HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif - Kolohe Andino was just coming off of a win, Kelly Slater was about to paddle out. The two bantered back and forth about fins. Something about Nat Young not liking them, but Slater loving them. Maybe it was head games. Maybe it was just tech talk. Maybe it was just the awkward passing of two generations in the dust of the Huntington auditorium.
Either way, Andino very much looked like a man in charge on Thursday at the U.S. Open of Surfing. While 20 years his senior, Slater appeared a bit lost on his 5'7" quad, almost like, dare we say, the old guy at the party.
In a stacked heat, Andino took on defending champ Julian Wilson and surging Hawaiian rookie Sebastian Zietz. Putting years of experience to good use, he air reversed his way to a relatively easy win.
Next came Slater. Not one to make too many tactical mistakes, Slater was narrowly controlling his heat against Miguel Pupo and Ace Buchan. The surf didn't offer him much to work with, but he skated, blew fins, and scratched out a meager lead.
In an instant it was gone. Pupo caught a peak down the beach going left, Slater caught the peak closer to the pier and went right. They met somewhere in the middle. Both ended up off their boards and underwater. The judges gave Slater an interference for inhibiting Pupo's scoring potential. And like that Buchan slyly slipped into the Round of 16.
"It feels great to beat Kelly (Slater). I don't typically have a problem with him in three-man heats, but he's got my number in the man-on-man. I felt good out there this morning and it's the best heat I've surfed out here so far," said Buchan.
But not all is lost for the Slater lovers out there. The eight heats of men's surfing that ran today were non-elimination, a mere appetizer for the upcoming weekend. The three-man format in effect today will change tomorrow to the classic man-on-man format. Slater will go up against Michel Bourez, which could prove to be interesting. Logic and statistics say it's a walk in the park, but if Bourez can keep from over cooking his turns he could be tough to beat.
And if Wilson wants to try to go back-to-back at the Open he's going to have to get past rambunctious Brazilian Alex Ribeiro. Every year there's a Brazilian that comes in and upsets the balance at the Open, Ribeiro has that opportunity here.
After starting with 124 surfers it's down to 24, and there are definitely some randoms left in the deck. Who would have expected somebody like Frenchmen Vincent Duvignac to beat Bourez and Bede Durbidge? Last week he was teaching surf lessons, this week he's slaying world tour vets. And then there are guys like South African Beyrick De Vries, or Ramzi Boukhiam from Morocco. They're not supposed to still be in this thing. What happened to Dane Reynolds and the rest of the hype brigade? It just shows to go, if you have the right board, catch the right waves and get on a little bit of a roll, Huntington can actually be rewarding (especially if you avoid Main Street).
VANS US OPEN OF SURFING MEN'S NO-LOSERS ROUND OF 24 RESULTS:
(1ST advances to Round of 16, 2nd and 3rd relegated to elimination Round of 24)
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.73, Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.67, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 11.50
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.57, Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.23, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 5.36
Heat 3: Vincent Duvignac (FRA) 12.83, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.27, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.03
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.30, Kelly Slater (USA) 10.05, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 8.50
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.37, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.97, Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 12.23
Heat 6: Granger Larsen (HAW) 12.84, Matt Banting (AUS) 12.24, Hodei Collazo (EUK) 7.50
Heat 7: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 12.77, Nat Young (USA) 12.33, Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 6.67
Heat 8: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.30, Mitch Crews (AUS) 12.17, Charles Martin (GLP) 8.33