Igarashi, Conlogue bid for third U.S. Open of Surfing titles Sunday
For Kanoa Igarashi and Courtney Conlogue, it’s a case of been there, done that.
But don’t be fooled. Igarashi and Conlogue are still just as hungry for a U.S. Open crown as they were before each of them won their first one. Or their second.
Huntington Beach’s Igarashi and Santa Ana’s Conlogue were the men’s and women’s winners of the 2018 U.S. Open, the second title for each.
Both will vie for a third championship Sunday when finals day commences on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.
No woman has ever won three U.S. Open titles, and only one man — Cardiff’s Rob Machado — has won three.
Igarashi will surf against Brazil’s Lucas Silveira in a quarterfinal heat that will begin about 9:30 a.m., while Conlogue will surf a semifinal heat starting at approximately 10:30 a.m. against Caitlin Simmers of Oceanside.
Conlogue beat 15-year-old Bettylou Sakura Johnson of Hawaii in the quarterfinals Saturday morning to set up Sunday’s heat against the 16-year-old Simmers.
Going up against the young groms is something that is not lost on the 29-year-old Conlogue — she was just 16 when she won her first Open title in 2009.
“Obviously it’s the next generation and I was there quite awhile ago,” Conlogue said. “It’s exciting to see. I’ve been watching Caity, and actually had a coaching session with the U.S. surfing team and was mentoring her one day. She’s a great talent and I am really happy to see her evolving and improving, and I’m very impressed with Betty and her surfing as well.
“It’s our job to elevate and inspire the next generation, so they better step up, or else we’re not doing our job right.”
The niceties, however, end at the shoreline. Conlogue’s competitive drive and determination belies her genial out-of the-water personality.
So winning a third Open isn’t any less desirable for Conlogue, a Sage Hill School graduate who finished No. 9 in the world this year.
“My knowledge is way higher now but I’m just as inspired to win another one,” she said.
“It’s not any dimmer of a light. I’m loving where I’m at. I got really rejuvenated on my Tahiti trip, I’m feeling really inspired to keep elevating myself and kind of hitting a second — actually not a second, probably more like a third — wind. Just hitting a new rhythm and I like the way it’s feeling.”
Igarashi is still a week shy of his 24th birthday, but already has six seasons on the World Surf League Championship Tour.
That experience, along with years in the water on the south side of the pier, paid off in his Round of 16 heat Saturday against up-and-comer Kade Matson of San Clemente.
Igarashi won the heat with a two-wave score of 13.60 to Matson’s 12.74. But it did not come easily, as Igarashi took off on a mediocre wave with about nine minutes remaining, handing priority over to Matson. That meant Igarashi had to allow Matson to take any wave he wanted.
Matson, though, still needed a score of 7.04 to move into the lead, and no significant sets rolled through in the remaining minutes, allowing Igarashi to advance.
“It’s a lot of trust, having the confidence I can adapt to any kind of situation,” Igarashi said.
“Kade is a good enough surfer to get a seven, eight, nine on any given wave. So I was ready to strike back. Obviously defense is important but when you don’t have priority you can’t really do it, so I tried to stay on the offense the whole heat.”
It’s all a part of Igarashi’s laid-back approach to this year’s Open, one in which he refuses to fall prey to pressure.
“Yeah, to be honest with you, I just kind of free-styled it, winged it a little bit,” he said.
“I wanted to adapt to the situations I would be put in and I got put in a few situations where I made a few errors and had to make some important decisions toward the heat, and I’m glad the cards fell the right way. It’s nice to use this heat as a boost into finals day.”
The big upset of the day came in the women’s quarterfinals where Hawaii’s Gabriela Bryan beat Caroline Marks, who finished No. 6 in the world and was one of two women on the U.S. Olympic surf team.
Bryan will face fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho in the other women’s semifinal about 10 a.m. Sunday.
Besides the Igarashi-Silveira heat, the other men’s quarterfinals will feature Encinitas’ Jake Marshall vs. Australia’s Callum Robson, San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino vs. Long Beach’s Nolan Rapoza, and Australia’s Liam O’Brien vs. San Clemente’s Griffin Colapinto.
Surfing is scheduled to begin at 8:05 a.m.
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