When Second Won’t Cut It

Rob Machado wins Honda U.S. Open Of Surfing Presented By O’Neill At The 2006 Bank Of The West Beach Games.

Second place at the U.S .Open isn’t anything to be disappointed about-unless you’re Rob Machado. Last year Machado suffered a paper-thin loss to Andy Irons in the finals, and apparently it’s a heat that’s been on his mind all year. “It was hard to swallow that loss,” said Rob. “I’ve replayed it many times in my head, and I can break it down to one turn that I dug rail on in the inside that might’ve been the difference. I really wanted to claw my way back up here to win.”
To get to the finals though, Machado was facing a long, grueling road of four-man heats. But his aim was looking spot on, even back on Thursday with three days full of surfing left before the two finalists would be decided. With some early south wind plaguing the final days of the contest, many competitors looked to be having trouble negotiating the textured surf. But Machado seemed to float above the chop, arcing his trademark smoothly styled snaps and tight cutbacks to advance through heat after heat.
By Sunday morning, Machado found himself in the quarterfinals, two heats away from the winners’ circle. But he’d have to get through an on-fire Josh Kerr, who was launching huge air reverses at will and racked up a 9.7 on one the day before. Machado led for most of the heat, but not by much, and going into the finals minutes, Kerr only needed a mid-four to pull ahead. But just then, Machado paddled into a solid left and spun a reverse on the bumpy end section, falling over the lip backward and whipping it around just in time to shoot the pier. The crowd ooohed as Machado slid backward toward the pilings, and then erupted as he righted the nose forward and zagged through the pier, pulling it off with enough steez left over to throw his coif out of his eyes in the middle of it all.
For the most part, Machado is an understated surfer, not exactly someone you think of as doing overly flashy maneuvers or launching treacherous, knee-buckling boosts. But this reverse was far more dangerous than any air, because if he hadn’t of stuck it, he would’ve had a nasty collision with a concrete piling. The judges liked the danger factor and shot back an 8.67, and Machado locked up the heat. The momentum continued from there, with Rob beating Mike Losness in the semis, and just like that he’d marched his way from the depths of round one all the way into the finals.
Up against Rob was Hawai’ian WCT rookie Roy Powers, who had been consistently working his way through some tough heats all week long as well. The final began with a huge roar from the crowd, estimated at more than 200,000 people on Sunday alone. With plenty of peaks and head-high-plus surf for the final, the two surfed well apart from each other for much of the heat, with Rob hanging at his usual spot on the south side of the contest area and the Hawai’ian closer to the pier. About ten minutes into it, both surfers zeroed in on the same wave and split the peak, Rob going right and Roy going left, separated by 50-plus yards on takeoff and in no danger of an interference. Powers sent up two big vertical blasts while Machado racked up a seven with a series of clean backside top turns. It was easily Powers’ highest-scoring wave so far in the final, but there was a hitch: Since Rob was holding priority at the time, Powers’ wave would not be scored, rendering his effort futile. Since they were so far apart on takeoff, it’s unlikely Machado even knew Powers was going for the same wave or vice versa, but it left the Hawai’ian facing a long paddle out, his best wave of the heat unscored, and now needing something big to even have a shot at the win.
But Powers showed his mettle and bounced right back on his next wave, getting an overhead left toward the pier that earned a 7.5. Suddenly, with just less than ten minutes remaining, all he needed was a 6.33 to take the lead-easily within ach. Machado felt the heat and paddled up the beach to play the priority game to try to keep Powers off any potentially high-scoring waves. By that time the clock had nearly wound down though, and Machado claimed victory, getting the obligatory shoulder ride up the beach.
Up on the main stage, Rob savored the win in front of the massive crowd and revealed that it was more than just last year’s runners-up spot that has inspired his effort. In an emotional moment, Rob told the beach how he’d spent the week with a grom named Johnny from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “It’s been great, he’s a real inspiration,” said Machado, holding back tears. Amidst all the commercialization, crowds, and sensory overload that make up the U.S. Open, it was a cool moment.
Since his departure from the WCT, Machado has been doing relatively few contests. However, with this victory and his win at the four-star WQS at Pipeline earlier this year, there was speculation that Machado could do a few more six stars and have enough points to get back on the WCT.
“I’m heading to Europe to compete in a couple of events there, which should be fun, because I haven’t surfed there in years,” he said. “I guess I’ll just see where I’m sitting on the |WQS| ratings after that and take it from there.”
So will this be the turning point that inspires Rob Machado to get back on the WCT? For now we’ll just have to wait and see.

Women’s U.S. Open
The Women’s Honda U.S. Open Of Surfing Presented By O’Neill brought out a heavy contingent of WCT-level talent to Huntington this year. The 2004 Women’s World Champ, Sofia Mulanovich, was on a tear all week and met Australian up-and-comer Jessi Miley-Dyer in the finals. While Miley-Dyer surfed hard to make it to the finals, she just couldn’t match the diminutive Peruvian’s attack, with Sofia posting a 7.5 in the waning minutes to easily outscore her opponent.
Even though it’s not a WCT event and doesn’t count in her hunt for a second world title, Mulanovich was clearly elated with the win. So far this year, with Melanie Redman-Carr’s three-for-three streak on the Women’s WCT, Sofia said a big win like this could help to change her momentum for the year. “I haven’t won a contest in year, so I really wanted to do well here, because when I win I feel more confident and it can get you on a roll.”

Lost Pro Junior
Over the past few years, the Lost Pro Junior seems to flip-flop between Hawai’ians and international surfers winning the event, and this year an onslaught of young Australians made the trek over to see if they could raise their flag at Huntington. The Aussies looked strong to put up their colors, but fellow finalist Torrey Meister from O’ahu had something to say about it, and for most of the final, he battled Australia’s Ben Dunn for the lead.
Dunn has already logged in some heavy heats this year, getting wildcard berths into three WCT events. Still, Meister was able to gain the lead for a bit, but Dunn showed his determination and got it right back with a solid nine, and from there it looked all but over. But in the last ten seconds, Meister found a big right, ran a clean floater, and finished with a vicious tear off the end section. But it wouldn’t be enough, although only by half a hair, and Dunn took it home for Oz.

For complete coverage, including videos, photo slide shows, and daily coverage of these and the rest of the events, go to transworldsurf.com. Our online coverage is addictive, though, and there’s enough of it to keep you busy for a week straight, so just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Men’s Results
1. Rob Machado
2. Roy Powers
3. Jeremy Flores, Mike Losness

Women’s Honda U.S. Open
1.Sofia Mulanovich
2. Jessi Miley-Dyer

Lost Pro Junior
1.Ben Dunn
2. Torrey Meister
3. James Woods
4. Nick Rozsa

O’Neill U.S. Open Of Longboarding
1. Dodger Kremel
2 Colin McPhillips
3 Taylor Jensen
4 Joel Tudor

Target Women’s Pro Junior
1. Lee Ann Curren
2. Rosanne Hodge
3. Erica Hosseini
4. Courtney Conlogue

R>4 Joel Tudor

Target Women’s Pro Junior
1. Lee Ann Curren
2. Rosanne Hodge
3. Erica Hosseini
4. Courtney Conlogue