Last time we checked in with him, Brett Simpson — "Simpo" to his friends — was leaving the water on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier with his head down.
It was his first heat of the U.S. Open of Surfing in August and he was trying to defend the title he had won twice in a row, pulling in a cool $100,000 with each win.
But Simpson was one-and-done, eliminated from the competition, forced to get over it and move forward.
It's been a crazy year for the Huntington native, with highs and lows and not much middle ground.
Besides the disappointment at the Open, Simpson also had to deal with a lingering knee injury that caused him to miss one Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour contest and affected him in others.
But he's also had some big performances, placing fifth in three ASP World Tour contests, including the most recent one in San Francisco.
He took fifth at the Billabong Pro in Teahupoo, Tahiti, showing and ability to score big on big waves, and took fifth at the ASP World Tour opener in Gold Coast, Australia, way back in February.
Going into the tour's final stop next month at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii, Simpson ranks 17th in the World Title rankings.
"The high points would have to be surfing well and mustering up three fifth places," Simpson said from Hawaii, where he is competing in the ASP's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing on the North Shore of Oahu. "Lows would be surfing under my standards, making bad decisions and getting injured.
"The adversity has driven me through this back half of the year, just watching and observing a lot and then using what I have and competing against the best."
Coming off that fifth place in San Francisco and heading to Hawaii for the Vans contest, Simpson said he's surfing as well now as he has all year, and it has him excited.
"I feel great," he said. "Some of my best surfing has been done in the second half of the year and I would love to keep it that way."
If Simpson maintains his 17th place standing on the World Tour, he will have improved on last year's 23rd place finish in his first year on tour, a direction he is pleased with and hopes to continue in 2012.
" I feel very confident," he said. "My main goal (in 2012) is to crack the top 10, then I will work up from there."
After the final ASP World Tour contest at Pipeline, Simpson will be home in H.B. for Christmas.
"I'm going to go home, rest a few weeks then get back in a good training regimen and give myself the best opportunity to win," he said.
And it doesn't hurt that's he's had the chance to observe and learn from Kelly Slater, who won his 11th ASP World Title this year.
"Amazing ..." Simpson said. "The guy sure does have something with the ocean. But he's dedicated to his craft and it shows."
Simpson isn't the only Huntington Beach local surfing at the Vans contest. H.B.'s Timmy Reyes is also there, but neither Simpson nor Reyes likely will get the attention of another competitor — Hawaii's Carissa Moore.
Moore, the 2011 women's ASP World Champion, was granted a wild-card entry into the men's division in the event because it did not have a rated event to support the women's Vans Triple Crown series.
"Everyone will have a different perspective and I've definitely heard some mixed reviews," Moore said. "But I'm excited and looking forward to it and hopefully that shows. I want to drive home that if there were events for the girls, I wouldn't be surfing in the guys' events. But I think if a woman can (compete with the men) in a very respectful way, then it's appropriate. And if Kelly (Slater) would like to surf in one of our events, we'd welcome him."
The fallout from the premature proclamation of Slater as the ASP world champion continues.
Brodie Carr, chief executive of the ASP, stepped down from his position after an ASP Board meeting in San Francisco last week.
"It is my duty to accept responsibility for the recent calculation error that resulted in the premature crowning of Kelly Slater's 11th ASP World Title," Carr said in a press release. "The determination of the ASP World Title is the most important moment in professional surfing. Ultimately, the responsibility for every activity within ASP lies with me. Therefore, I have elected to resign my position as CEO."
Richard Grellman, independent chairman of the board, will serve as the interim executive chairman during a search for a new CEO.
"The Board of Directors met and reluctantly accepted the resignation of Brodie Carr," Grellman said. "We would like to recognize his valuable contribution over the last six years and wish him every success in the future."
JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.