Kaua‘i Surfers Shine At U.S. Open

Malia Manuel smiles after winning ASP Women’s Rookie of the Year. Photos by Rowland Photography / ASP

A great few days and a strong wave in the closing seconds vaulted Kaua‘i’s Leila Hurst into second place in the iconic Huntington Beach, Calif., setting that has been cultivated into a yearly gathering place for many once considered “counter-culture.”

Hurst rode her way to the 2012 U.S. Open of Surfing’s Pro Junior runner-up position in a talented 24-surfer field, bested only by Australia’s Nikki Van Dijk, who took the gold with a 14.90 total in the final heat. Hurst jumped from fourth to second aboard the final wave of the heat by scoring a 7.33 for a 12.33 total. The American pair of Quincy Davis (11.83) and Kaleigh Gilchrist (11.30) rounded out the top four on the podium.

California local Lakey Peterson earned first in the Women’s Pro event, as she bested Oahu’s Carissa Moore in the final, improving one spot from her second-place finish at last year’s Open. Wailua’s Malia Manuel had another tremendous showing, reaching the semifinals and finishing Equal 3rd as Lakey’s perfect 10 wave was too much for her to overcome.

Manuel showed throughout the season that she certainly belongs among the world’s elite, and the result in this final event of the season clinched her the ASP Women’s Rookie of the Year Award. Moore was the 2010 Rookie of the Year recipient and then went on to win the 2011 ASP Women’s World Championship. Is a similar fate in store for the Kaua‘i native? We’ll have to wait and find out in 2013.

But back to the Juniors for a moment.

As one of the eight surfers who had an automatic spot in the Junior quarterfinals, Hurst won her first heat in a round where high scores were readily available. Her 15.33 total advanced her along with American Chandler Parr in second (13.67). She continued her progress by taking second behind Davis in the semis to move into the final foursome, where the event’s final wave nudged her up the standings, but kept her just short of the title.

Fans at the Huntington Beach pier for the U.S. Open

As has been the case in just about all high-profile women’s junior events, Hurst was not alone as a Kaua‘i representative. Tatiana Weston-Webb used the second-highest scoring wave of the tournament to reach the semifinals and wound up with an Equal 5th place standing. Weston-Webb took first place in both her round of 24 and quarterfinal heats, starting things off with an 11.97 in the low-scoring first round before blasting a 9.23 wave on her way to a 16.73 heat score in the quarters. That 9.23 stood behind only a 9.67 by Van Dijk in the same round for top wave of the event.

Hanalei’s Nage Melamed was barely edged out in the quarterfinal round, narrowly finishing third (8.57) behind American Frankie Harrer (8.84). Harrer inched ahead with a few minutes left in the heat and Nage was unable to move into position for what she needed in the small conditions, settling for an Equal 9th finish.

The South Shore’s Brianna Cope dominated her round of 24 action from beginning to end, combo-ing the field with the four best waves of the heat. The 14.17 she scored preceded a much tougher quarterfinal round that ended in fourth place, giving Cope an Equal 13th finish.

In the Junior Men’s event, Kaimana Jaquias was the top Kaua‘i competitor, taking an Equal 13th place after making the quarterfinals. Jaquias showed his contest skill with back-to-back heat wins in the rounds of 64 and 32 before being knocked out in the quarters. His final heat featured the top wave of the event as Brazil’s Filipe Toledo, the defending champ, set the pace with a 9.57 ride on his way to a fourth-place finish.

California’s Conner Coffin took the top prize, besting American Kainoa Igarashi, Australia’s Cooper Chapman and Toledo in the final.

Kaua‘i’s Nathan Carvalho and Koa Smith each advanced into the second round. Carvalho won his round of 64 heat and Smith used a second place to move on, but each was edged out with third-place finishes in their following heat.

All the young eyes were then focused on the main event, as the Men’s Pro saw Australia’s Julian Wilson navigate through the 124-surfer field for his first U.S.

Open championship and the $100,000 check that goes along with it. He topped Brazil’s Miguel Pupo in the heads-up final.

Kelly Slater and Gabriel Medina each took an Equal 3rd share, and Oahu’s John John Florence was the state’s top finisher with a quarter-final appearance for an Equal 5th.

While the women’s season is over, six of the 10 yearly Men’s World Championship Tour events are still to come. The action resumes Aug. 16 with the Billabong Pro in the heavy water of Teahupoo, Tahiti.