Last year, one might have called Brett Simpson's winning the U.S. Open of Surfing a Cinderella story: winning the biggest event in his backyard and becoming the first hometown local to win one of the most prestigious events on the World Qualifying Series tour.
It certainly cemented his Huntington Beach roots and folklore. However, coming back and defending such a title while defeating fellow world tour stars of the likes of Kelly Slater (Cocoa, Fla.) in the semifinals and current No. 1-ranked surfer in the world Jordy Smith (South Africa) in the final, he has cemented his arrival among surfing's biggest. Throwing caution to the wind, I predict he will be a force to be reckoned with when the world tour resumes at Lower Trestles on Sept. 12 to 18.
Evan Geiselman (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) also put on a dominating display of surfing on his way to victory in the Pro Junior division, as well as clinching the title of 2010 ASP North America Pro Junior Series Champion.
Carissa Moore (Honolulu) won the women's division of the U.S. Open, defeating tour vet Sally Fitzgibbons in a wave-starved final and winning the richest first-place purse in women's surfing history, while Sage Erickson (Ventura) won the women's Pro Junior division.
With the world tour now moving to Lower Trestles, this event should be even more exciting than in years past, if that's possible, with Slater at the Billabong Pro held at Jeffreys Bay and Smith capitalizing on his early exit and capturing his maiden tour victory. Look for the edge to sway back to Slater at Lower Trestles, as this is basically his hometown event. Look for Slater to reclaim his No. 1 ranking and for the reigning U.S. champion to make his own splash as well.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarriorSurf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com.