HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Friday, August 3, 2012) ? The 2012 Nike US Open of Surfing returned to the iconic Huntington Beach Pier for its seventh, consecutive day of competition, witnessing the men’s and women’s fields narrowed following explosive performances in the improving surf conditions.
Lakey Peterson (USA), 17, 2012 ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) rookie, took top honors today, dominating her Quarterfinals match-up against fellow Californian Sage Erickson (USA), 21, posting a near-perfect heat. The talented natural-footer demonstrated ferocious combinations of backhand turns across the lefthanders breaking into Huntington Beach Pier, notching the highest scores of women?s competition of 9.93 and 9.83 for a combined 19.76 out of 20 heat total.
?That just gave me a lot of confidence,? Peterson said. ?The waves were consistent which was nice because if you fell you knew you were going to get another one. I was just really relaxed and my board felt really good in those conditions. Sage (Erickson) is one of my good friends so surfing against her is bittersweet. She?s a good competitor and pushes me to be my best and at the same time we were having fun out there.?
Ranked No. 9 on the ASP Women’s WCT ratings heading into the Nike US Open of Surfing, Peterson has safely qualified to be a part of next year’s elite field and has her sights set on a US Open victory and possible ASP Women’s Rookie of the Year title.
“She (Malia Manuel) is ahead of me so we?ll see what happens,” Peterson said. “I?m just focusing on the event right now. Malia’s surfing really well right now and it?ll be a good Semifinal.”
Malia Manuel (HAW), 18, got the best of a hard-fought heat over local favorite Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, to guarantee one of the best results of her rookie year on the ASP WCT, a Semifinals berth.
?That was a close heat,? Manuel said. ?I was kind of nervous and felt like I was surfing not myself. The conditions were kind of bumpy, there were lulls and big sets that walled so there were tough decisions on which ones to ride. Courtney is such an amazing athlete and it?s her home break. It was a close heat and I?m glad that I got the nod in the end.?
Manuel will face off against fellow ASP WCT rookie Peterson in the Semifinals.
With women?s Semifinalists decided, the men?s ASP Prime action delivered a heightened level of excitement in determining the Final 16 in a day heavily dominated by Californian and Hawaiian talent.
Kelly Slater (USA), 40, 11-time ASP World Champion and defending Nike US Open of Surfing Champion, was relegated to Round 5 yesterday by a rampaging Nathaniel Curran (USA), 27, but roared back to life today while posting an impressive win over Stuart Kennedy (AUS), 22. Slater unloaded a two-turn backhand combo on a left breaking in to the pier to post a 9.20 for the ride, the men?s highest for the day, on his way to a strong 15.37 out of 20 to advance through to the Round of 16.
?This board is a copy of what I rode in Fiji,? Slater said. ?It works good on open-faced lefts and I thought it?d work good out there today, but there are a few funny little sections out there. Stu (Kennedy) got that one air and did the full rotation, I?m lucky he didn?t make another one.?
Slater will take on young South American Jesse Mendes (BRA), 24, when competition resumes tomorrow morning.
Tim Reyes (Huntington Beach, CA), 30, former standout on the ASP WCT and local hero, continued to find success at his local break when he defeated fellow Orange County surfer Tanner Gudauskas (San Clemente, CA), 23, in their Round of 24 bout.
?I don?t remember the last time I woke up this early to surf Huntington,? Reyes said. ?My coach, family and friends have been helping me out and I?m just happy to be in the Quarterfinals at home and I feel good and I?m just ready to open up on some waves in front of my friends and family.?
Reyes, who entered the Nike US Open of Surfing as an alternate, dreams of facing off against fellow Huntington Beach surfer Brett Simpson (USA), 27, in the Final, but is focusing on the upcoming Round of 16.
“I?m just stoked to be in the event,? Reyes said. ?I came in the event as an alternate and winning would be a dream, but surfing against Brett (Simpson) in the Final would be amazing. I?m just looking at the next heat and am having fun.?
Reyes will face Filipe Toledo (BRA), 17, in the Round of 16.
Brett Simpson (Huntington Beach, CA), 27, two-time Nike US Open of Surfing winner and stalwart competitor on the elite ASP World Championship Tour, utilized his local knowledge to take a heat win over Lincoln Taylor (AUS), 24. Simpson relied on calculated wave selection to secure his Round of 16 berth and hopes to maintain his momentum in an attempt to take a third event title.
?I got a few waves and stuck to my game plan,? Simpson said. ?My goal was to sit next to him and if a good wave came in I was going to get it. I was going to keep him off of it. I had some close heats when I won in previous years and it feels similar this year. Luckily we?re out of the four man heats so there?s a little more strategy. I felt like I had a push and was in better rhythm.”
Simpson has drawn Australian phenom Julian Wilson (AUS), 24, in tomorrow’s Round of 16 bout.
While the action in the water is guaranteed to provide plenty of entertainment, the Nike US Open of Surfing, owned and operated by IMG, a global leader in sports and entertainment, is part of a major action sports festival that includes skateboarding, music, art and more.