Slater slays competition at U.S. Open of Surfing

Even at 39, surfing icon has enough to capture Men's final, overwhelming 25-year-old Yadin Nicol by a 16.27 to 2.57 score.

August 07, 2011|By Mike Sciacca
(Scott Smeltzer )

There was talk before the start of the U.S. Open of Surfing that 2011 could be the year of the Young Guns.

Just days before Sunday's Men's final, former World Tour veteran and first-year contest director Pat O'Connell, felt the same way. But O'Connell was quick to warn of one thing: don't overlook the veterans.

Nobody was able to overlook Kelly Slater at the Huntington Beach Pier over the weekend. Slater, at 39, showed why he is the winningest surfer in history by easily claiming his second U.S. Open title. He out-dueled 25-year-old Yadin Nicol of Australia by an overwhelming final score of 16.27 to 2.57.

It was Slater's first triumph in Surf City since he won the 1996 Men's title.

Less than an hour before Slater defeated Nicol, Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia turned back wild-card Lakey Peterson to win the Women's title. Peterson outscored the 16-year-old, 14.23 to 12.40.

Peterson, the No. 1-ranked Junior surfer in North America, made quite a name for herself during the weekend. She not only made her way into the Women's final but on Saturday, won the U.S. Open Junior Pro Women's title. The Jr. Pro Men's title was won Saturday by Filipe Toledo of Brazil.


Also Sunday, Joel Tudor (USA) claimed his 10th U.S. Open longboarding title by winning the Pacifico Noseriding Invitational.

Slater was flying high right from the start of the Men's final. He hit an air reverse in the opening 1-minute 50 seconds of the 35-minute heat that drew a huge reaction from a crowd estimated at more than 150,000, and elicited a score of 8.50 from the judges. It would set the standard for the heat and be all Slater would need, really, although his second-best wave score of 7.777 on his third ride of the final gave him an unsurmountable advantage.

Why? Because Slater had eight wave scores while Nicol hadn't taken a wave in the first 32 minutes of the heat.

"Yeah, that kind of sucked for me," said a comical Nicol, whose answer drew a big laugh from the crowd during the awards ceremony. "When someone opens with a  big score, you have to kind of wait things out. I didn't think it would be that long a wait, though."

"At the beginning of the week, if someone had told me that I would finish second and surfed against Kelly Slater, I'd have told them to "beat it." To be here now, I'm kind of over the moon."

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