Surfing Site Is Familiar, but Stakes Are Higher at U.S. Open
The format changes, the stakes increase and the competition continues as surfers head into the first U.S. Open, the fourth stop on the world championship tour and the only one in the continental United States.
The event, being held at Huntington Beach Pier, opens today with women’s surfing, longboarding and bodyboarding. Men’s surfing begins Wednesday. A total purse of $140,000 will awarded. After the first round, competition turns to a one-on-one, single-elimination format.
Men and women who earned enough competition points last year qualified for the 1994 world tour.
With 48 spots in the men’s event and only 44 male surfers on the world tour, the Assn. of Surfing Professionals offered a wild-card invitation to three-time world champion Tom Curren. Three other surfers earned invitations by virtue of their finish in the Op Pro, which ended Sunday.
Jeff Deffenbaugh of Huntington Beach, Richie Collins of Newport Beach and Shane Stoneman of San Juan Capistrano surf the Bud Surf Tour and other world-qualifying events. Collins, who shapes his own boards, surfed on the world tour last year but left to concentrate on his shaping business.
Deffenbaugh survived the pressure of a huge crowd on his hometown break to become the only non-world tour surfer in the quarterfinal round of the Op Pro.
When asked for his picks, Don Meek, the executive director of the U.S. Open, named Collins, Deffenbaugh and Stoneman without hesitation.
“I’m liking the local guys who have come through the trials,” Meek said. “They’re all from the 714 area code and they should be tough.”
Rob Machado and Kelly Slater, winner and runner-up at the Op Pro, should also be in the hunt.
Curren, who lives in France, received a wild-card invitation to the Op Pro and did not compete. He said he didn’t realize until he arrived in California that the Op Pro conflicted with his mother’s wedding.
The top finishers in the Op Pro women’s division also will turn up their performance level for the U.S. Open.
Lisa Andersen, currently the women’s world leader, looked on the Op as tune-up for the Open.
After scoring .36 points less than winner Frieda Zamba, Andersen said, “This wasn’t really the contest for me to win. I feel I’ve set myself up for next week. I kind of know the break.”
With six Op victories behind her, Zamba also is familiar with the pier-formed sandbar.
“It reminds me of the break at home,” the Flagler Beach, Fla., native said. “It’s really peaky.”
In bodyboarding, the one to watch is Mike Stewart of Anaheim. An eight-time world champion, Stewart’s toughest competition will come from the current world champ Guilherme Tamega of Brazil. Other top competitors include Brian Wise and Jay Reale, both from San Clemente.
The U.S. Open Beach Expo will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Seventy booths set up behind the grandstand will house a surfboard factory, wetsuits, accessories and apparel displays and environmental information from the Surfrider Foundation.
Today’s schedule: 6-11:20 a.m.--Longboarding, round 1; 11:20 a.m.-12:40 p.m.--Women’s surfing trials; 12:40-6:00 p.m.--Bodyboarding, round 1; 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.-- U.S. Open Beach Expo.