As Kanoa Igarashi looked for some last-minute waves on Friday, Courtney Conlogue watched and stretched her arms on the sand at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.
The two local surfers competed in back-to-back heats at the U.S. Open of Surfing. Igarashi, from Huntington Beach, surfed in the final round four heat of the Men’s QS 10,000 event. Conlogue, a Sage Hill School graduate who hails from Santa Ana, got the Women’s Championship Tour event rolling by competing in the first heat of round one.
Both surfers know what it feels like to win the U.S. Open. Conlogue won it last year, while Igarashi is the defending champion. Both wore a white jersey in their heats Friday, and both ultimately moved on with performances to win tough heats.
Igarashi, 20, placed first in his heat with a two-wave score of 12.23, besting Evan Geiselman of Florida (10.94) and San Clemente native Patrick Gudauskas (10.73), who now lives in Oceanside and was eliminated.
Igarashi advances to the round of 16, where he will again be in the final heat, No. 8, on Saturday. The event moves to two-man heats, and Igarashi will battle Michael February of South Africa.
Waves were hard to come by during the start of Igarashi’s 30-minute heat.
“You’re out there and you’re just thinking about anything, really,” he said. “I try not to think about the heat too much. I just think about random stuff, honestly. I was singing a song out there. I was thinking about where I was going to have lunch after.”
Igarashi soon landed his two scoring waves, a 5.40 and a 6.83. Both rides were bolstered by inside turns at the end, boosting up his score.
Igarashi has had success in his home event even before his win last year, reaching the semifinals in 2015 and 2016. With his confidence high and knowledge of the local conditions, he appears to be a tough out.
“I’ve just been flowing through my heats lately, doing what I have to do,” he said. “Now this is kind of the back end of the event, where you’ve got to buckle in and go for that win. I’m going to have a good sleep tonight and wake up [Saturday] knowing that this is where the competition starts. I’m excited from here on out.”
Geiselman and Gudaskas both caught the same wave in the final two minutes of the heat, but Gudaskas was unable to get a score to move into second and advance, like his younger brother Tanner did earlier Friday.
Conlogue, 25, had a tough draw in the first round, but that’s because she’s only seeded No. 16. She missed several events after breaking her right foot during training in early March. Her heat Friday included Carissa Moore of Hawaii, a three-time World Tour champion.
Conlogue came up with the goods, with a two-wave score of 12.83 that bettered Nikki Van Dijk of Australia (12.63) and Moore (9.84).
“I definitely feel like I’m in the right head space,” Conlogue said. “Obviously, born and raised in Santa Ana, so I’ve put a lot of time in out here [at Huntington Beach]. I’m feeling great. The reason I’m coming up against individuals like Carissa is because I’m seed No. 16, so I get to actually come up against the top seeds a lot and get really familiar with them now.
“It’s perfect,” she added with a giggle. “It gets me dialed in for next year.”
Conlogue compared trying to impress the judges in rough conditions to being a salesman on a used car lot, but she still moved on. Because she won her round one heat, Conlogue got a bye past round two, which was also contested Friday. She will compete in round three on Saturday. Twelve surfers remain in the event.
Stephanie Gilmore, the Australian who is a six-time world champion and is again atop the Women’s Tour rankings, also won her round one heat. Gilmore, 30, has never won the U.S. Open title.