Imagine that the sun's out and one of the most anticipated surfing events in Southern California is almost upon us. Yes, the U.S. Open of Surfing is coming to Huntington Beach and begins its epic nine-day run Saturday with Courtney Conlogue and Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson both set to defend their titles against the world's best surfers.
The $250,000 Men's Prime division has the highest purse among similar events: It features at $100,000 first-place prize and offers 6,500 points to the winner — which is huge amount, since the world tour will soon trim down to the top 32 surfers in the world.
Simpson will defend last year's title against the likes of Mick Fanning, from Australia; Taj Burrow, Australia; former three-time world champion Andy Irons, Hawaii; and C.J. Hobgood, Florida, along with the next generation of surfing superstars: Dane Reynolds, from California, and current No. 1-rated surfer Jordy Smith, the South African fresh off of his first world tour victory at the Billabong Pro, held at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.
Also entered, but not yet confirmed, is nine-time world champion and surfing icon Kelly Slater, from Florida. The $60,000 Women's Six-Star division is equally exciting, boasting two world champions in the likes of three-time defending world champion Stephanie Gilmore, from Australia, and 2004 world champion Sofia Mulanovich, from Peru.
Also competing for the $20,000 first-place prize will be Conlogue, from California; Coco Ho, Hawaii; and former event champion Karina Petroni, Florida.
The U.S. Open will also feature men's and women's junior pro divisions, along with the second annual WPS All-Stars event, which lets the general public choose 10 of the top pro surfers from around the world to compete in the U.S. Open.
Now we just need to hope for some surf and sun, as it should be an exciting nine days of surfing competition. My pick for this year's winner: Dane Reynolds.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com.