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Local favorite Kanoa Igarashi upset in second round at U.S. Open of Surfing

Nolan Rapoza from Long Beach competes in the second round of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing men's competition.
Nolan Rapoza from Long Beach, competes in the second round of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing men’s competition on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A man yelled to Cole Houshmand in support from the sand.

“Giant-killer!” he said.

Houshmand just smiled. It was Tuesday morning on Day Four of the U.S. Open of Surfing, during hurricane swell conditions on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier and he was taking out a giant.

Houshmand, from San Clemente, won Heat 6 of round two. In the process, two-time U.S. Open winner and Huntington Beach native Kanoa Igarashi was eliminated.

The 6- to 7-foot waves were only part of the story Tuesday, as some big names were knocked out during the men’s round of 48. Half of the next round, the round of 24, also was completed.

Cole Houshmand cuts back on a wave as he competes in the second round of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing men's competition.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Houshmand, who finished first in a round of 24 heat with Igarashi last year at the U.S. Open on his way to a ninth-place finish, is plenty familiar with Igarashi. He finished with 12.74 points in Tuesday’s 30-minute heat, and Tristan Guilbaud of France was second with 10.83 points.

Igarashi, the silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, had 10.36 points in the two-best-wave format.

“It’s funny, I think I’ve had Kanoa the last three events I’ve done out here,” said Houshmand, 21. “It puts a little bit of pressure on me, but it makes me know I’ve got to surf good. Guys like that, I look up to. When the conditions are like this, you’ve just got to hope and pray that you get a little corner. It was super-fun, I was stoked. A heat like that, I’m just happy to make it through.”

Igarashi caught a decent wave scoring a 5.33 in the first minute of the heat, but was unable to improve on that score. The 2017 and 2018 event winner wasn’t overly distraught after the heat, though.

He said his focus was largely on next week’s Championship Tour event in Tahiti.

Two-time U.S. Open Champion and Huntington Beach's own Kanoa Igarashi greets members of the junior lifeguard program Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I don’t know, my head just wasn’t in this contest,” said Igarashi, now 24. “We have a really big event coming up next week, so for me, it was kind of hard to lock in this event. I just surfed a pretty bad heat, honestly. The waves were really hard today. I wish I would have stayed in, because the next few days will be good, but it is what it is.

“It was a tricky one. If I had made the finals here, I wouldn’t have been able to surf in it anyway. It was kind of a loss-loss situation for me, to be honest.”

Houshmand went on to catch a late wave in the last round of 24 heat of the day to advance to the round of 16 later Tuesday. Other surfers with spots in the round of 16 include Imaikalani deVault, Liam O’Brien, Chris Zaffis, Ezekiel Lau, Lucca Mesinas, Eithan Osborne and Willian Cardoso.

Eithan Osborne completes a backside air as he competes in the second round of the  U.S. Open of Surfing men's competition.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Top surfers eliminated Tuesday included Kolohe Andino of San Clemente, who has also had success at the U.S. Open in the past.

Long Beach’s Nolan Rapoza was happy to move on. Rapoza, who finished third at the U.S. Open last year, placed second to Brazil’s Jadson Andre (12.84 points to 10.90) in his round of 48 heat. He will compete in the round of 24 on Wednesday morning, as that finishes up.

Rapoza, a 24-year-old goofy footer, actually surfed against three Brazilians in his second-round heat. He said that was also the case in last year’s second-round heat at the U.S. Open.

“I was pretty prepared for it, and I liked that I knew I was going to have the home-crowd advantage,” he said. “I felt totally comfortable out there.”

Two-time champion Kanoa Igarashi performs a blow tail slide as he competes in the second round Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

His round of 24 heat Wednesday will be against another Brazilian, Alejo Muniz, along with Ian Gentil of Hawaii.

Other Americans set to compete include Evan Geiselman of Florida.

The women’s round of 16 is also set to hit the water Wednesday afternoon, including Americans Bella Kenworthy, Caroline Marks, Sage Erickson, Sawyer Lindblad and Caitlin Simmers.

Erickson, who lives in Ventura, won the event in 2017 and 2019. Simmers, from Oceanside, is the defending U.S. Open champion.

Brazil's Mateus Herdy goes over a difficult section of a closeout wave Tuesday in the second round of the U.S. Open.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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