HUNTINGTON BEACH — A fantastic finish, an emotional victory, punctuated the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing Sunday.
With big money and ratings points up for grabs during the nine-day event at the Huntington Beach Pier, it was Alejo Muniz of Brazil and Carissa Moore of Hawaii who weathered the week to win the Men's and Women's Prime titles, respectively.
The champions earned their titles by defeating local favorites Sunday. Moore withstood a late, spirited charge by Courtney Conlogue of Santa Ana to take the Women's final. Muniz followed with a start-to-finish win against Kolohe Andino of San Clemente in the Men's final.
An estimated crowd of 750,000 came out for the U.S. Open.
For Muniz, 23, of Santa Catarina, Brazil, Sunday marked his first win at the U.S. Open. His triumph drew cheers and chants of "Brazil, Brazil," from fans waving the Brazilian flag, as he accepted his championship trophy.
Sunday's win, he said, came as a surprise.
"I wasn't expecting to win here," he said. "For some reason, I woke up this morning and I knew I was going to do well. I'm really stoked. This is the biggest win of my career."
Muniz also collected his biggest paycheck to date: $100,000.
Moore collected a $15,000 paycheck for her win.
The victory also made Moore a two-time winner at the U.S. Open.
"It feels amazing and it's an honor to win in front of all of you," Moore, 20 and a native of Honolulu, told the massive crowd.
The Women's finals heat figured to be a tough competition, and it was. Conlogue, a Sage Hill School (Newport Coast) alumna, had won all four of her previous heats, which included knocking off top-ranked Tyler Wright of Australia in a Sunday morning semifinal. Moore, meanwhile, won four of her five previous heats to make her way to the final.
Conlogue, 20 had used fast starts in her four previous heats to grab leads in each. She again followed form Sunday by taking her first wave only 10 seconds into the 35-minute heat and scored a 5.50. That lead was short lived as Moore opened with a score of 8.17, then scored a 7.83 on her second wave.
That strong opening put Moore into the lead for the remainder of the heat. Conlogue, however, nearly pulled out the win.
Needing a score of 8.50 to regain the lead, Conlogue finished with a flurry. She turned in consecutive wave scores of 7.50, 6.00, neither of which, though, was enough to give her the lead. But she had momentum. With less than a minute remaining, she came up with a great ride which included a vertical hook that brought cheers from the crowd.
She still had a shot at the title. Her final wave score didn't trickle in until a minute after the final horn had sounded. She was scored a 7.77 on her final effort, leaving the 2009 Open Women's champion just short of earning her second U.S. Open title.
Moore held on for a finals victory by a score of 16.00-15.27.
Sunday's win placed Moore as the Women's World Tour ratings leader. Conlogue moved up to No. 3.
"She put me on the ropes," Conlogue said of Moore's early lead. "I wanted to have fun and put on a show. It was a good heat."
Conlogue roared to the Women's final by scoring an impressive semifinal victory in the morning over Wright. A great performance included top wave scores of 9.27 and 6.80, which led to a 16.07-11.33 victory.
Conlogue's 9.27 came on her fourth wave. She came up with three maneuvers, a cutback and deep bottom turn, before she eased her way through the pier pylons.
The 9.27 was the highest wave score of the day for both the Women and Men. It put her in the lead to stay, 13.94-11.33. Her second-best score, 6.80, came on her sixth scored wave. That 6.80 replaced her previous second-best core of 4.67.
Her final score of 16.07 also was the top Women's individual heat score for the day.
The Women's semifinals and finals, and Men's Prime quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, all were contested Sunday.
Moore made it to the Women's final by getting past Pauline Ado of France in a semifinal heat Sunday morning.
"She's such an amazing World Tour surfer," Conlogue said of Wright. "You can't beat her without 9s [scores]."
The Men's Prime, which started July 20 with 96 of the top surfers in the world and is the only six-star prime event in North America, had a final that featured two surfers who were solid throughout the competition.
Muniz, who hit a big, late wave score in the final minute of a Round of 16 matchup Saturday to pull out a win against Mitch Crews of Australia, needed no such heroics in the final. His first two wave scores, an 8.43 and 7.80, would be his top two scores of the heat. Andino, 19, had top scores of 7.77 and 6.77.
Surf conditions went flat for the final 12 minutes of the Men's final and Muniz, ranked No. 15 in the Assn. of Surfing Professionals Men's World Rankings, won the event by a final score of 16.23-14.54.
"Today was really emotional for me," Muniz said. "Four years ago my grandfather passed away. I dedicated this to him."
Muniz reached the Men's final by defeating Matt Banting of Australia in the second of two semifinal heats Sunday morning. Andino, ranked No. 9 in the ASP Men's World Rankings, advanced by defeating Bede Durbidge of South Africa in the first semifinal.
The Men's Prime quarterfinals started the final day of action Sunday, and they included a few surprises. Andino survived a tough heat with No. 3-ranked Adriano De Souza of Brazil, Durbidge edged eighth-ranked Michel Bourez (Tahiti), Banting upended No. 1-ranked Jordy Smith of South Africa, and Muniz took the last quarterfinal heat with a win against seventh-ranked Nat Young of Santa Cruz.