Joe Surf: A different type of year for Simpson

It's all come down to this for Brett Simpson.

The Huntington Beach surfer has had a transformative year, both in and out of the water. His wife Danielle gave birth to their son Kobe six months ago, the couple's second child.

Simpson, 31, has been able to spend a lot of time at home with his family this year because for the first time in seven years, he was not a part of the World Surf League's World Championship Tour (WCT), and avoided all the travel that comes with it.

Simpson was on the WCT from 2010-15, but he failed to qualify for the 2016 tour. So he has spent this season trying to work his way back to the tour, all while enjoying the late-night feedings and diaper changing duties that Kobe has demanded.

It's been an up-and-down season in the water for Simpson, who had a disappointing performance at Huntington's U.S. Open last summer, an important Qualifying Series (QS) contest. He also missed another important QS contest — the Ballito Pro in South Africa — so he could be at home with Danielle when she gave birth to Kobe.

But Simpson has had highlights as well. He earned a spot as a wild-card entry in the WCT Hurley Pro in August and nearly shocked the field, placing an equal-fifth by reaching the quarterfinals before losing to eventual winner Jordy Smith.

He finished in ninth place at the Billabong Pro in Cascais in Portugal in September and then had another strong showing just last week at the Hawaiian Pro, finishing ninth there as well.

That leaves one final contest for Simpson this year — the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach off Oahu, scheduled to begin Friday, conditions permitting. If Simpson can finish in ninth place or better, he would vault into the QS top 10 and clinch a spot on next year's WCT.

"To be honest, I'm excited," Simpson said via email from Hawaii. "From the beginning of the year to now, there has been a big turnaround and for me, so to have a solid chance heading into the final event I'm very pleased, considering this has been a year that has been fairly average to me."

The wave at Sunset Beach isn't Simpson's favorite, but it isn't all bad.

"I've had much better success at [nearby] Haleiwa in the past but I have had a nice run as well at sunset," he said. "It's a big, wild and wooly wave, you have to be sturdy on the board and pick the ones that allow a couple turns or a barrel. It's very challenging, I wouldn't put it on my favorites list but I'm willing to work with her."

Either way, no matter how Simpson finishes, he'll go into 2017 feeling good about himself and his future.

"This year has been up and down as they all are." he said. "I just got to keep steady and that's what my children have taught me. I'm focused on guiding their path for the future and it allows me to be more comfortable in my own skin."

 

WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Tyler Gunter came up just short of qualifying for the World Junior Championship coming in January in Australia.

The 16-year-old Newport Beach surfer finished the North American region of the World Surf League's Men's Junior Tour in sixth place, where only the top four spots qualify for the World Junior Championship.

There were other SoCal locals who made it, though. Long Beach's Nolan Rapoza finished in first place, San Clemente's Kei Kobayashi was second and Encinitas' Jake Marshall was third.

"It means a lot to claim this title because it shows me that I can be consistent if I put my mind to it," Rapoza, 18, told worldsurfleague.com. "I've tried to mature my technique and heat strategy this year which I think will help me a lot more in the future."

 

STINKY WATER

You can't make this stuff up.

Surfrider San Diego and Surfrider Baja teamed up to plan a surfing event Nov. 6 called "Surf the Border." It was all for a good cause.

According to Surfrider San Diego's website, sandiego.surfrider.org, the purpose of the event was "intended to raise awareness about issues impacting our oceans, waves and beaches in the border region and help inspire local surfers on both sides of the border to protect the quality of our ocean."

But the event was cancelled because of large closeout surf and a sewage spill. It was rescheduled for Nov. 20, but — you guessed it — it was cancelled again.

On its Facebook page, Surfrider San Diego said: "Due to a beach hazard alert for Imperial beach, a sewage spill still flooding Monument Road, and another big swell, the Surfrider Foundation of San Diego No Border Sewage Committee (NoBS) has decided to cancel the Surf the Border Surf Contest."

They haven't given up, though. Surfrider San Diego will try to put together the contest next year.

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JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.

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