August 2, 2005
Andy Irons and Rob Machado
Men’s Final, U.S. Open Of Surfing
Huntington Beach, California
The week of competition at the U.S. Open Of Surfing down at the Huntington Beach pier had been tedious. For over a week, hundreds of competitors had been groveling in waist-high waves, scrapping to make the next round. Huntington was suffering from one of the worst summers for surf on record, and the crowd had been lulled into a daze.
On Sunday, the final featured World Champion Andy Irons and former world number two Rob Machado. For almost a half hour they battled it out in the small conditions, and though the waves probably favored Rob, who’s been involved in some epic battles under the pier, with just 60 seconds left, Andy was in command, and Rob needed a 7.77 to win. Prospects seemed pretty bleak for Machado, who had struggled most in the heat, choosing weird waves and falling when he shouldn’t have.
Then, with about a minute left in the contest, a set came in, and the 30,000-plus spectators lining the beach and the south side of the Huntington Pier finally broke their silence. As the crowd howled, Rob paddled himself into position and, with priority over Andy, caught a wave with just seconds remaining.”The whole beach was standing and cheering,” Rob recalls. “Some people were screaming, some people were pissed, some people were stoked. It was great. There was a lot of emotion on the beach. It was this intense moment. It was so radical. Win or lose, it was pretty cool to be part of that moment.”
“Here we go again,” is what Andy remembers thinking when Rob dropped in on his final wave. “Four days before that, I lost to Kelly at the last second (in the final of the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, where Kelly edged him by .27 points with seconds left). The way the commentator was going off, I thought Rob got a twenty!”
Rob rode the wave all the way to the sand, milking every available point out of it as it reformed and finally closed out. After he kicked out, he laid there face-up in the water, his arms outstretched, as if he were absorbing the moment. It was going to be close … too close to celebrate. After a tense moment of waiting for scores to be calculated, Rob had come up less than half a point short. Andy had won it.
Before being whisked away to the main stage on the shoulders of the Wolfpak, Andy gave Rob a hug, and the respect the two have for one another was palpable.
“I was just stoked to get a shot,” says Machado. “The final was pretty uneventful, the waves were the worst they’d been all day, there weren’t many sets. Andy linked together some nice little medium-sized ones, and I was really struggling. Just to have a shot at the end, to still be in the game and have a wave come with ten seconds to go … I was stoked. It made it exciting. That’s what it’s all about.”-Joel Patterson