Kanoa Igarashi and Courtney Conlogue are the local heroes and the defending champs at the U.S. Open of Surfing. They also share a certain comfort surfing on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier that gives them a home-wave advantage which is difficult to quantify.
But it’s real.
Both Igarashi and Conlogue have advanced through their early-round heats in the men’s and women’s divisions of the Open, a World Surf League Qualifying Series event, keeping alive their individual quests to win again this year.
Igarashi has made it through two heats to reach Round 4, where the remaining 24 surfers out of the original pool of 115 will compete on Friday. Igarashi’s heat will begin at about 10 a.m.
Igarashi, a Huntington Beach local, won his Round 3 heat on Tuesday with a two-wave total of 13.23, beating Australia’s Jack Freestone, San Clemente’s Ian Crane and Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau.
While Igarashi won the heat comfortably, that wasn’t the case on Monday when he came dangerously close to being eliminated in Round 2. He finished second in the heat behind Brazil’s Thiago Camarao, good enough to advance, but was threatened by South Carolina’s Cam Richards in the final minute.
Richards needed a 5.88 to surpass Igarashi, and got a wave in the final seconds. But the wave wasn’t quite what it needed to be, Richards scoring a 4.67 and Igarashi survived.
“Today I felt a little bit more under control,” Igarashi said. “In the first round, sometimes I have a tendency to not be able to get going right away. My mind wasn’t there yet. … I didn’t feel like the contest had got underway yet, but now that I’ve had that slap on the wrist of, ‘you can’t win the contest but you can sure lose it’ feeling, it definitely got me into gear.”
In Tuesday’s heat, Igarashi separated himself from the others, hugging the pier while the other surfers sat farther south. But it wasn’t part of any particular strategy.
“I just follow my instincts, my feelings, out there,” he said. “It’s the only wave in the world where I don’t paddle out with any plan. I like to go out there and freestyle and find my own rhythm and go with what I’m feeling. I trust my gut out there and it’s been working.”
Similarly, Santa Ana’s Conlogue, a Sage Hill School alumna, has surfed the south side of the pier so many times in her life, any preparation is already baked into her psyche. In Round 2 Tuesday, her first heat of the contest, she scored a 7.17 just a couple of minutes into the 30-minute heat and was never seriously threatened the rest of the way, finishing with a two-wave total of 14.20. She won the heat and will surf next in Round 3 on Thursday at about 8 a.m.
“I haven’t surfed out here all week because I was so busy,” said Conlogue, who will be inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame on Thursday. “Yesterday was my first day back in the water in a while. So I was just really happy to get in the jersey. I’ve been here so many times in this jersey at this pier, it’s just muscle memory and trusting what I’ve already practiced out here.”
Familiarity with the wave was not so much an advantage for San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino, who was knocked out of the contest in his Round 3 heat on Tuesday.
Andino, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, sat in the second (advancing) position going into the final minute of the heat. But Australia’s Kalani Ball, needing only a 3.24 score to move past Andino, got what he needed with just 35 seconds remaining.
It wasn’t a great wave, but it was enough for Ball to put up a 4.77 and knock Andino out of the competition. Because the contest is not a Championship Tour event, his No. 1 ranking is not affected. But it wasn’t any consolation for Andino.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I definitely felt I could win this event, that’s why I entered it. I was excited to compete, I felt great, I just had a really, really slow heat. (Ball) got a wave in the last 30 seconds … not much I could do.
“I made a mistake or two in the beginning, I fell on almost a five-point ride where I didn’t make the reform. I think if I would’ve made the reform, he would have needed a five and he wouldn’t have got it on his last wave. It was pumping all morning, tons of waves, then our heat starts and it goes completely flat, so completely out of my control.”
Both Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente and Conner Coffin of Santa Barbara won their Round 3 heats on Tuesday and advanced to Friday’s Round 4.
In the women’s division, Caroline Marks (San Clemente via Florida) and Alyssa Spencer (Carlsbad) won their respective heats and Kirra Pinkerton (San Clemente) placed second, all advancing to Round 3 on Thursday.