HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Tuesday, July 29, 2003 — In what appeared to be a throwback to the early 1990s, former world number two Brad “X-Games Gerlach (Encinitas) and Newport Beach’s Richie “Skeletor Collins both won their heats to advance at the $175,000 Honda Element U.S. Open of Surfing Presented by O’Neill. Cardiff’s Rob Machado, currently number one on the Foster’s Pro Surfing Tour, continued his run from the first round, winning two more heats today. Kyle Knox (Imperial Beach) and Patrick Gudauskas (San Clemente) also registered solid performances.
Conditions improved as the winds calmed down and the surf picked up as the first in a series of significant southern hemisphere swells began to arrive.
Collins and Gerlach looked sharper than ever. Gerlach showed a few “new school moves in defeating Huntington Beach’s Danny Nichols. “I feel better than ever, said Gerlach. “I had my best surf in years this week and I’m determined to move forward. Collins finished ahead of Dino Andino, a former touring pro turned surf industry executive, who also advanced.
Machado continued to position himself nearly 100 yards south of his heat-mates, at the very southern point of the competition area, and the strategy paid off. In a seesaw battle with Hawaiian Kekoa Bacalso, Machado opened with a 6.00 ride to set the pace. Bacalso, who’s also competing in the Lost Pro Junior semi-finals on Sunday, followed with an 8.33. Machado then launched into a multi-maneuver ride that took him nearly to the pier and closed with an incredible floater. The judges awarded an 8.33. Machado finished with 14.33 points to Bacalso’s 13.66.
Seventeen year-old Australian Ben Dunn captured another heat victory today, keeping his winning streak alive. Contest announcer Mike Morgan described Dunn’s performance as “surfing way above his age. The Honda Element U.S. Open is the first six-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) event that Dunn has competed in.
In a developing story with historical relevance to the U.S. Open, Darryl Goodrum (Leucadia), performed two 360-degree maneuvers on consecutive waves to win his heat. Goodrum’s Father Gary competed in the forerunner to the U.S. Open, the U.S. Championships, in the early 1960’s against the likes of Corky Carroll and David Nuuhiwa. The U.S. Open traces its roots to 1959, when the first surfing competition was held at the Huntington Beach Pier.
Kyle Knox (no relation to Taylor Knox) looked impressive in the final heat in the round of 192, advancing with 12.93 points to Sean Hayes (Ventura) with 7.50. Gudauskas advanced in a virtually waveless heat along with Jay Quinn (New Zealand). Gudauskas will face 1997 U.S. Open champion Beau Emerton (Australia) tomorrow in the round on 128.
The Honda Element U.S. Open of Surfing is the world’s largest professional surfing competition and the highest rated competition on the eight-event Foster’s Pro Tour. The U.S. Open is critical in determining Surfing America’s year-end national champions (man and woman) and which Americans will have enough points to qualify for the elite 2004 World Championship Tour (WCT).
The Honda Element U.S. Open of Surfing anchors Philips Fusion, America’s original and largest oceanfront event of its kind. The $225,000 action sports, technology and music festival, sponsored by Philips Electronics, attracts more than 600 world-class athletes from across the globe and features surfing, skateboarding and BMX in innovative venues along with an interactive electronics festival area and live concerts.
Competition continues on Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. with the men’s round of 160, heats 9-16, followed at 10:45 a.m. by heats 1-16 of the round of 128.