With another Vans US Open of Surfing in the books, two things stand out: 1) The riots and fights of yesteryear were noticeably tamped down in 2014, perhaps because of an elevated police presence or perhaps because event sponsors opted to do away with the beachside concerts that attracted tens of thousands of mostly young fans who may or may not have cared too much about the ASP Men's Prime, ASP Women's World Tour, Men's and Women's Pro Junior, and Vans Duct Tape Invitational events going on in the water. And 2) Critics will continue to have plenty of ammunition to fire against this event: there's the small summer surf, the preponderance of Huntington Hop inside reform connections to secure scores, the sexualized atmosphere on the beach, the big-tent circus atmosphere...
But for the East Coast surfers entered into the five different US Open divisions, this is a place to go big, earn major points toward World Tour or World Junior Championships qualification, and get face time with the sponsors making the whole journey possible. This year, our representatives came close, closer, and closest to big titles: on the Men's Prime side, only two East Coasters made it through any heats, with CJ Hobgood winning in Round One before falling in Round Two and Michael Dunphy making it all the way to Round Four, where he lost when eventual event champion Filipe Toledo scored a questionable 5.90 for one frontside air when he needed a 5.84 to overtake the Virginian. Dunpy did jump to #18 in the World Qualifying Series rankings, with a legitimate shot at a berth on the 2015 WCT firmly in his sights.
In the Men's Junior Pro division, South Carolina's Cam Richards was the last East Coaster standing after only two rounds. But Cam looked determined to come away from Huntington Beach with the biggest win of his career, as he stormed to victory in his first three heats before advancing in 2nd through the semifinals and leading against Matt Banting, Miguel Tudela, and Set Moniz for the majority of the final. In a near-repeat of the Dunphy-Toledo heat, Banting got a last-second wave that offered three turns to the beach... and somehow just the 9.0 that the Australian needed to overtake Cam and claim victory. No matter though, as Cam is currently 2nd on the ASP Pro Junior North America ratings, along with decimating the opening round competition of the Hurley Pro Trials for a wildcard into September's Lowers Pro. No doubt Cam is savoring the opportunity to crush Banting if the two end up squared off against each other in the next round of the video/social media voting contest (#ivotedforcamdidyou — seriously, go vote for him now!).
In Women's Junior Pro, no one was surprised by the rampage Barbados wahine Chelsea Tuach went on in her opening Quarterfinal heat. But in the Semifinals, Tuach came up against a dead ocean, only registering a 4.94 and failing to make the final. Chelsea is 4th on the ASP Women's Pro Junior North America rankings and 24th on the ASP Women's WQS rankings, though, and it's almost an inevitability that she'll be on the Women's WCT in one or two more years.
After all those close calls, us East Coasters got a huge boost on Sunday when North Florida style master Justin Quintal won his umpteenth Vans Duct Tape Invitational title (and second here at the US Open). Quintal's win netted him a cool $4,000 and a beautiful special-edition log shaped by legendary Pure Fun shaper Hank Byzak — but most importantly, it only furthered our belief that Quintal is not only the best longboarder on the East Coast and in the US, but also in the world, as no other surfer has won as many Duct Tapes in as many different locations as JQ.
So one 1st-place, one 2nd-place, one semifinal result, and one strong Round Four finish, all of which pushed our top East Coast performers closer to the competitive goals they've set out for themselves. Forget all the sideline hype and beachside craziness — this is what the US Open of Surfing is all about.