Mike Losness entered the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing as an underdog with a big bite.
A three-time National Scholastic Surfing Assn. national champion, he began his pro career full of promise, but year after year he failed to live up to potential.
He entered the six-star World Qualifying Series Tour event at Huntington Beach Pier ranked No. 222. His best finish on the WQS was 158th and his best result at the U.S. Open was 113th in 2001.
But perhaps the San Clemente surfer, like many other Southland prospects before him, has turned the corner a bit later than expected.
He continued his surprising run through the U.S. Open field Saturday, making his way into today’s round of 12 by advancing through a four-man heat that included two current World Championship Tour athletes and one who has previous WCT experience.
In powerful three-to-six-foot waves in the morning four-man heat, Losness out-pointed WCT standouts Tim Reyes and C.J. Hobgood to finish second behind Tim Curran.
Curran won the heat largely on the merits of a mega-floater on a giant left to score an 8.17 out of a possible 10, to go with a 7.0.
Losness caught seven waves and used a best-two score of 13.43 to become the second surfer in the heat to advance. Reyes and Hobgood were eliminated.
“Probably one of the gnarliest heats I’ve ever been in,” Losness said with a sigh of relief.
“I’ve surfed with those guys but never in a contest, so it was really different for me to go out there and just kind of ... if I thought about it too much, about strategy and this and that, I probably would have went down.
“So I just went out there and just free-surfed and tried to have fun -- and I made it.”
Another surprise of the men’s competition was Mason Ho, 17, son of Michael Ho and nephew of Derek Ho -- both legends of the sport.
Ho won his four-man heat against Gabe Kling, fellow Hawaiian Joel Centeio and Brazilian Victor Ribas. On his top wave, an 8.17 out of a possible 10, Ho shot the pier.
“Actually, Bobby Martinez did it right before me in his heat so I thought, if he can do it so can I,” said Ho, who advanced to the round of 12.
In the day’s first heat, Santa Barbara’s Martinez scored a 9.5 on his pier dash and advanced with a two-wave score of 15.83. Rob Machado of Cardiff-by-the-Sea also advanced.
The men’s contest, which will be webcast on Lat34.com, will run through completion today.
France’s Lee Ann Curren, daughter of three-time world champion Tom Curren, was the winner of the Target Women’s Junior Pro. She beat Roseanne Hodge of South Africa, Erica Hosseini of Newport Beach and Courtney Conlogue of Santa Ana.