The Six-Star U.S. Open In Huntington Beach


HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. ¿ Sunday, August 5 ¿ A crowd of 62,000spectators watched in amazement as Cardiff’s Rob Machado rode alast-minute wave to victory in the $100,000 Philips U.S. Open of Surfingin Huntington Beach. Santa Barbara’s Bobby Martinez asserted himself asa force to be reckoned in the future by capturing the $5,000 BillabongJunior Pro title. Conditions ranged from 4-5 feet and glassy in themorning to 3-5 and choppy for the afternoon finals.

Machado walked on water today. Sort of. After drifting slowly to shorewhere fans were lined up to celebrate his win at the Philips ElectronicU.S. Open of Surfing, the crowd whisked Machado atop their shoulders,amid chants of “U ¿ S¿A! U ¿ S ¿ A!” The sand became a mob scene,erupting with screams of joy, built up during the last minute of thefinal which saw Machado lose his lead to second place winner Brazil’sMarcelo Nunes (22.84) who shadowed Machado on his usually lonely southpeak.

The two jockeyed for first and second for the last five minutes of theheat. Machado, during the last minute, busted two big snaps on a lefthander, falling short on the third snap, but still pulling off bigenough maneuvers to be rewarded just as big by the judges (7.23). Thatscore barely edged out Nunes from the first place position, leavingMachado the winner (22.96) and the expectant father $10,000 richer.Nunes received $5,000 for second place followed by Australian TobyMartin in third ($4,000) and Brazilian Rodrigo Dornelles in fourth($3,000).

“I wasn’t sure if those last turns were good enough but luckily theywere,” said an exasperated Machado, feeling the sand under his toes onceagain. “I haven’t won here in a while, so this is great. All thesupport is great. This hasn’t really sunk in.”

Machado previously finished second in 1999 and first in 1995 at the U.S.Open. The high-profile surfer, known for his style in the surf, as wellas out, finished third overall in the World Championship Tour (WCT) 2000rankings. The former U.S. champion has had a slow start this yearmissing a couple of contests early season. He’s making up for lost timewinning this six-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) event, racking uppoints toward the yearend standings. He completed his Philips U.S. Opensweep by scoring the highest wave (10.00) and overall heat totals(26.84).

Machado, whose dominance started with yesterday’s perfect barrel ride,continued his momentum into today’s semi-finals. His speed andconfidence impressed the judges, and he pulled out his entire bag oftricks, coming up from the cut, snapping his tail around for all to seeoff the next section. He finished with 20.16 points followed byAustralia’s Toby Martin (17.67), Oxnard’s Tim Curran (14.41) andAustralia’s Mick Fanning (12.40).

The day’s second semi-final was an all Brazilian affair pittingDornelles (19.66) and Nunes (19.10) against Flavio Padaratz (17.67) andRenan Rocha (15.67).

The impressive crowd witnessed a disappointing early exit for reigningworld and U.S. Open champion Sunny Garcia who was called for a paddlinginterference during the quarter-finals and was unable to come up withtwo big enough scores to recover. Local favorite Pat O’Connell (Laguna)also fell during the quarters.

Santa Barbara’s Bobby Martinez (25.87) proved himself a threat for thefuture, winning the Billabong Junior Pro finals surfing like a seasonedpro. One of the top rated WQS rated surfers this year, Martinez, who isbarely 18, busted a weightless huge air followed by a solid landing inthe white wash (9.83), putting him in first and never looking back.

After receiving an emotional hug from his father, Martinez celebratedhis first ever win in Huntington Beach. “I don’t know how I feel. Ithasn’t sank in yet. I never thought I would win this. I’ve dreamed ofthis and II’m so stoked it finally came true.” Martinez surfed in boththe junior pro and the men’s pro. “Surfing with the best surfers in theworld was definitely good experience for me. It helps me feel morecomfortable surfing in events at this level.”

And there was men’s longboarding action in the water as well, crowningSan Clemente’s Josh Baxter (23.05) the winner. The finals were amatch-up between locals, including Huntington Beach’s Josh Mohr (22.75)and San Clemente resident Colin McPhillips (21.6). Baxter, who surfedthe highest scored wave of the final with fearless lip bashes (9.25),had nothing but love for his competitors in the end.

“My only regret is that Joel Tudor wasn’t in the final. He’s my bestfriend and competitor. But better yet that he’s not, ” said Baxter witha grin. “To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to get it. I don’tthink anyone is better than anyone else. It’s who gets the best waves.”