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Beschen Puts His All Into Victory

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the final moments of the U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday, Kelly Slater scored a near-perfect wave and still could not catch Shane Beschen, who stuffed five maneuvers to a ride to win the world championship tour event at the Huntington Beach Pier.

Leading through most of the 45-minute heat, Slater needed a 9.84, but there were no large waves on the horizon and two minutes remained on the clock.

Skillfully controlling his speed, he forced a barrel ride from a wave that seemed too small to support one. To cap the move, he launched his board off the lip, caught air and pumped his fist overhead after a successful whitewater landing.

On the pier, in the stands and on the sand, the estimated crowd of 60,000 roared, and five judges marked two 10s, two 9.5s and a 9. After throwing out the high and low scores, Slater averaged 9.67.

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“I knew it was going to be a nine-something,” Beschen said. “But when I saw him paddling back out with a minute to go, I figured . . . “

In his semifinal heat, Beschen defeated Sunny Garcia on a last-minute ride. Slater set the pace in his semifinal, catching seven waves and filling them with slashing turns, tail slides and a dazzling 360, while his opponent, Michael Barry, caught only five.

Coming back in less than an hour for the finals, Slater again set the early pace. Catching more waves than Beschen, Slater also was able to complete more radical moves.

After completing one long ride and a few low-scoring trips, Beschen fell on a small right-hander. Paddling right back to the lineup, he took off on a small left and pumped it over the flat section to ride to the pier.

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Slater responded on a similar wave and increased his advantage to 8.17. Beschen gained priority by circling the buoy and grabbed another long ride to the pier. He inched closer to the leader, but Slater came back on the next wave with three slashing, off-the-top moves.

And with 17 minutes to go, Beschen found what he needed. Dropping in in front of the priority buoy, Beschen cut two snapping turns into the large wave, jumped on top of the lip for a long floater and added two quick turns before exiting at the pier.

The nine-point ride, followed quickly with a 6.93, allowed Beschen to defeat Slater for the first time.

“I don’t want to make too much out of beating Kelly, but I’ve been surfing against him since I was 10,” said Beschen, who won $14,000.

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Beschen, 23, grew up in San Clemente, but faced Slater, who lives in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in amateur contests. Beschen figures he was runner-up to Slater four or five times back then. More recently, Slater defeated Beschen by .01 points on his way to victory in an important contest April 4 at Bells Beach, Australia.

Slater, 22, joined the world championship tour three years ago and won the world title in 1992.

Beschen started the tour two years ago but had never reached the finals before the U.S. Open.

In the quarterfinals Sunday, wild-card entries Richie Collins and Jeff Deffenbaugh lost after close contests.

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Collins, from Newport Beach, held a slim edge on Garcia in the final five minutes. Garcia, from Hawaii, started paddling for the priority buoy when Collins made it a race, catching up with Garcia beside the buoy. Garcia slipped off his board to finish the race swimming. Collins did the same, but priority went to Garcia.

Garcia caught the last wave of the heat to pull 2.69 points ahead of Collins.

The crowd cheered for every ride from Deffenbaugh, a Huntington Beach native, but even that couldn’t make up for a lack of big waves late in the heat. Deffenbaugh lost his lead over Barry, from Australia, with two minutes to go.

“I wish I was a little more patient,” Deffenbaugh said. Overall, he called the experience of surfing in his first world-tour event a great one and said it would give him confidence if he makes it on the tour next year.

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In bodyboarding, Brazilian Guilherme Tamega found his peak in the four-person final heat and shot the pier for his best ride. Exhausting his 15-wave count with five minutes to go, Tamega watched as Brian Wise and Mike Stewart battled for second.

Stewart, of Anaheim, is a former world champion but he could not outperform Wise, who lives in San Clemente.

MEN’S SURFING FINAL

1. Shane Beschen, San Clemente (36.03); 2. Kelly Slater, Cocoa Beach, Fla. (29.70)

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BODYBOARDING FINAL

1. Guilherme Tamega, Brazil (33.24); 2. Brian Wise, San Clemente (30.27); 3. Mike Stewart, Anaheim (28.51); 4. Jacky Buder, Honolulu, Hawaii (25.37)

MEN’S SURFING SEMIFINALS

Heat 1--1. Beschen (27.20); 2. Sunny Garcia, Waianae, Hawaii (25.66)

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Heat 2--1. Slater (31.77); 2. Michael Barry, Australia (24.80)

MEN’S SURFING QUARTERFINALS

Heat 1--1. Garcia (27.53); 2. Richie Collins, Newport Beach (24.84)

Heat 2--1. Beschen (28.17); 2. Dave Macaulay, Australia (26.94)

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Heat 3--1. Slater (28.44); 2. Damien Hardman, Australia (26.07);

Heat 4--1. Barry, (23.97); 2. Jeff Deffenbaugh, Huntington Beach (21.81)

BODYBOARDING SEMIFINALS

Heat 1--1. Tamega (26.11); 2. Stewart (23.00); 3. Jay Reale, San Clemente (22.23); 4. Robert Crawford, Huntington Beach (20.51)

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Heat 2--1. Buder (25.44); 2. Wise (23.81); 3. Tim Ross, (23.03); 4. Jeremy Olson, Laguna Niguel (19.54)


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