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Joe Surf: H.B. local is underdog at U.S. Open of Surfing

July 27, 2011|By Joe Haakenson

Kelly Slater hasn't done it.

Neither has Rob Machado, Sunny Garcia nor Tom Curren.

Not when it was called the OP Pro, or more recently, the U.S. Open of Surfing.

In fact, nobody on the men's side has ever won the U.S. Open of Surfing three consecutive times. But that streak — which dates back to the event's beginning as the OP Pro in 1982 — will be in jeopardy starting this weekend on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.

The U.S. Open of Surfing gets underway Saturday and runs through Aug. 7, and a lot of attention will be paid to the performance of Huntington Beach local Brett Simpson, who has taken advantage of surfing his home wave by turning it into back-to-back U.S. Open victories.

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He became only the third surfer ever to capture two U.S. Open men's victories in a row, joining Curren (1983-84) and Mark Occhilupo (1985-86) when he won his second straight last year and taking home a cool $100,000.

"I'm sure there's not many three-peats in the history of surfing in any event," Simpson said last weekend from Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, where he was surfing in the fourth of 11 Assn. of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour events for 2011. "There's so many great surfers, and you have to have great skill and some luck through a week-long event in conditions that will be completely different on any given day.

"A lot just goes into being comfortable, sleeping in my own bed and on waves I surf very often. Those three things give anyone an advantage in competition, and I think that's been a huge part of my success in the last few years."

Despite his success at the U.S. Open, Simpson is an underdog going into the competition. He currently is ranked No. 18 in the world and ranks 25th in the ASP World Title points standings.

Slater, Jordy Smith and Mick Fanning, currently ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 in the world, respectively, will provide plenty of competition for Simpson, as will all the others who compete.

Smith is coming off a victory at Jeffreys Bay, and Fanning took second. Both are surfing well and are among the leaders in the World Title points standings. Slater did not compete at Jeffreys Bay, but no doubt will be ready to give the kids a run for the money.

The U.S. Open is not part of the ASP World Tour for the men (it is a part of the women's World Tour), so it doesn't figure into the points race for the title of world champion. But the prize money and exposure are unmatched by any event, which attracts the world's best surfers year in, year out.

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