Heats are on at the pier

Things are beginning to really heat up at the Huntington Beach Pier.

Today marks the stretch run for the U.S. Open of Surfing presented by Hurley, Nike 6.0 and Converse, a four-day blitz of sports and entertainment action that will culminate with champions crowned and major prize money earned.

The nine-day event began Saturday and concludes Sunday.

The Assn. of Surfing Professionals' Prime Men's, six-star Women's, grade-2 Men's Junior Pro and grade-4 Women's Junior Pro competitions continue today and Friday leading up to the weekend semifinals and finals.

The dream was still alive Wednesday for 19-year-old Miguel Pupo, who made the trip to Surf City from his small hometown of Camburi in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to compete in both the U.S. Open Men and Men's Junior Pro. Pupo won the sixth heat of the day Wednesday to advance to today's heat action in the Men's round of 48. Also advancing was second-place Jeremy Flores of France.

Pupo, who competed at the U.S. Open for the first time last year and reached the round of 48 before being eliminated in a heat won by Rob Machado, also won his first heat Tuesday.

"Right here is the best place in the world," said Pupo, who last year ranked 43rd on the World Qualifying Series. "The contest is massive and the crowds are great. The trip here has been worth it — right now. The dream is still happening for me."

Wednesday morning was a good day for the Brazilian athletes.

Also still alive in the competition through Wednesday morning were heat winners Kiron Jabour (Hawaii), Gabriel Medina (Brazil), Gabe Kling (USA), William Cardoso (Brazil), Bede Durbridge (Australia), and 2003 U.S. Open Men's winner Cory Lopez (Florida). Also advancing to today's heats were second-place heat finishers Olamana Eleogram (Hawaii), Shaun Cansdell (Australia), Leigh Sedley (Australia), Austin Ware (USA), Nate Yeomans (San Clemente) and the current Men's No. 1-ranked surfer, Jordy Smith (South Africa).

Lopez emerged victorious in Wednesday's seventh heat that included Yeomans, Marcio Farney of Brazil and Andy Irons (Hawaii), who has two U.S. Open Men's titles (2005, 1998) to his name.

"I was stoked to get a couple of waves and get through this heat," Lopez said. "I knew it'd be a tough heat. Nate, Marcio, Andy, they're all great surfers."

Defending Men's champion Brett Simpson of Huntington Beach surfs his first heat today.

A new women's purse

One thing is certain heading toward the weekend: there will be a new Women's champion, and that champion, it was revealed Monday, will earn a whopping $50,000.

Before the Women's event began Monday, the first-place prize was $20,000.

"Nike 6.0 made this happen for the women," said James Leitz, executive producer of the U.S. Open of Surfing. "We are pleased to have a sponsor and a partner that continues to raise the bar for the surfers and the event. This action further underscores their commitment to progressing the sport of surfing."

Courtney Conlogue of Santa Ana, who last year won the Women's title at age 16, was eliminated from repeating in a heat loss Monday, the opening day of the Women's division. Also eliminated in the same heat was three-time ASP world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia. Coming out of the heat to advance was 17-year-old Carissa Moore (Hawaii) and 18-year-old Laura Enever (Australia).

"The surf was typical Huntington Beach, fun, beachy, but then as the tide came in, the sets were really inconsistent and hard to find," Gilmore, 22, said. "So it's a little disappointing to lose today [Monday], so early in the competition, but all the girls are ripping. I think the finals will be great to watch."

The Men's competition begins at 8 a.m. today with the round of 96 (heats 19-24) followed immediately by the round of 48 (heats 1-12). The Women's competition resumes at 11:28 a.m. Friday with the quarterfinals (heats 1-4). That same day, the Men's Junior Pro offers up quarterfinal (heats 1-4) action.

The Women's and Women's Junior Pro finals are Saturday.

The Men's and Men's Junior Pro finals are Sunday. The men's winner pockets $100,000.

Boards of a different kind

Action sports athletes begin their quest for titles as well this weekend.

Converse and Nike 6.0 are hosting the BMX and skateboard competitions just south of the pier.

The $100,000 Nike 6.0 HB BMX Pro, Qualifier 1, is 3 p.m. today at BMX Park. The second qualifier is 2:30 p.m. Friday and Qualifier 3 is noon Saturday. The final is 1 p.m. Sunday. Some of the top competitors for the title include Garrett Reynolds, Dennis Enarson and Mike Spinner, Ryan Guettler, Daniel Dhers, Ryan Nyquist, and 15-year-old Brett Banasiewcz.

The $75,000 Converse Coastal Carnage skateboarding qualifiers start at 2 p.m. Saturday at Super Mini-Park. The finals and Best Trick events begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. Lance Mountain, Kenny Anderson, Tommy Remillard, Curren Caples and Grant Taylor, are among the key competitors battling for the title.

Held in conjuction with the U.S. Open of Surfing festivities are two induction ceremonies beginning at 10 a.m. today with the Surfing Walk of Fame ceremony in front of Jack's Surfboards at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway. The Surfers' Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday in front of Huntington Surf & Sport also at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

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