The Philips U.S. Open Of Surfing

Huntington Beach, California has an endless supply of comedy in the form of people needing attention. Add in an atmosphere of corny products, marketing ploys, skate ramps, and thong-wearing Brazilians¿think Sisqo video¿and you have the formula for the annual Philips U.S. Open Of Surfing held July 30¿August 5. Oh, yeah¿there was also a surf contest. And contrary to a normal Huntington Beach contest, there were decent waves, compliments of our summertime friend called the Southern Hemisphere ground swell. After a week of knee-high suffering, the two- to four-foot surf arrived later in the contest¿a good reason why the second semi-final consisted of four small-wave masters, a.k.a. Brazilians. In that semi, Rodrigo Dornelles (first) and Marcelo Nunes (second) outlasted fellow countrymen Flavio Padaratz (third) and Renan Rocha (fourth).The first semi consisted of perennial hellman Mick Fanning, who’d been on a tear all contest, the ever-explosive Tim Curran, Australian Toby Martin, and Mr. Rob Machado. He’s “Mr.” Machado for a reason: every time he surfs Huntington, he sits to the far south and utilizes his goofy-foot advantage on the lefts¿he’s been doing this for years.The southernmost peak should be called Rob’s Peak¿the one he keeps winning with, just like in the second semifinal. Fanning’s surfing was subhuman, however, his and Curran’s lack of a quality last wave kept them in third and fourth respectively, with Martin in second¿Machado was the last American left.The final was no ordinary final¿just Nunes, Dornelles, Martin, and the last patriot. Scattered on the beach was a small Brazilian enclave waving flags and cheering their lungs out¿ecstatic they had two surfers in the final. On the other hand, enormous pressure rested on Machado’s shoulders. Pushed by thousands of fellow Americans packed on the beach and the pier, he stuck to his left and whittled away some scores from the start. Halfway through the heat, he found himself behind Nunes until a couple of “Machado-esque” turns on a left gave him an 8.33 and the lead. From this point on, both Martin and Dornelles were out of the picture, both needing a combination of two high scores to be in contention. With five minutes left, Nunes needed a 6.4 to overtake Machado’s lead and got a 7.17 with two-and-a-half minutes left. In past contests, the conditions near the end of the heats left many of those trailing in points waveless and paddling around for anything¿but not Machado. With 1:20 left, Rob’s wave magnetism gave him a right and he unleashed two incredibly beautiful backside turns, only to fall on the third for one of the most controversial decisions in recent competition history. The huge crowd, Brazilians and Americans alike, went quiet as they waited for the announcement of the score. In many eyes, the fall hurt his score, but nobody was sure. When the announcement came¿a 7.23¿the place went nuts, Rob got swarmed, and the Brazilians felt like they’d just been robbed.”Yeah, I knew exactly what I needed to do,” said Machado, emerging from the mob. “That wave definitely gave me the opportunity to do what I needed to do. I thought I wasn’t gonna quite get the score ’cause I fell off at the end there, but I guess it was just enough.” His victory earned him 10,000 dollars. Nunes came in second, Martin in third, and Dornelles in fourth. For Machado, the victory took the pressure off of being the last standing American. “It was a great day,” said Rob. “There’re a lot of people. When you sit out in the water and you look in, it kind of makes you nervous¿there’s so many dang people up here! It feels good whenever everyone’s cheering and yelling and you can get a good wave. And to win¿it fells even better.” In the Billabong Junior, Bobby Martinez showed why he’s one of the world’s top juniors ever when he comboed the rest of the field for a victory. In case you don’t know what combooing means, it’s when a competitor’s more than ten points behind the surfer in first place. Although Huntington local Micah Byrne pulled two airs on one wave, Fred Patacchia threw some consistent scores, and Brazilian Raoni Monteiro led halfway, they couldn’t keep up with Martinez. His huge frontside air combined with a smooth top turn under the pier earned him a 9.83 and an insurmountable lead thereafter. “Yeah, I knew those guys were ahead of me, and if I didn’t do something, they were gonna run away with it,” said Martinez. “I just had to get a wave and not fall. Luckily for me, I did an air and got a good score. When I pulled it, I was stoked, but then I knew I had the rest of the way to go, so I wasn’t even thinking about it. Once I kicked out and I heard the score, I thought ‘That’s cool, I’ve got to get another one.'”The win helped him live up to expectations he’s dealt with as a young pro, and has proved his competitive toughness. Martinez, who immediately left for the French leg of the ASP tour, needed this win for his confidence¿”It feels so good,” said an excited Martinez soon after his heat. “I’ve always wanted to win the Junior out here. It’s always been a big event, and I’m stoked I finally came through.”¿A.C.