Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson would love nothing more than to celebrate a huge win in his home surf. And he’d probably trade the record $100,000 for the ratings points to get it. Photo: ASP/Jeff Gross via Getty Images
Outside of Kelly Slater, it’s Brett Simpson, the Huntington Beach star, who the fans on the beach are cheering for most at this year’s U.S. Open of Surfing. Simpson has been slugging it out on the WQS (surfing’s version of AAA baseball) for several years. After a great start in 2008 he looked like a shoe-in for the ASP World Tour in 2009, but a late-season slide prevented him from making the leap, and he’s still grinding it out in surfing’s minor leagues. The World Qualifying Series (WQS) is known as pro surfing’s Siberia, since hopefuls spend ten months a year chasing precious ratings points in distant lands getting little-to-no media attention. After another solid start this year Simpson has begun to slide down the ratings again. Only the Top 16 surfers on the WQS make it to surfing’s big show. He’s rated 9th, but he’s got very little wiggle room for error, and several surfers behind him have some advantages over him.
“We estimated he’d need about 14,000 points to qualify this year based on the number of big events on the schedule,” says Ian Cairns, Simpson’s coach. “He’ll probably surf in 16 or 17 events, but only the best seven results get counted at the end of the year, so we’re looking for 2000 points per keeper.” By that estimate Simpson has no keepers yet, though he does have two results which netted him 1925 points apiece. By contrast, everyone around him has at least one if not two keeper results better than that. To get over that 2000 point hump this week, which is how his team will be judging his success, Simpson needs to make the Final here in Huntington.
Simpson’s hoping his huge floaters can lift him over the 2000 point hump in this event. In order to do that, he needs at least two more wins. Photo: ASP/Victor Decolongon via Getty Images
In order to get there he’ll have to get past two of his American friends. The first will be defending champion Nathaniel Curran of Oxnard, who he faces in the Quarterfinal Sunday Morning. Conditions should be good and Simpson will be on his home turf, so he should have an advantage. But if he gets by Curran he’ll be facing either the red-hot Pat Gudauskas of San Clemente, who’s sitting directly in front of him on the WQS rankings, or C.J. Hobgood, who’s currently ranked number 2 in the world behind Australia’s Joel Parkinson.
Of course, Simpson’s dream would be to upset Kelly Slater in front of friends, family and thousands of others in the Final, which on paper could happen. The $100,000 check would be nice, but as Simpson said earlier in the week, “It’s all about the points for me.”
Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing Sunday Morning’s Quarterfinal Match Ups
1. Brett Simpson vs. Nathaniel Curran
2. Pat Gudauskas vs. C.J. Hobgood
3. Kelly Slater vs. Adriano De Souza
4. Mick Fanning vs. Michel Bourez