The men’s U.S. Open of Surfing final at Huntington Beach turned out to be so lopsided that even a competitor like Kelly Slater started feeling sorry for his counterpart, Yadin Nicol.
For 31 minutes of the 35-minute final Sunday, Nicol did not ride a wave even though his opponent ended up giving him first crack at whatever was out there.
“When you’re that guy that’s leading, you’re just hoping time is running out,” said Slater, who led the whole way. “And then I just started feeling so bad. I came up to him and said, ‘Man, I am so frustrated for you right now. I have priority, but you can have whatever wave you want.’ ”
The 10-time world champion dominated the mediocre conditions and won his second Open title. Of course, it helped that the 39-year-old Slater burst out of the gate with an aerial 360 into a reverse on his first wave.
“Yeah, that sucked for me,” a good-spirited Nicol said. “Whenever someone opens up with a good score, you have to wait, and I think I waited a little too long.
“I was kind of thinking that something has to come in a half an hour -- you would think.”
And while Nicol was wading and waiting, Slater was surfing the waves Nicol passed up. Eventually, Slater posted a second score of 7.77, giving him a solid two-ride total of 16.27. Nicol managed to ride three waves in the final three minutes, but the first he tried closed out on him and he finished with a 2.57.
Slater, who earned $100,000 with the title, said what made him most excited was seeing the crowds that packed the beach all weekend.
“When I got into surfing,” he said, “this is where I dreamed surfing would be.”
Waiting for a wave
Patience didn’t pay off for Lakey Peterson, either.
The 16-year-old from Santa Barbara, who won the junior title Saturday, spent about 15 minutes of her final Sunday also waiting for a wave to ride to victory. And, like Nicol, she never got it.
Instead, Australian Sally Fitzgibbons won the women’s title and $15,000 with two solid but unspectacular runs, beating Peterson, 14.23 to 12.40.
Peterson “makes me feel a little old now,” Fitzgibbons joked. “I’m 21 -- I’m getting on.”
Fitzgibbons is now No. 2 in the world behind two victories in ASP elite events this year, and she was in the race for the world championships as recently as July.
“It’s been a great year, and this really caps it off,” she said.
Hawk drops in
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk made a guest appearance to ride the giant blue bowl at the nearby Converse Costa Carnage final. In a black helmet and matching kneepads, Hawk drew cheers for handstands and grinds during his 30-second intro run and eight-minute jam session.
Santa Cruz’s Raven Tershay took first place in the event and $10,000 in prize money.