One hundred thousand dollars for first place, that's enough to entice 30 of the top 32 ranked surfers in the world to roll into Surf City, U.S.A. and throw down.
For more than 50 years the US Open of Surfing has ranked as one of the most prestigious events in all of surfdom. From now until Sunday, the best male surfers in the world will be pitted against one another in a fierce competition for cold hard cash and valuable ASP ratings points. Moreover, the 2012 ASP Women's World Championship Tour will come to a conclusion. The event also hosts the Coastal Carnage and Damn Am skateboard events and a concert stage boasting three days of musical acts, headlined by TV on the Radio.
“There’s no other event that attracts so many people, and to surf in front of a stadium audience like this, nothing compares,” said Kelly Slater, who upset back-to-back US Open winner Brett Simpson last year. “It’s surfing on the main stage.”
The feeling was mutual for last year's women's champion, Sally Fitzgibbons. “I’ve always wanted to be champion and get carried up the beach here — it’s just unbelievable,” she said following her victory. “The waves here are challenging... so you just got to love it for what it is and that’s what makes this trophy extra special.”
Even though the women's title was recently clinched by Stephanie Gilmore at the Roxy Pro Biarritz, the brewing rivalry between Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore should make for some interesting plot twists. “We’re great friends on the beach, we’ve known each other for every, but in the water it’s every girl for herself,” said Fitzgibbons.
As far as the forecast goes, Surfline.com is calling for "an overlapping series of small Southern Hemisphere southwest and south swells and small, local northwest windswell that will provide contestable waves for the first few days of the event. A slightly better south-southwest swell is on track for the last few days of the event."
And the favorites? Can anybody unseat Slater, the winningest surfer of all time? In this instance you have to look at the small-wave progressives. An aerialist like Julian Wilson, who’s capable of laying down big turns out the back then working the wave into the inside where he can uncork an air or fins-free turn will definitely find favor with the judges.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Wilson. “It can be a tricky, challenging wave, but that’s what makes it fun."
Or course, 2009 and 2010 winner Brett Simpson, who grew up surfing the southside pier bowl is always a threat. “You can say enough about hometown support,” he said.
But also be wary of the rising Brazilian tide. Gabriel Medina, who’s one of the hottest under 20 surfers in the world could put in a command performance. He’s coming off of a win at the Nike Lowers Pro this spring and a second place finish at the Volcom Fiji Pro, so he’s definitely primed. Fellow countrymen Alejo Muniz, Adriano De Souza and Filipe Toledo can also far well in the small beachbreak conditions.
And as far as veterans go, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow are always a threat. Parkinson will be coming off of the 32-mile Molokai to Oahu paddle last weekend, so fatigue may be an issue with him.
But this is the US Open of Surfing, which is expected to draw several hundred thousand spectators on the beach and millions more on livestream (at usopenofsurfing.com/live).
“It’s going to be a different scene to the Molokai Channel, I reckon,” said Parko.
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