A pretty typical Orange County morning played host to the brief -- but dramatic -- second day of women's competition at the Vans US Open presented by Paul Mitchell. The Top 17 tore up glassy, green two to four-foot sets under gloomy skies as the second round kicked off shortly after low tide. Despite a largely natural-stance seeding, it quickly became apparent that Wednesday would be all about the lefts into the pier, and Lakey Peterson had it dialed.
Local Sage Erickson copped a thumping from Santa Barbara's Peterson, who's eager to defend her spot atop the US Open podium and looking as "relaxed" as ever. Peterson posted eight scores in the fifth heat and all but one were above 6.00. She has both the highest single wave score (an 8.93) and heat total of the event so far, a 16.76.
"I had a really funky round yesterday," Peterson said. "I don't know, I think I was really nervous and I had all of these expectations for myself, just because of my result last year. This is my first time coming back to an event that I've won before, so I was just out of rhythm. Today, I just tried to really slow it down and take a deep breath. I was just getting my feet wet and figuring it out. I'm stoked to make it through and kind of just go from there."
The following match-up (and last women's heat of the day) resulted in an ardent battle between world numbers nine and ten, Laura Enever and Malia Manuel. The first two waves set the tone for the next twenty minutes: Two waves caught within two seconds of each other, one caught by each surfer. Two 6.17s on the board. It looked as if Manuel was going to take the heat six win until about three minutes remained, when Enever reclaimed the lead with a flurry of tail slides and fierce snaps. A skirmish to the last, the two women were left waiting for scores to drop after the hooter. It ended up being Enever by just 1.10.
Steph Gilmore's fancy, new DHD with electric lemon fins looked right at home in Huntington, helping her to take down former world champion Sofia Mulanovich and escape elimination. Mulanovich offered a great display of wrapping turns and she led Gilmore through much of the fourth heat, only succumbing in the final four minutes.
Tyler Wright narrowly defeated wildcard Leila Hurst in yet another heated dispute. Hurst's performance in her first 'CT event was smart and punchy. She had Wright in a tough situation at the heat's start, but once the rankings leader warmed up, she was unstoppable. She advanced to the third round and kept her title hopes healthy.
"I was nervous," Wright admitted after her win. "I haven't been nervous for a long time, but I was today. I had a bit of a slow start, and I know that being in a wildcard position, you've got nothing to lose, and I know that Leila's been ripping and she knows this wave really well. I was fortunate in the end, I just found two little, sneaky ones and got the score."
Tune in for non-elimination round three (always a scorcher) on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. local time.
WOMEN'S VANS US OPEN OF SURFING ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 14.50 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.33
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 11.80 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.23
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.66 def. Leila Hurst (HAW) 12.00
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.20 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 14.17
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.76 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 11.77
Heat 6: Laura Enever (AUS) 16.37 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 15.27