There is more at stake than the mass of ratings points on offer towards qualification for a spot on next year’s ASP Dream Tour, because Hurley’s posting of surfing’s largest ever prize purse has attracted several ASP Dream Tour surfers, setting the level of competition at this year’s famed event at an all-time high.
Julian Wilson (Coolum, AUS), 21, stamped the event’s top scores by utilizing his patented progressive fins-free turns to impress the judges. The innovative regular-footer blasted an impressive 17.33 out of 20 heat total in his opening Hurley U.S. Open campaign with massive tail drifting maneuvers and convincingly advanced through to the Round of 96.
“The waves were pretty fun out there,” Wilson said. “It was pretty spread out and it gave everyone the chance to get a couple. Luckily I was able to find a few that allowed me to get some decent turns in and I got a few good scores.”
Although the Hurley U.S. Open marks the midway point in the 2009 ASP WQS season, this is only Wilson’s second appearance in an ASP WQS jersey. This year, the young Australian has directed his focus to the production of his first movie, but took the time out to compete at the Hurley U.S. Open.
“This is only my second ‘QS contest this year,” Wilson said. “I’ve been focusing on making a movie this year and it’s really exciting, but I’m happy to be here at the U.S. Open.”
Wilson put on a banner performance as a wildcard at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast ASP World Tour event earlier this year and is excited about competing against the high level of talent seeded in this year’s Hurley U.S. Open.
“It’s great that so many of the World Tour guys are here,” Wilson said. “This is pretty much the biggest contest of the year and it’s good for the fans to be able to watch.”
Tonino Benson (Kona , HI), 19, assisted fellow ASP Pro Junior surfer Nat Young (Santa Cruz, CA), 18, in issuing the upset of the day when he ousted current ASP World No. 5 Damien Hobgood (Satellite Beach, FL), 29, and former ASP World Champion Sunny Garcia (Oahu, HI), 39, from competition. Benson got off to a slow start in his heat, but rebounded and found the scores needed to take out the veteran competitors.
“It was kind of small still and I just wanted to surf Machado’s peak,” Benson said. “I ended up falling a couple of times, but ended up getting a couple and was able to pull it out at the very end. I’m just stoked to be through to the Round of 48 and stoked to be in this contest.”
Benson has only competed in a few select events on the ASP WQS season, but is out to make a push towards qualification for the ASP Dream Tour in the back half of the year.
“I only did a couple of contests earlier this year,” Benson said. “I really want to start making a push to qualify and am going to do as many contests as I can in the last half of the year. There are a lot of 6-Stars, so I’m just going to do my best.”
Nathaniel Curran (Oxnard), 24, who is the defending Hurley U.S. Open Champion and a current rookie on the ASP World Tour, advanced through his Round of 96 heat with a last-minute effort, moving him in to the Round of 48 behind Australian standout and current ASP WQS No. 5 Matt Wilkinson (Copacabana, AUS), 20.
“There were little waves, but it was kind of a hard heat,” Curran said. “I’ve had a cold the last week and haven’t been feeling well. I struggled to get a wave out there and luckily in the end I got a good one. I’m glad that I made the heat and it takes a bit of the pressure off.”
Curran is fresh off of a ninth place finish at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay and had to readjust to the four-man format for the ASP WQS contest in comparison to the man-on-man format utilized for the ASP World Tour, but did not seem to struggle in the transition.
“It’s definitely a little bit different surfing the man-on-man format compared to the four-man format,” Curran said. “It takes a little getting used to, but I was just trying to get it going out there and it looks like today is supposed to be the smallest day, so hopefully the conditions will improve.”
Tomorrow’s Hurley U.S. Open action will continue with the women’s ASP WQS 6-Star event, beginning with the Round of 60 surfers before launching back to the men’s Round of 96.
Hurley U.S. Open Round of 96 Results: (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 1: Paulo Moura (BRA) 12.27, Dustin Cuizon (HAW) 11.90, Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 11.06, Bruce Irons (HAW) 5.77
Heat 2: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.27, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 11.33, Bobby Hansen (NZL) 8.90, Dylan Melamed (HAW) 8.77
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.33, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 12.97, Dane Gudauskas (USA) 12.97, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 7.57
Heat 4: Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.16, Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 10.47, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 7.33, Kieran Horn (USA) 6.87
Heat 5: Nat Young (USA) 12.04, Tonino Benson (HAW) 11.60, Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.03, Sunny Garcia (HAW) 7.84
Heat 6: Nathan Yeomans (USA) 14.50, Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.07, Blake Howard (USA) 11.67, Marco Polo (BRA) 8.43
Heat 7: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.50, Casey Brown (HAW) 12.44, Marlon Lipke (DEU) 9.93, T.J. Barron (HAW) 6.04
Heat 8: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.67, Alain Riou (PYF) 11.36, Cory Lopez (USA) 9.00, Rhys Bombaci (AUS) 8.00
Heat 9: Chris Ward (USA) 13.33, Adam Robertson (AUS) 12.17, Evan Geiselman (USA) 11.13, Rudy Palmboom (ZAF) 5.87
Heat 10: Andy Irons (HAW) 13.24, Glen Hall (IRE) 11.93, Charles Martin (GLP) 11.13, Cory Ziems (AUS) 9.84
Heat 11: Dan Ross (AUS) 14.00, Eric Geiselman (USA) 10.67, Austin Ware (USA) 10.10, Luke Munro (AUS) 8.11
Heat 12: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.84, Mike Losness (USA) 10.50, Asher Nolan (USA) 9.07, Kiron Jabour (HAW) 4.36
Heat 13: Travis Logie (ZAF) 16.50, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.70, Joel Centeio (HAW) 13.07, Noi Kaulukukui (USA) 6.30
Heat 14: Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.90, Granger Larsen (HAW) 13.54, Adam Melling (AUS) 11.90, Jason Harris (USA) 7.74
Heat 15: Shaun Gossman (AUS) 13.10, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 10.60, Anthony Petrusso (USA) 8.24, Nathan Hedge (AUS) 4.83
Heat 16: Kai Barger (HAW) 12.83, Hodei Collazo (EUK) 11.53, Yuri Sodre (BRA) 8.40, Chris Davidson (AUS) 0.00
Hurley U.S. Open Round of 144 Results: (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 19: Jean Sebastien Estienne (BLM) 14.27, Jack Perry (AUS) 11.16, Matt King (USA) 8.54, Lovel Hodel (HAW)
Heat 20: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.33, Jarrad Howse (AUS) 11.00, Gavin Gillette (HAW) 10.27, Jason Collins (USA) 10.27
Heat 21: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 12.00, Teppei Tajima (JPN) 11.97, Romain Cloitre (FRA) 10.06, Liam McNamara (HAW) 1.23
Heat 22: Bruno Rodrigues (USA) 13.33, Adam Virs (USA) 13.00, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 12.80, Yujiro Tsuji (JPN) 7.84
Heat 23: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 16.83, Brent Reilly (USA) 11.94, Hank Gaskell (HAW) 11.30, Brian Toth (PRI) 10.17
Heat 24: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.80, Richard Christie (NZL) 6.44, Brett Barley (USA) 4.10, Flynn Novak (HAW) 2.79