The Final Day Of The 2003 Honda Element U.S. Open
It doesn’t get any crazier than the final day of the 2003 U.S. Open. People, people, and more people banging O’Neill “Thunder Sticks,” (like inflatable noise makers) went nuts for all the progressive surfing they were treated to. In what’s being called the largest crowd ever to witness a surf contest, spectators saw an all-star final and wins by Cory Lopez in the men’s and Kekoa Bacalso in the Lost juniors.
Although the morning low tide made the early heats miserable to surf and watch, as the day wore on, the tide filled in and the walled lines turned into really fun peaks-perfect for ripping.
In the Lost junior’s, the consistent surfing and selective picks of Dustin Cuizon and Dane Johnson advanced out of semi number one, while Kekoa Bacalso’s long rights combined with critical turns advanced him out of semi two along with Sean Moody.
In the final, Kekoa was the first to strike with a big score-a 7.67 that was the only high score midway through. He then followed up with a left filled with giant backside blasts into the pier and another score of 7.10. Kekoa was in control of the heat, basically using his power and sitting next to the pier. Cuizon followed closely, finding a score of 8.27, but couldn’t find another wave to get a high second score. His last effort of 6.7 wasn’t good enough and Kekoa got the win, followed by Cuizon, Sean Moody, and Dane Johnson respectively. “I was paddling my ass off,” said a tired Bacalso after the heat. “The current’s so damn strong out there. I just tried to be patient and everything worked out fine.”
For the men, it seemed like Rob Machado would be unstoppable. His march of advancement that started in the first round kept going through the quarters. Riding an 80s, 5’9′” Curren replica by Al Merrick, his strategy of sitting on the south end of the area hadn’t failed him the entire contest-until the second semi. Thanks to the higher tide, Cory Lopez and Andy Irons pulled off super combos filled with turns and finished with an air. By the end of the heat, Machado found himself needing a 9.5 and the waves not cooperating. Cory got first, Andy second, Machado third, and Noodles Webster fourth.
The second semi was much closer and much more exciting. Ben Bourgeois couldn’t find a wave until he blasted a huge floater followed by a big off the lip for a 7.83. Chris Davidson was sitting next to the pier and using his clean surfing to find medium scores in the sixes. Martinez was looking for a second score. Taj Burrow began with a 7.8 and was in control the rest of the heat. With five minutes left, it was Taj in first, followed by Ben Bourgeois, Bobby Martinez, and Davidson respectively. With under a minute, Bourgeois’ last wave, a 6.23 seemed to have pushed him into the final. Needing a miracle, Martinez found a desperation wave, did a backside slash, and finished with a giant, no, huge backside air. The horn rang, a score of 8.17 was announced, and the crowd went nuts. Bobby and Taj advanced.
The final was far less climactic. In fact, the wind started showing it’s ugly face and in return created a bump on the waves, Lopez, Irons, Burrow, and Martinez had trouble dealing with. From the start, Lopez seemed in control. A fins-out lipper gave him an 8.83 and he eventually followed with scores of 7.23 and 7.77—basically, it was his heat. Wave selection hurt Martinez and Irons who were combo’d (needing two scoring waves to win) with four minutes left. Taj found himself needing an 8.61, but the waves let him down. Cory ran away with it, followed by Burrow, Irons, and Martinez respectively. “Yeah, there were a lot of heavy guys in that heat,” commented Lopez after the win. “Everyone’s a top-notch surfer. It felt great to get the win—I’m stoked.”
According to Lopez, he never really thought he was in control, “I know I had a few scores right away, but at no point did II think I had the heat because Taj was getting 8.5s like nothing all week. It wasn’t in the bag until the horn blew. It felt good when it finally blew.”