A vital day of competition unfolded at the Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch. The event lost some of its top-tier contenders and event favorites along the way including opening day's standout Seth Moniz and Caio Ibelli in Round 4, but none more stunning than defending back-to-back event winner Kanoa Igarashi.
The hometown hero was eliminated at the hands of an in-form Barron Mamiya and Burleigh Heads powerhouse Liam O'Brien on their way to a Round 5 appearance. Mamiya put the final stamp on the heat with a 6.23 just before the ten-minute mark and before the ocean slowed down to offer little opportunity as the final horn sounded. The Oahu native currently sits at No. 11 and now finds himself into the Quarterfinals at this event, following a Round 5 victory, for a shot at 10,000 points.
Igarashi took this loss with great perspective, as he currently sits at No. 5 on the Championship Tour (CT), but felt the sting of not being able to secure a three-peat in front of his hometown crowd.
"The title's going to leave Huntington this year but it was just a tricky heat with the tide coming up fast and not being able to find the wave I was looking for," Igarashi remarked. "Staying next to your competitor is part of the competition and I thought it was great Liam did that. It got me excited to compete and it was just a really good heat."
O'Brien wasn't done yet and put one of the world's best Jack Freestone against the ropes throughout their Round 5 bout until the final horn, eliminating the CT competitor. The former World Junior Championship contender currently sits at No. 55 on the QS and is looking to leap the herd following this result.
"This is by far my best result in the bigger competitions so I'm just learning from every experience I get and to make a few heats is unreal," O'Brien said. "I'm not to sure what I'll do to step it up in the Quarters (laughs). I'll probably just stick to my plan and if it comes to it maybe try an air or something, but hopefully sticking to my guns works out."
Coming off a strong few days in Huntington, last year's runner-up Griffin Colapinto posted an excellent 8.93 in Round 4, seeing his opportunity to take the event down as the last American standing. But, the San Clemente, California, native got a scare from Luel Felipe in Round 5 as the two found whatever opportunities they could with Felipe holding the advantage into the last five-minutes. Colapinto's composure garnered from his CT experience, and he opened up on his backhand to drop a 7.83 final three minutes.
"That last win was huge for me and I haven't had to come back like that in a while but it's the best feeling ever when you do," Colapinto said. "It's great to be the last American but I wish some of my friends were still going. They're down here supporting me which is amazing and I'm representing more for them than anything else at this one."
Former CT competitor Alex Ribeiro took down an all-Brasilian affair over fellow qualification threat Krystian Kymerson to start Round 5 proceedings, but their countryman Yago Dora broke through to the Quarterfinals for the first time in a QS 10,000 and came in from the water with pure elation.
Dora had to overcome one of the QS's top qualification threats each year, Evan Geiselman, in a highly-anticipated battle. In the end, it was Dora's signature aerial antics and powerful rail game that overtook the Floridian.
Qualification threat Jorgann Couzinet leads a list of noteworthy performances with a near-perfect 9.00, joining former CT competitor and Connor O'Leary, and 2015 World Champion Adriano de Souza on a buzzer-beater finish in the final heat of the afternoon.
The Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch will resume tomorrow, Saturday, August 3, at 7:30 a.m. PT in Huntington Beach.