Philips Fusion US Open: Kalani Robb Closes the Show

By Stacie Perry

If you didn’t make it down to Huntington Beach on Sunday, you missed out on seeing lots of scantily clad men and women, hooking up lots of free goodies, watching some amazing surfing-and waiting in longer lines for the bathroom than you’ll ever find at Disneyland. The final day of the Phillips US Open of Surfing proved to be a beautiful day-the sun was shining, the beach was packed, and the freaks were out in force. The only missing component was the surf, but the competitors kept the crowd on the edge of their seat, thanks in part to the judges’ decision to only count each surfer’s top two waves. This allowed the competitors to wait for better waves to come through, instead of groveling on the small ones just to get a third wave score.

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The morning began with the men’s round of 32 in small but glassy conditions. Standouts included crowd favorites Tom Curren, Rob Machado, Tim Curran, and Taj Burrow. Young Australian Kirk Flintoff, who surfed well all week, putting together strong combinations with some progressive maneuvers couldn’t quite make it through to the next round, but made the Billabong Boost Junior’s semifinals. Wardo and Nathan “Noodles” Webster also had strong heats but couldn’t quite put together a high enough score to move them into the quarters.

By the time the quarterfinals began, it was difficult work to find a big enough spot to lay out a beach towel. The marine layer began to burn off and the onshore winds started to blow, mixing up what little surf there was.

In quarterfinal one, Tom Curren came in fourth-despite a high wave count, he couldn’t manage to rack up more than a four-point wave. Greg “Bigfoot” Emslie was also eliminated in the third position with only three waves during the heat. Luke Stedman and Kalani Robb managed find the peaks and advanced into the semifinals.

Quarterfinal two was a close one with Tom Whitaker, Shea Lopez, and Rob Machado scoring totals within one point of each other. Tom Whitaker easily took the heat, while Shea and Rob battled it out for second. With fifteen seconds left, Rob took off on a wave needing a 7.34, but only received a 6.27-keeping him in the third spot. Tim Curran won quarterfinal three with two solid wave scores, with Trent Munro edging out Mick Fanning for the other semifinal spot. Quarterfinal four saw some progressive surfing with Taj and CJ attempting several airs-CJ managed to land one and make it to the inside reform. They both advanced, knocking out Samba Mann and Paulo Maura.

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One of the biggest highlights of the day was the Life Rolls On Expression Session with Jesse Billauer putting on quite a show with his friends Rob Machado, Pascal Stansfield, Taj Burrow, and Kelly Slater, to name a few. Taj threw down a huge frontside 360 air and Jesse scored the only ten-point ride of the day, but the first place trophy went to Jeff Hurley. Phillips Fusion donated 5,000 to the Life Rolls On/They Will Surf Again organizations to support their search for a spinal injury cure. For more information on these programs visit liferollson.org or theywillsurfagain.com.

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Next up on the schedule was the Billabong Boost Mobile Juniors event. Kekoa Bacalso dominated in both the semifinal and the final with great combinations on the better waves that rolled through by sitting far south of most of the competitors. Halfway through the final, he scored an 8.5 to take the lead. Huntington Beach local Tim Reyes took second, and Joel Centeio and Jordy Brough took third and fourth, respectively.

As semifinal one began, the place to watch the remaining heats and mix it up with the industry insiders was the TransWorld SURF Lounge, with standing room only. Kalani drew first blood, staying to the south and scoring a solid wave to start off the heat. This strategy seemed to pay off-he caught the biggest waves of the heat and moved into the final in first. Tom Whitaker took advantage of the reform and narrowly edged out Shhea Lopez for the second spot.

Semifinal two was the most exciting heat of the day, with an all-star cast of Tim Curran, Trent Munro, Taj Burrow, and CJ Hobgood. Everyone was surfing strong and spraying water everywhere with their huge snaps off the top. Tim pulled off a 180 air on the outside section and then worked the wave all the way to the inside, giving him two eight-point rides, and making him untouchable by the rest of the field. Trent Munro managed to work the medium waves breaking closer to the pier and moved into second late in the heat.

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By the time the final started, the crowd was in a frenzy. The Brazilians were waving their flag around as always, beach balls were being tossed though the stands, and the speakers were blaring. The final heat was scored on each surfer’s top three waves. Tom Whitaker, Tim Curran, and Trent Munro all paddled out in front of the grandstands, while Kalani once again sat far to the south. His strategy paid off as he once again took the first wave of the heat, making a huge floater over a section and scoring a 7.0. He paddled back out to the south and continued to work the larger lefts, which were connecting to a good wedging reform. He commanded the lead for the entire heat, comboing most of his competitors. Australians Munro and Whitaker had several good exchanges, but in the end, Munro took second and Whitaker placed third.

Tim Curran, who had surfed well all day, couldn’t seem to find the right peak and came in fourth with only three scoring waves. “I just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” he explained after the final. Kalani, who has made the finals several times before but never won until yesterday commented, “I was really glad that I finally put it together out here. I know that my surfing doesn’t always appeal to the judges ’cause I’ll go for a radical move and fall, but the crowd loves it. Today I really tried to put my competition surfing and a little bit of my freesurfing into it.” When he was asked how he felt about the win at Huntington and it’s arena-like venue, he replied, “It’s what dreams are made of for a surfer.”

The WQS tour now moves on to France, but the WCT surfers will return to Southern California for the Boost Mobile Pro at Lower Trestles from September 5th through the 14th. Stay tuned to transworldsurf.com for more tour updates.

Thanks to Oakley, 411VM, Ezekiel, Copia, Quiksilver, Gravis, Dragon, Poor Specimen, Jack’s Surf Shop, Atari, Sessions, Poorboy Wax, and Huntington Surf and Sport for helping make the TransWorld SURF Lounge such a huge success.