The sand, skin, and asphalt of Huntington Beach are simmering right now. Boiling, even. While the opening days of the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing sauntered by with a steady dosage of forced media and understated spectacle, Thursday marked the transformation of "Surf City USA" into the monstrous mascot of American summer it has become. The sun-torched tourists clawed around Main Street like smoldering lobsters, an army of silicon soldiers overtook the beach, and more importantly - at least to the surf population (which I would guess was about 40% of those attending) the in-water competition grew fierce.
Here are a few highlights from the day:
White Lightning. Fanning's lightning quickness came in handy, as racing the closeouts south of the Pier definitely played to his advantage. "I sort of fumbled around a little bit," Fanning said. "The sets were closing out and I snagged a little left and got a couple of turns and was able to back that up."
Power of the Fro. Along with Fanning, Rob Machado passed through after a much-anticipated heat with up and comer Owen Wright, but the three-time U.S. Open Champ looked composed as he advanced closer to the $100,000 prize. "This is what it's all about," said Machado in reference to the prodigious payday. "Surfing deserves this."
California Gold. California's representatives stood tall as Brett Simpson, Defending U.S. Open champ Nathaniel Curran, San Clemente's Pat Gudauskas, Nate Yeomans, and Rob Machado continued their run into the Round of 24.
Rematch? The girl's division was equally, if not more compelling than the men's as defending champ Malia Manuel and 2008 runner-up Coco Ho could be on a collision course for a rematch of the 2008 U.S. Open of Surfing Finals.
History Lives Here. On a different note, Thursday also marked the induction of Jeff Hakman, Pat O'Connell, Bruce Brown, and Joey Buran into the Surfer's Hall of Fame. A massive crowd of onlookers spilled out into Main Street, making for a sure-fired traffic hazard in appreciation of these surf legends.
The U.S. Open is live now, so tune into the live webcast and watch a much-hyped south swell fill in throughout the day.