Winning the world's largest surfing competition is something one never forgets. Doing it twice, and in back-to-back years, is rare air. It put Simpson in the company of Rob Machado (1995, 2001, 2006) and the late Andy Irons (1998, 2005) to have won the Open more than once.
His approach to this year's competition seemed pretty laid-back just days before he was to surf his first heat.
"There's no pressure, in a sense," Simpson said. "I definitely want to go out there and try for a three-peat. Winning the title the last two years has been amazing. I just have to feed off those feelings. That's how I'm looking at it."
Simpson, ranked 18th in the world, returned to Huntington Beach on Monday from South Africa, where he competed in a World Tour event. It was his first major competition since tearing the MCL in his left knee a few months ago. He said he injured his knee when he landed during a "free surf" while on a photo trip to Mexico.
"That put me out of the water all of May, and I missed prime events like Trestles and a tour event in Brazil," he said. "But I feel good now. I'm not 100%, but I'm feeling better."
The 2011 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing runs daily through Aug. 7 at the pier. The surfing competition starts at 8 a.m. Saturday with round one for the Junior Men. The Junior Women make their debut with round-one heats beginning at 1:36 p.m.
The U.S. Open is the world's largest professional surfing competition and a key event on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour for both men and women. Titles are on the line in both Men's and Women's divisions and in the grade-four Men's and Women's Pro Junior divisions. The Pacifico Nose Riding Invitational is also part of the Open.
Simpson and last year's Women's champion, Carissa Moore of Hawaii, are both back to defend their titles. Moore already has wrapped up the 2011 ASP Women's World Title.