HUNTINGTON BEACH’S BRETT SIMPSON DOWNS REIGNING HONDA U.S. OPEN OF SURFING CHAMPION TAJ BURROW AT THE HUNTINGTON BEACH PIERHUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Wednesday, July 27, 2005 — Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson, currently rated 97th on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) tour, downed defending event champion and world number 11 rated Taj Burrow (Australia) to advance at the $185,000 Honda U.S. Open of Surfing Presented by O’Neill. It was a difficult day for several of the world’s top surfers, falling to lesser known competitors in less than ideal, 2-3 foot wind blown waves south of Huntington’s famed pier.
Simpson blasted aggressively out of the gates, catching two quick waves and ripping apart the murky shore break. Just half way into the 20 minute heat, Simpson was comfortably in the lead while Burrow and Gavin Gillette (Hawaii), an alternate in the event, battled for second place. With just seconds remaining Burrow looked secure in the second place transfer spot, but Gillette was able to find a contestable wave in a sea of wind-swept peaks and scored a 2.57 to bypass the seasoned Aussie. Simpson finished with 11.93 points, followed by Gillette with 8.07 and Burrow with 7.56.
“I’m used to these conditions, an elated Simpson said. “I knew that I’d have the advantage if I could catch two quick scoring waves. He advances to the round of 48 and competes again on Friday.
Former Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world champion and six-time Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Sunny Garcia made his first appearance at the event late in the day when conditions favored smaller, faster surfers. The 35 year-old veteran, with history at the pier dating back nearly two decades, served notice to his younger heat mates with classic power moves. Slashing through the mush and throwing huge sprays of water behind him, Garcia (10.53) advanced behind Hawaiian Joel Centeio (9.84). South Bay WQS rookie Alex Gray finished third and exited the competition.
World Championship Tour (WCT) rookie Timmy Reyes, who advanced to the semi-finals of last year’s U.S. Open of Surfing on his way to qualifying for the grand prix tour, finished first in his heat with 13.23 points ahead of Florida’s Eric Geiselman (12.50).
Earlier in the day, reigning world champion Andy Irons (10.20) survived a close call in heat one, fighting off the effects of jet lag to finish second to Australia’s Jock Barnes (12.00). WCT rookie Chris Ward (San Clemente) finished third and failed to advance. San Clemente’s Patrick Gudauskas (10.73) finished second behind Hawaiian Fred Patacchia (13.00), currently rated sixth on the WCT, to advance.
Former U.S. Champions Tim Curran (Ventura), Rob Machado (Cardiff) and Taylor Knox (Carlsbad) experienced dramatically different fortunes today. Curran scored the contest’s best wave to date, a 9.17, and placed first in his heat ahead of Brazilian Armando Daltro (9.53). Knox suffered through his worst-ever appearance at the U.S. Open, finishing last with a combined wave total of 5.64. Machado easily won the day’s final heat, tallying 15.83 points to South Africa’s Daniel Redman (10.27).
Floridian brothers Shea and Cory Lopez, both prior event champions, squared off against each other in heat 12 today. Cory, comfortably positioned at number eight on the WCT, finished a listless fourth. Shea, rated 41 and on the comeback trail from a devastating injury at Pipeline in late 2003, came in second to advance. Florida’s Damien Hobgood, rated 15 on the WCT, also failed to advance.
In the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing women’s division, Carissa Moore (Hawaii), Nikita Robb (South Africa), Tammy Lee Smith (South Africa), Lindsay Noyes (Australia), Claudia Goncalves (Brazil) and Alana Blanchard (Hawaii) were all heat winners.
Surfing competition continues on Thursday, July 28th at the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing at 7:00 a.m. with the men’s round of 96 (heats 19-24), 9:00 a.m. men’s round of 48 (heats 1-12) and 1:00 p.m. men’ss round of 48 (heats 1-5). Bike and skate practice begins in the Bank of the West Soul Bowl at 9:00 a.m. and continues throughout the day. The Bank of the West beach festival formally opens at 9:00 a.m. with the TransWorld Village kicking into high gear at 10:30 a.m. and the Teen Vogue Fashion Live! at 3:00 p.m.
The “2005 Bank of the West Beach Games featuring the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill attracts more than 600 international competitors and features surfing, skateboarding, BMX, FMX and volleyball in world-class venues along with an interactive lifestyle festival spread over 12 acres. All events are open to the public, free of charge. The Honda U.S. Open of Surfing is sanctioned by Surfing America/ASP North America. Surfing competition begins on Friday, July 22 and runs through Sunday, July 31. Consumer information is available at usopenofsurfing.com and bankofthewestbeachgames.com.