Competitors at the U.S. Open of Surfing learned a hard lesson: never let a small wave go past you if Filipe Toledo is sitting in the water next to you.
The Brazilian surfer can take a tiny wave and hack it up, boost to the air, earn big scores and trample his competitor.
It happened in a heat against local favorite Kanoa Igarashi, of Huntington Beach, early Sunday in a match up against Toledo. And it happened in the finals when the 21-year-old went up against Australian Ethan Ewing in the finals at the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Toledo, who now lives in San Clemente, earned $100,000 and was chaired up the sand, his second after winning in 2014.
Both O.C. surfers who made it to the final day were taken down by the eventual winners, with Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue eliminated by Hawaiian surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb, who won the women’s event.
Westin-Webb took to the water against fellow Hawaiian Malia Manuel in the finals, with Weston-Webb dominating through the finals for her first World Tour victory.
Weston-Webb took an early lead and maintained the top spot during the final heat, posting up a high 7.33 and backing it up with a 5.63. Manuel took a wave toward the pier as the clocked neared the 1-minute mark, but her efforts weren’t enough to overtake her competitor.
Weston-Webb put her hands over her face, looked up to the sky, and jumped up and down in the shallow water as the crowd swelled around her and she soaked in the victory, which was her first win on the World Tour. She earned $60,000 for her win and points that will boost her rankings on the World Tour.
She was lifted up on shoulders, her surfboard pointed toward the sky behind her, high-fiving fans surrounding her.
Earlier Sunday morning, Conlogue was surfing on the defensive during the entire quarterfinal heat against Webb, who took an early lead after scoring a high 8.0 and a 7.23.
Conlogue came painfully close to overtaking the lead after doing a huge hack on a wave toward the pier, earning a 8.77 - just .23 points short of the 9-point ride she needed to surpass her competitor.
It's more than just a loss of the U.S. Open title for Conlogue, who won the event here in 2009. She's the top-ranked surfer in the world and in contention for a world title.
“She’s going out on her home court and she’s so amazing out here,” Weston-Webb said of Conlogue. “Beating Courtney, I got so much confidence. I was like ‘OK, I’m going to take it all the way’.”
Australia’s Taylor Wright, who came into the U.S. Open just below Conlogue in the rankings, won her quarterfinal heat and is now the new number-one ranked surfer in the world going into the next event at Lower Trestles.
Wright, however, went down in the semi-finals against Manuel.
The men’s action started out Sunday with a shocker.
Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz, who proposed to his girlfriend on the pier Friday, didn’t have any luck when the contest got underway. He had a shocker of a heat, scoring only a 1.63 and 1.17 when he could find no waves. He was beat by current world champion Adriano de Souza.
But de Souza had an early exit when he went up against eventual finalist Ewing, who has been a strong contender the entire event.
Ewing started the heat with huge carves and posting a big score of 7.83 and a total heat score of 14.60. De Souza couldn’t find the score and was eliminated.
Ewing, 17, was doing double duty in the event after entering both the juniors and main men’s event. In the juniors, he made it to the semifinals before being knocked out. In the main men’s event, Ewing was surfing strong from the start, taking out big names like former U.S. Open winner Julian Wilson.
Igarashi started the morning strong after winning his quarterfinal heat.
But during the semifinal heat against Toledo, the Brazilian opened up strong and put early pressure on the Huntington surfer by using his skills in small waves to take to the air and earn a high 8.50 and a back up 7.50.
Igarashi struggled to find any waves, not getting a score on the board until about 10 minutes into the heat. Twice he let waves slip by him and Toledo snagged them and scored big.
Igarashi got a 6.0 score from a wave that took him under the pier. As the clock ticked down, he earned another 7.40 - but it wasn’t enough to overtake the in-form Toledo.
When Ewing and Tolido matched up in the finals, Tolido used a mix of air maneuvers and big turns to gain ahead of his opponent. Ewing let a small wave slip passed and Tolido jumped on it, doing a big turn and laying back all the way in the whitewash, before popping up to his feet, the crowd cheering him on.
For Ewing, making it to the finals was his best result yet.
“This is the biggest achievement of my career so far, I’m just so happy to everyone who has supported me,” he said.
As Toledo soaked in the win, he said he’s thankful for his second win in Huntington. It’s a big year for Toledo, who has a baby on the way.
“It was a tough event, all of these guys were surfing amazing,” Toledo said. “Two events here in Huntington, it’s such a special place. The crowd is amazing, thank you so much for all of the support.”
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