It's been six months since Lakey Peterson broke her ankle during a Ventura freesurf. The devastating blow immediately ended her dreams of contending for a 2016 world title. But Monday at the Vans US Open of Surfing she was back in a big way, and wasted no time making things difficult for the likes of Carissa Moore and Laura Enever. Peterson faced them to open her run there, and ripped her way to victory.
"It feels good to be back," Peterson said. "My ankle and body are feeling great, and I'm stoked to be back at Huntington. Going straight into a heat with Carissa was good for me, it pushes me to do really well. I don't feel like I have much to lose after missing half the season. It was a lot of hard work to get back and I'm excited for the week ahead."
In classic Huntington conditions -- that is to say, punchy beachbreak waves with fat, mid-tide mush on the inside -- Peterson came out firing. She locked in a 7.83 and found a solid 5.57 back-up score to take the lead. Moore, a three-time world champion who's currently at World No. 3 (read: so close to a fourth title she can taste it), fought back valiantly, but couldn't close the gap. Enever, meanwhile, was close behind, but needed a big finish to make a dent.
Malia Manuel had momentum in her favor, after finishing runner-up in a QS contest the day before. - WSL / Jackson Van Kirk
But if Peterson's return was a curveball in the competition, she wasn't the only one who brought some surprises to the beach. The first half of Round One saw a fresh cadre of women taking their heats by storm. In Heat 1, Hawaiian Malia Manuel defeated perennial winner Sally Fitzgibbons, whose relationship with Round Two is chilly, at best. Just yesterday, Manuel finished runner-up at the Supergirl Pro, a QS6,000, and clearly carried that mojo with her from Oceanside to Huntington Beach.
That QS success was the same secret sauce that fueled Coco Ho's win in the very next heat. The Oahu native won the Supergirl contest -- her best result in years -- just when she needed it most. Midway through a tough year on the Championship Tour, her job security has been hanging by a thread. She needed both a big win and the surge in confidence that comes with it.
Next up it was yet another underdog who prevailed: Sage Ericksonopened strong against tour leader Courtney Conlogue, and didn't let up until she had won. As Conlogue worked to catch up and wildcard Meah Collins did her best to hang on, Erickson went in for the kill, nailing a 7.73 to secure the win.
The victory was just a fistful of glory for the Californian, but it was enough. "I would say that not only is Courtney wearing that yellow [leader's] jersey, but we're here at her spot in Huntington," Erickson said afterward. "I've been competing against Courtney for so long and we've had so many battles for years now. I just wanted to focus on myself in that heat. I am super happy to get two scores and move on."
Courtney and the rest of Monday's runners-up will battle again Tuesday in the high-stakes Round Two.