Gearing up for U.S. Open

Ryah Arthur and Eli Viszolay are heading into the U.S. Open of Surfing in different ways.

The Laguna Beach athletes will be a part of the world's largest professional surfing competition, which begins its nine-day run at the Huntington Beach Pier on Saturday. Arthur, 22, will go as a competitor; Viszolay, 18, as a contributor.

The summertime classic is North America's only combined Assn. of Surfing Professionals Men's Prime and Women's six-star event.

"No other surf contest compares to competing in the U.S. Open," Arthur said. "The way the venue is set up, with all the fans, and the pier, makes it the most classic and intense surf event in the world. You have to be surfing your absolute best in every heat to put on a good show and make sure that you advance.

"I am honored to be a part of the event this year."

Arthur, a 2006 graduate of Laguna Beach High, will be competing at the U.S. Open for third time and is surfing in the first round of the U.S. Open Men's trials. His first heat is Sunday.

Two years ago, Arthur made it through two heats before being eliminated. Starting Sunday, he said he's "looking to improve on that, by a lot."

He'll be in a U.S. Open Men's field that features a star-studded bunch, including defending champion Brett Simpson of Huntington Beach, Australians Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning, Andy Irons (Hawaii), C.J. Hobgood (Florida) and Rob Machado (Cardiff), as well as Dane Reynolds (Ventura), Patrick Gudauskas (San Clemente) and Jordy Smith of South Africa.

Smith, ranked No. 1 in the world, last week won the Billabong Pro Men's title at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

Machado (2006, 2001, 1995), Irons (2006, 1998), Hobgood (2007) and Burrows (2004) have all won the U.S. Open Men's title.

Arthur has won local contests, but not a "big" ASP event yet, saying he's "looking for that to happen this year." In the past four months, he's competed at the six-star O'Neill Cold Water Classic in Scotland, France for the Vendee Pro and was in Brazil for a pair of six-star events.

Viszolay was all set to compete next week in the $10,000 grade-two U.S. Open Men's Junior Pro (he was seeded into the round of 64) but had to cancel when he was hired for a job on the East Coast. He won't be in Huntington for the start of the U.S. Open, but he'll still be out in the water in a different state, and in a whole other capacity in the coming days.

Viszolay, a 2009 graduate of Laguna Beach High and four-year member of the school's surf team for which he was named MVP as a freshman, left Thursday for New York, where he will be "wakeboarding on a lake" for an Abercrombie and Fitch photo shoot.

The New York shoot — he learned only Monday of the dates of the three-day shoot — conflicted with the date he was supposed to surf in the U.S. Open Men's Junior Pro. He said he'll be back in town Tuesday and then join the U.S. Open.

Viszolay signed a contract last year with the Ford Models agency in Los Angeles. He said he had been spotted in an ad in Surfer magazine, he said, then signed with Ford.

When he gets back from New York, he'll work down in Huntington with one of the key U.S. Open sponsors, Hurley International. Viszolay has been a Hurley team member and rider with the company for six years and recently signed on as its third team manager, joining veteran U.S. Open contest veterans Brandon Guilmette and Pat O'Connell.

Viszolay said the three managers will attend to the pro surfers entered in the U.S. Open, as well as to famed shaper Lee Stacey.

"It's really tough to not be competing at the U.S. Open but to be honest, I've been surfing a lot with Hurley," said Viszolay who is ranked 58th in the ASP North American Pro Junior rankings. "I love surfing the contest, however, I know there will be plenty more (contests) in years to come, and because I am leaving for Bali shortly after the U.S. Open, this job in New York will help my money situation when I am gone out of the country.

"I am bummed to miss my heat. Competing in the U.S. Open of Surfing is like competing in the Super Bowl of surfing. For those that can handle the pressure, this is the place to shine."

Viszolay's resume includes reaching several finals and winning two titles in National Scholastic Surfing Assn. competitions, twice winning his division and placing third once in the Pro division at Laguna Beach's Brooks Street Classic and winning both the Rip Curl Gromsearch Southern California title and Volcom Crustaceous tour series at age 16. He has competed twice at the U.S. Open Men's Junior Pro.

"I have been with Hurley for about six years now and I can say that I have no regrets," he said. "When I was around 13, Pat O'Connell saw me surfing in Laguna at Brooks Street and wanted to put me on the team. I was so stoked to be taken on board by a pro surfer and ambassador of the sport of surfing. Now that I am older, I will still compete in Pro Juniors and ride for Hurley. I am also helping Pat and Brandon (Guilmette) run the surf team, allowing me to find young kids who are good surfers but most importantly good people, and bring them aboard the Hurley team.

"The Hurley team is all about good surfers with good attitudes chasing their dreams in whatever direction they want their surfing to go."

For the first time, the U.S. Open of Surfing has a "Prime" rating from the ASP. The U.S. Open Men's division prize purse is $250,000 and for the second straight year, $100,000 goes to the division's winner.

The U.S. Open Men's and U.S. Open Men's Junior Pro finals are Aug. 8, the day after the U.S. Open Women's and U.S. Open Women's Junior Pro finals.

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