wright (AUS) 8.74
Heat 4: Ramzi Boukhaim (MOR) 13.86, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 13.83, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 12.13, Mateus Herdy (BRA) 11.64
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.63, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 11.63, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 11.37, Tomas King (CRI) 8.90
Heat 6: David Van Zyl (ZAF) 14.13, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.56, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.80, Wyatt McHale (HAW) 10.50
Heat 7: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 13.23, Lucca Mesinas (PER) 12.96, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 8.70, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.70
Heat 8: Joshua Moniz (HAW) 14.57, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.23, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 11.74, Oney Onwar (IDN) 9.30
Upcoming Vans US Open of Surfing Men’s QS Round 2 (H9-24) Matchups:
Heat 9: Frederico Morais (PRT), Deivid Silva (BRA), Victor Bernardo (BRA), Joh Azuchi (JPN)
Heat 10: Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Jorgann Couzinet (FRA), Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI), Mitch Crews (AUS)
Heat 11: Ian Gouveia (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Rafael Teixeira (BRA), Cam Richards (USA)
Heat 12: Luel Felipe (BRA), Bino Lopes (BRA), Thiago Camarao (BRA), Finn McGill (HAW)
Heat 13: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Hiroto Ohhara (JPN), Flavio Nakagima (BRA), Beyrick De Vries (ZAF)
Heat 14: Joan Duru (FRA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Gony Zubizarreta (ESP), Hiroto Arai (JPN)
Heat 15: Sebastian Zeitz (HAW), Peterson Crisanto (BRA), Kiron Jabour (HAW), Tanner Hendrickson (HAW)
Heat 16: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL), Charly Martin (FRA), Mihimana Braye (PYF)
Heat 17: Michael Rodrigues (BRA), Seth Moniz (HAW), Soli Bailey (AUS), Cody Young (HAW)
Heat 18: Connor O’Leary (AUS), Jack Freestone (AUS), Mitch Coleborn (AUS), Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 19: Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Ethan Ewing (AUS), Lucas Silveira (BRA), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 20: Conner Coffin (USA), Maxime Huscenot (FRA), Cooper Chapman (AUS), Parker Coffin (USA)
Heat 21: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Nat Young (USA), Aritz Aranburu (ESP), Timothee Bisso (FRA)
Heat 22: Tomas Hermes (BRA), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Ian Crane (USA), Marcos Correa (BRA)
Heat 23: Michael February (ZAF), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Benji Brand (HAW), Hizunome Bettero (BRA)
Heat 24: Wade Carmichael (AUS), Evan Geiselman (USA), Davey Cathels (AUS), Kyuss King (AUS)