Simpson advances in U.S. Open heats

Brett Simpson was happy to move on through.

Dane Reynolds was relieved to survive difficult conditions.

Two of the world’s top surfers were among several athletes Tuesday to win their heats and advance at the 2012 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing Men’s Prime competition. The U.S. Open, which started Saturday, runs through Sunday at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. In addition to the surfing aspect, the event includes skate competitions, music, art and interactive booth vendors.

Heats 19 through 24 of the Men’s Prime Round of 96 launched Tuesday’s schedule. Round 1 of the Women’s World Tour came next, followed by Heats 1-6 in the Men’s Prime Round of 48, which capped the action.

Local athlete Tim Reyes, a graduate of Edison High, finished second in both his first and second heats of the Men’s Prime to also advance through Tuesday.

Simpson, 27, is no stranger to shining on the U.S. Open stage. He won the Men’s title for the first time in 2009, then repeated as champion in 2010. Last year, he was eliminated early.

He surfed the first heat of the day early Tuesday. He advanced in surf that was in the two- to three-feet range, to Wednesday’s Round of 48.

“I felt good,” said the Huntington Beach resident who is ranked 17th on the World Tour and 26th in the world rankings. “Conditions were definitely tough, but I was able to capitalize on a few decent waves. Most of all, I feel there is a lot of room to get better than today.”

Reynolds, 26, of Ventura said he tends to not fare too well in small conditions. He overcame inconsistent swells to win his heat with a score of 18.54, and posted one of the top single-wave scores, a 9.77, of the day.

It was the second heat win in the competition for Reynolds, who advanced to surf in the Round of 24 Thursday. In addition to staying in contention for his first Men’s title, Reynolds on Friday will be inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame.

“It’s a big week for me,” he said. “I’m excited about competing here, but next time I hope there’s better surf. But the U.S. Open is awesome and it’s been a yearly thing for me.”

The U.S. Open is the largest surfing competition in the world and plays a key role for the men and women on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour. The contest is a North America ASP Men’s Prime Event and, for the women, marks the conclusion of the 2012 World Title Tour.

The Women’s and Junior Pro Men and Women competitions also continue Thursday through Sunday.

Several of the Men’s top seeds moved on through Tuesday. Among those advancing were defending Men’s champion Kelly Slater (USA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), John John Florence (Hawaii), Joel Parkinson and Julian Wilson of Australia, and Brazilians Alejo Muniz, Miguel Pupo and Jesse Mendes. Wilson had both the highest heat score (18.07) and wave score (9.87) in the Round of 96.

Slater and Pupo will surf in Thursday’s Round of 24.

In the Women’s World Tour division, defending champ Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia), last year’s runner-up, Lakey Peterson (USA), Carissa Moore (Hawaii), Malia Manuel (Hawaii), Coco Ho (Hawaii), and 2012 Women’s world champion, Stephanie Gilmore, each won her Round 1 heat Tuesday. Moore turned in both the top heat score (16.83) and wave score (9.00) Tuesday.

Local athlete Courtney Conlogue finished second to Manuel and advanced to a Round 2 heat Wednesday.

The Junior Pro Men’s quarterfinals start at approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday , followed by the start of the Pacifico Nose Riding Invitational. Competing in the Junior Men’s quarterfinalists are Keanu Asing (Hawaii), Hiroto Ohhara (Japan), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Trevor Thornton (USA), Evan Thompson (USA), Michael February (South Africa), Tanner Henrickson (Hawaii), Conner Coffin (USA), Hiroto Arai (Japan), Kalani David (USA), Kaimana Jaquias (Hawaii), defending champ Filipe Toledo (Brazil), Andrew Doheny (USA), Taylor Thorne (USA), Derek Peters (USA) and Cooper Chapman (Australia).

The Junior Pro Women’s semifinals field is set. Still in contention for the crown is Leila Hurst (Hawaii), Chandler Parr (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (Hawaii), Quincy Davis (USA), Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA), Frankie Harrer (USA), Bailey Nagy (USA) and Nikki Van Dijk (Australia).

Both the Junior Men and Junior Women division semifinals and finals are Saturday. The Men’s and Women’s semifinals and finals, and the Pacifico Nose Riding Invitational final, are Sunday.

Several skating events and competitions continue Thursday.

The fourth Converse Coastal Carnage, a pro/am skateboarding competition, is expected to draw approximately 40 of the top skateboarders from around the world. Top riders from the U.S., Brazil, China and Thailand will compete. The competition starts Friday and runs through Sunday. Tom Remillard of San Diego won the Coastal Carnage title last year and is back to defend his title.

The Converse Skate Pavilion, a mini-bowl course setup, returns to the scene. The Damn Am HB, a street skateboarding contest presented by Nike Skateboarding and featuring some of the top amateur skaters worldwide, makes its debut. The Damn Am HB qualifiers are Friday and Saturday, and the final is Saturday .

All U.S. Open of Surfing events are free and open to the public. They can be seen at The U.S. Open of Surfing will air on NBC on Sept. 15.

Twitter: @MikeSciacca