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Surfing: Wilson bests field at U.S. Open

Australian rides wave of upsets to $100,000 top prize Sunday near Huntington Beach Pier.

August 06, 2012|By Mike Sciacca
  • Lakey Peterson of Santa Barbara celebrates after winning the Women's Nike U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.
Lakey Peterson of Santa Barbara celebrates after winning… (STEVEN GEORGES )

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Over the final few days of the 2012 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing, Julian Wilson earned the moniker Comeback Kid.

The 23-year-old Aussie, ranked No. 10 in the world, started earning the nickname Saturday when he rallied to eliminate local favorite and two-time U.S. Open Men's champion Brett Simpson in the Men's Prime round of 16. In the quarterfinals later that day, Wilson came back to knock off John John Florence of Hawaii. On Sunday , the name stuck for good when he hit a big wave score in the final minute of his semifinal heat to slip past Gabriel Medina of Brazil.

Despite registering three comeback wins just to make it to Sunday's final, Wilson, a native and resident of Coolum Beach, Queensland, Australia, needed no such dramatics against another Brazilian, Miguel Pupo.

Wilson grabbed the lead early in the 35-minute final heat and went on to outscore Pupo, 17.53 to 14.76, to win the title and a $100,000 check. The victory, his first at the U.S. Open, capped a nine-day run of surfing competition at the Huntington Beach Pier.

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Less than an hour before Wilson emerged from the water with the Men's title, a battle of teen titans determined the Women's crown. In the end, 17-year-old Lakey Peterson of Santa Barbara defeated 2010 U.S. Open Women's champion, Carissa Moore, 19, of Hawaii, 10.90 to 8.64. Peterson took home $15,000.

Also Sunday, Joel Tudor won the Pacifico Nose Riding Challenge final.

Sage Hill School graduate Courtney Conlogue, ranked No. 5 on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour, lost in the Women's Pro quarterfinals and finished tied for fifth. The Santa Ana resident pocketed $6,000.

Newport Harbor High graduate Kaleigh Gilchrist finished fourth in the Junior Women's Pro, collecting $650.

Newport Beach resident Andrew Doheny, 19, lost in the quarterfinals of the Men's Junior Pro. He finished tied for 13th, good for $700.

The weekend's surf action started with the Junior Pro Women's and Men's finals Saturday . Nikki Van Dijk, 17, of Australia won the Jr. Pro Women's event, and Conner Coffin, 19, of Santa Barbara topped the Junior Pro Men's field.

It was a good weekend for the Santa Barbara-Australia connection.

"I really wanted to get a good start, and I got it," Wilson said of the Men's final, moments after he exited the water. "It was an exciting final and I'm really, really happy."

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