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Griffin Colapinto, Caitlin Simmers win titles at U.S. Open of Surfing

Griffin Colapinto is carried off the beach after winning the men's 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday in Huntington Beach.
Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente is carried off the beach after winning the men’s 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday in Huntington Beach.
(James Carbone)

You’re 15 years old and you just won the U.S. Open of Surfing. How do you celebrate?

If you’re Caitlin Simmers, “I think I’m just gonna get pizza with some of my friends.”

Simmers conceded that even if she hadn’t won the Open on Sunday afternoon on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier, she would have gotten pizza with her friends anyway.

Such is the attitude of Oceanside’s Simmers, who turns 16 next month and became the second-youngest ever to win the Open. Hawaii’s Malia Manuel was 14 when she won in 2008.

San Clemente’s Griffin Colapinto won the men’s event, first taking out Huntington Beach local Kanoa Igarashi in the semifinals before outlasting his longtime rival Jake Marshall of Encinitas in the final.

Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente, left, and Caitlin Simmers of Oceanside are all smiles as they hold their trophies Sunday.
Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente, left, and Caitlin Simmers of Oceanside are all smiles as they hold their trophies after winning the 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday in Huntington Beach.
(James Carbone)

Simmers beat Hawaii’s Gabriela Bryan in the women’s final, clinching the victory late in the 35-minute heat with a 6.73 to go with her 7.17 and give her a two-wave total of 13.90 to Bryan’s 10.60.

But in many ways the bigger heat was her semifinal victory over Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue, a two-time U.S. Open winner who won her first when she was just 16.

Waves were hard to come by in the heat, Simmers riding only two. But she made the most of her chances, scoring a 7.00 and 7.83 for a two-wave total of 14.83 to Conlogue’s 10.34.

“Courtney is really cool,” Simmers said. “Whenever I see her, she’s really nice and really stoked, even if the waves suck.”

Success has come swiftly for Simmers, who this year has won the Jack’s Pro in Huntington, placed second in the Super Girl Pro in Oceanside and was third in the Outer Banks Pro in North Carolina. All three were Qualifying Series events.

Caitlin Simmers, 15, of Oceanside, is carried off the beach after winning the women's 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday.
(James Carbone)

But she’s not thinking about qualifying for the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, at least not yet.

“I’m not really trying to qualify,” she said. “I’m just trying to surf in events and see what happens.”

Colapinto’s victory was no surprise considering he finished No. 6 in the world on the just-concluded Championship Tour. But in doing so, he had to take out Igarashi, who appeared destined for a third Open crown.

Colapinto and Igarashi matched up against each other in the 2018 Open final with Igarashi coming out on top in an epic heat. But in their semifinal heat on Sunday, Colapinto put the pressure on Igarashi immediately, scoring a 7.17 only 30 seconds into the heat and then a 6.10 a couple of minutes later.

That left Igarashi needing two big scores, which became a nearly impossible task considering the ocean went flat for most of the heat. Igarashi got a 5.17 late in the heat, but his two-wave total was just 6.17 to Colapinto’s 13.27.

Kanoa Igarashi of Huntington Beach gets air during his men's semifinal heat of the 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday.
Kanoa Igarashi of Huntington Beach gets air during his men’s semifinal heat of the 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach on Sunday.
(James Carbone)

“I expected that out of him, no surprise,” Igarashi said of Colapinto’s fast start. “But I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew I had a lot of time. But I guess Mother Nature sometimes can be the enemy.”

In the final, Colapinto, 23, was just too good, scoring a two-wave total of 15.20 to Marshall’s 12.83. It wasn’t the first time the two have surfed against each other, as they have clashed for many years, and it wasn’t always an amicable relationship.

“We know each other super well, we’ve competed together since we were 9, 10 years old,” Colapinto said. “And actually he was my biggest rival when we were younger for about four or five years. We were just head to head, weird things were going on in between us. But now everything’s all good, we’re friends and it was really cool to have a final with him out here.”

Colapinto’s win was also a win of sorts for the San Clemente crew, which has a budding rivalry with the Brazilians. Granted, Brazil’s top surfers — reigning world champ Gabriel Medina, reigning Olympic champ Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo — did not compete at the Open, but there were several other talented Brazilians who did compete.

 Courtney Conlogue does a cutback during the women's semifinals of the U.S. Open of Surfing on Sunday.
Sage Hill School alumna Courtney Conlogue does a cutback during the women’s semifinals of the 2021 U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach on Sunday.
(James Carbone)

“We’re all in it to help each other, so we’re always giving each other advice and looking out for each other,” Colapinto said of the group that includes Kolohe Andino, Kade Matson, Cole Houshmand, Crosby Colapinto and others. “So when one of us wins, it feels like we all win. We all celebrate together.

“Those guys [Brazilians] have a good thing going on with how tight their crew is and that’s what we’re trying to do in San Clemente, have a tight crew and all be there for each other. We’ve seen it work for them and we really want to push it for ourselves.”

No Brazilian got further than the quarterfinals in the men’s division, as the semifinals featured an all-California quartet with Long Beach’s Nolan Rapoza joining Colapinto, Igarashi and Marshall.

Simmers and Colapinto each took home a cash prize of $20,000, while runners-up Bryan and Marshall pocketed $10,000 each.

Griffin Colapinto gets some spray while doing a cutback during the final heat of the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente gets some serious spray while doing a cutback during the final heat of the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach on Sunday.
(James Carbone)

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