Welcome to the Wild West, a.k.a. the new Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Paul Mitchell. This time last year, the #Steph5 frenzy was already waning and the WWCT season was about to come to a close. Oh what a difference a year (and some scheduling mishaps) can make. Judging by the number of sarcastic and downright sulky Huntington Hop mentions on social media as of late, few competitors seemed excited to contend with HB's notoriously wishy-washy conditions. But aside from some powerful rips, the Pacific proved (mostly) benevolent on Tuesday. The first round of the (now) sixth event on the 2013 ASP Women's World Tour got off to a thought-provoking start in clean, three to four-foot waves on the South side of iconic Huntington Beach Pier.
Carissa Moore and Sally Fitzgibbons (world numbers two and three, respectively) were Tuesday's standout performers. In the fifth heat, Fitzgibbons took down Sage Erickson and Malia Manuel, rapidly posting the day's top heat total of 16.70 with the traits that make her so much fun to watch: a healthy dose of vivacity and impeccable wave selection. She easily outscored her heatmates with just a fraction of the rides. Moore was all super-smooth power surfing in her heat against Paige Hareb and Silvana Lima and she walked away with the day's second-highest total of 15.87.
"It's really great coming back," Fitzgibbons said after her win. "It's such a unique experience, US Open week. It's the start of the week, but we still have great crowds. I'm feeling really strong coming into these last three events. The postponed event was kind of a good result for me, because the more events, the better [it is for me] to catch the top two. Having the memories of winning a couple of years back, [it] was pretty phenomenal, and I think [I'll be] just chasing that winning feeling and enjoying the whole week."
Local favorite Courtney Conlogue, currently fourth in the title race, meticulously carved out a win against her heat opponents, Laura Enever and Bec Woods.
Tuesday morning also saw a couple of upsets as tenth-ranked Alana Blanchard overtook Tyler Wright in the final 30 seconds of heat three, sending the world title frontrunner to the second round with wildcard (and world junior champion) Leila Hurst. Silvana Lima jumped to the third round over current world champion Steph Gilmore and rookie extraordinaire Bianca Buitendag, both of whom should be sufficiently fired up for a fight to the death in the second round. Pauline Ado overcame tricky conditions in the final women's heat of the day and defeating Lakey Peterson and Coco Ho definitively with an impressive 15.33.
"I'm trying not to think about [the ranking]," Blanchard said after her heat. "I usually do better when I'm having fun, so I'm just kind of having fun with it all and…" she trailed off as a streaker took the stage next to her, saying, "I love you, Alana! You're the best!" Gotta' love US Open.
Catch rounds two and three on Wednesday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. local time.
VANS US OPEN WOMEN'S ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Silvana Lima (BRA) 13.00, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.44, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 6.67
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.46, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.44, Laura Enever (AUS) 9.36
Heat 3: Alana Blanchard (HAW) 12.43, Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.90, Leila Hurst (HAW) 9.54
Heat 4: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.87, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 13.93, Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.43
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.70, Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.10, Sage Erickson (USA) 12.27
Heat 6: Pauline Ado (FRA) 15.33, Coco Ho (HAW) 10.60, Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.27