The 2018 Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch got underway today in two-to-three foot (0.6 - 1 metre) waves at the southside of the Huntington Beach Pier with the women’s CT Trials followed by the first two rounds of the men’s QS (Round 1 H1-8, Round 2 H1-8).
The day opened with a battle for the CT wildcard entry, where Kirra Pinkerton (USA) took down Leilani McGonagle (CRI), Ainara Aymat (EUK), Tia Blanco (PRI). Pinkerton will compete in Stop No. 7 of 10 of the World Surf League (WSL) Women’s Championship Tour (CT) later this week when Round 1 is called on by the WSL Commissioners. Pinkerton will face current World No. 1 Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and defending US Open winner Sage Erickson (USA) in Round 1 Heat 3 when competition commences.
Trials winner Kirra Pinkerton. Photo: WSL / Morris
After Pinkerton’s impressive showcase, the men’s QS 10,000 competitors battled their way through the opening elimination heats in trying conditions. Some of the world’s best made their debut in Round 2 alongside the QS’s heavy-hitters. Today’s competition also witnessed big upsets by up-and-comers, who will now prepare for even more difficult matchups in Round 3.
The event received its first shockwave as first-time US Open QS competitor Kei Kobayashi (USA) took down current CT No. 7 Willian Cardoso (BRA), former CT competitor Ryan Callinan (AUS), and a top-seeded QS veteran Carlos Munoz (CRI) to start Round 2 Heat 1. Kobayashi, 19, represents the talent-rich city of San Clemente, California, and put on a display of his spry surfing to earn a 13.30 (out of a possible 20) heat total.
“That was awesome to surf against those guys,” said Kobayashi. “Willian (Cardoso) just won Uluwatu and he’s someone I look up to after he’s been grinding all these years so to see him on the CT is really inspiring. I was fired up for that heat and just wanted to do what I did this morning, and put together a good heat with two good waves. Last year was my first full year on the QS and I learned it’s nothing like the Juniors. I’ve put all my focus into this year like I did last season, watching all the events, and today I felt like I was on the right waves to give myself the best opportunity.”
Kolohe Andino coming in hot. Photo: WSL / Rowland
CT veteran Kolohe Andino (USA) moved straight into Round 3 with some steam behind him after a debut win in Round 2. Andino’s US Open history has been hit or miss, but this year the San Clemente local looks ready for another big week in Huntington Beach. The 24-year-old’s air game was intact, springing out of the shorebreak with quick air-reverses and stomping them to earn a 12.63 heat total.
“My plan was to just ride a bunch of waves, not necessarily the biggest ones, but the ones that had the best shape,” Andino said. “This is what I grew up in, summertime California surf, so that’s what I’ve been surfing a bunch. I just showed up when Kei (Kobayashi) was winning his heat and he looked like he was ripping. We’ve all been surfing a bunch together lately and getting each other all psyched trying to ride the worst waves possible.”
Hawaiian warrior Keanu Asing. Photo: WSL / Rowland
Keanu Asing’s (HAW) ascent back to the CT last year showed his true grit and now the competitor is in the same predicament once again. But, a dominant display in his opening heat today showed he’s still got the fire to retain his position among the world’s best. Turning in a pair of 7.17 (out of a possible 10) single-wave scores pushed Asing to a Round 2 heat win and an early momentum boost.
“That felt good, especially after having a tough year of results and finally feel like I’m just starting to put things together,” Asing said. “I’ve been working on getting my mind and body honed in the last two weeks before this event, and it’s important to be keeping up with all that for me. It’s a tough year. It’s never going to be easy, and I’ve learned that in the past so I’m not getting down on myself. I’m looking at the glass half-full and really appreciating everything I have with a different mindset.”
San Clemente's Tanner Gudauskas. Photo: Jimmy Cane
The day concluded with two of the more anticipated heats, beginning with Round 2 Heat 7 that featured CT veteran Matt Wilkinson (AUS), former CT competitors Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and Tanner Gudauskas (USA), as well as a dangerous QS threat Lucca Mesinas (PER). But, it was yet another San Clemente representative who took a stunning win and garnered some major steam moving forward with solid, forehand surfing in tough afternoon conditions.
“It’s a bit lackluster, but honestly it did look really fun,” Gudauskas said. “There’s a little bit of juice in the water and I was just excited to ride a lot of waves out there. That’s what my goal was even though I didn’t know which waves were good or bad and it all worked out for the best. It’s all a state of mind and when you have a bunch of people looking down from the pier you realize this is the big show so for us on the QS it’s great to have these big events -- huge shout out to Vans for continuing to put this show on, it’s been a good run so far.”
Following that affair, 2018 breakout star and another San Clemente representative, Griffin Colapinto (USA), fired on all cylinders and nearly matched the day’s highest single-wave score -- a 7.83. Despite his performance, it was an in-form Joshua Moniz (HAW) who ended with the day’s top heat total, a 14.57, and single-wave score of 7.90 to snag a win over Colapinto, Barron Mamiya (HAW) and Oney Anwar (IDN).
Another notable Round 2 victory belonged to US Open Trials winner Reef Heazlewood (AUS), eliminating one of 2018’s most exciting surfers Mikey Wright (AUS).
Also, Round 1 victors who await Round 2 bouts include first-time Vans US Open competitor Marcos Correa (BRA), Santa Barbara native Parker Coffin (USA), Tahitian Mihimana Braye (PYF), and QS veteran Beyrick De Vries (ZAF).
The Men’s Qualifying Series will continue tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. PST with Round 2 (H9-16), followed by Pro Junior Men’s Quarterfinals and Semifinals.