2012 Nike U.S. Open Preview

Former U.S. Open Champ Shea Lopez on what to expect in Huntington

Kelly Slater makes his way through the chaos in route to his 2011 win at Huntington. Photo: Ellis

If you find yourself within a mile of the Huntington Beach Pier in the next week you’ll bear witness to hundreds of thousands of scantily clad youth at surfing’s spectacle of the year. Festivities carry on throughout the day, but it’s after the last autographs have been signed that the real trouble begins. For some, this is easy to avoid. Fine southern gentlemen, like the Hobgoods, have gained an advantage in many early-morning heats here, fresh off eight perfect hours of sleep. On the other hand, Australians generally find the cheap booze and girls all too inviting, and ingest heartily until they either win the contest or the wheels fall off and they retreat directly to the hospital, rehab, or the safety of their own home soil.

The group of friends I traveled with over the years all had major victories at Huntington Beach, and we all did it the same way. Here’s the blueprint for success at Huntington: Don’t go outside unless completely necessary. There are only distractions out there, setbacks to your ultimate goal of winning. Be confident that you have the talent and experience necessary to win in every condition. If you suffer for a number of years with disappointing results at the event, you have to keep getting after it. Make a conscious decision to win it the next year. Create a scenario that only sees one outcome: you with that over-sized check held high above your head.

Eventually, you’ll have plenty of reason to celebrate. I’m still partying after my U.S. Open victory in ’99. The surge of confidence that title gave me was enough to overcome my nerves and win over the most amazing woman I’d ever met, a far better prize than the giant check. It’s a high I’ve now ridden through 12 years of marriage and the birth of my two kids.

My picks for the 2012 US Open win:

Annually, the upper-tier pros are contractually obligated to attend Huntington. Most are there primarily to enjoy themselves and mix in a few heats on the side. The competitive beast inside Kelly, last year’s champ, awakens only if the waves interest him or a young buck threatens him. This year, we’ll see a number of upstarts—in need of Prime points—emerge from the pack as well.

Bottom line, my call is that a Brazilian will take the win, for one simple reason: they want it more. Adriano, Gabriel, Jadson, Alejo, Heitor, Miguel, Felipe, Jesse…These are all names you will see pressing hard to send Kelly, Taj, Parko, Simpo, Owen, Jordy, Josh, Julian, and Mick back to the grandstand.

Final Verdict: When the smoke clears next Sunday, Adriano De Souza will be the 2012 US Open champ.

Look for Jadson Andre and his Brazilian compatriots to focus on the contest more than the crowds. Photo: Ellis

Who’s your pick to win the 2012 US Open? Leave it in the comments below.

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