Brett Marquis was on the beach before the sun came up Wednesday. And though the Victorville resident is about 100 miles from the nearest shore break, he wouldn’t miss this moment for a second.
“I told my boss I wouldn’t be coming in today,” Marquis said. “You know, when you got guys like Kelly Slater or Sunny Garcia surfing, you can’t miss it.”
Marquis and plenty of others watched the men’s first round in the U.S. Open of Surfing.
On an overcast, chilly day, surf conditions were erratic but acceptable as Slater advanced to Round 3 on Friday.
Slater, who 72 hours earlier was competing in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa, had spent 30 hours on a flight from Africa so he could compete in the U.S. Open.
But it was obvious Slater was not going to let jet-lag interfere with the task at hand.
“I was told that the waves were breaking better by the [Huntington] pier,” Slater said. “So I just decided to stay there and was able to get some waves.”
Slater, the top surfer on the world tour, scored the heat’s highest score (8.3).
“I’m really motivated to win the U.S. Open,” said Slater, who was runner-up to Shane Beschen of San Clemente last year. “I don’t think I’ll have a hard time adjusting from Jeffrey Bay’s to Huntington Beach.”
Beschen had a disappointing heat, finishing third. He has to surf again today in the second round.
“You have to deal with what you get,” Beschen said, referring to the waves he caught. “I feel all right, though, and I hope I’ll surf a little better [today].”
Beschen will be surfing against Piu Pereira of Brazil, with the winner advancing to the third round.
Jojo Olivenca of Brazil, who won Beschen’s heat, thinks he’ll have a good contest and finish better than 17th place, which he did last year after troubles with his board.
“Every year I have trouble in this U.S. Open,” Olivenca said. “But this time, I have a good board and I’m catching many waves. I’m focused and staying calm.”
Taylor Knox, who finished second last week at the Op Pro, also advanced to the third round. Knox, from Carlsbad, has been real happy about his surfing so far.
“The waves are still good, which is amazing to me,” Knox said. “I like the man-on-man contest like this, which to me focuses more on surfing rather than fighting for waves as you do in the four-man heats.”
Op Pro champion Garcia, who’s ranked second on the World Tour, stumbled in his heat taking third. Rob Machado of Cardiff finished second in his heat.
Australian Nathan Webster, the wild-card entry from the Op Pro last week, scored one of the best rides of the day when he rode a long wave and was able to perform several maneuvers.
“It helps that I was here last week,” Webster said. “I’m getting familiar with Huntington, which helps me in my surfing.”
An upbeat Jeff Deffenbaugh of Huntington Beach was happy to advance to the third round. Although Deffenbaugh remains disappointed about his performance in the Op Pro, he doesn’t have time to dwell on it.
“You just have to move on to the next contest,” Deffenbaugh said after winning his heat. “But I’m glad to move to the the third round. It’s not that good out there now, but I’m hoping for some better waves tomorrow and I think I’ll do all right.”
The second round of men’s competition starts at 7 a.m. and will conclude at 1:40 p.m.
In the the first round of the women’s main event, Tricia Gill of Cardiff and Patricia Rossi of Tahiti advanced to the second-round main heat.
Kim Mearig, who reached the semifinals in the Op Pro, failed to advance.
The women’s second round is Friday, with top ranked Lisa Andersen scheduled to compete.
San Diego’s Joel Tudor, who won the Op Pro longboarding contest, advanced to the quarterfinals, as did San Clemente’s Geoff Moysa, Israel Paskowitz and Josh Baxter.