"On my way to save the world, on my way to save the world, on my way to save the world." The Operation Ivy chorus pounded through my headphones Saturday as I walked down the street in Huntington 20 yards behind Dane Reynolds. He had two Channel Islands boards and girlfriend in tow.
On the beach is was south wind, a new swell, and conditions just ugly enough to inspire a kid from Ventura, all I could think of was that Reynolds was on his way down to change the world -- whether knowingly or not. He wouldn't surf for another two hours.
To open the day, Filipe Toledo and Miguel Pupo won heats one and two, respectively. One hour into things and two Brazilians were already into the quarters.
Then came Kelly Slater's heat. Riding a 5-foot-9-inch, five-fin epoxy, he migrated down to Machado's Peak south toward the end of the competition zone, and put an abrupt halt to the Brazilian charge. Opponent Jesse Mendes had no answer. Few do. And thus, the defending champ is into the quarterfinals. And dare I say, should he go on to win this, a 12th world title's not far behind.
The U.S. Open doesn't count when it comes to the world title race, but Slater's all about the momentum (hence the "Momentum Generation"). Coming off maybe one of the most dominant and defining wins of his career in Fiji, and now going into Teahupoo, where he won last year, his destiny could continue to be fulfilled. A U.S. Open adds confidence, which is vital to a tour de force and title run. And if you need further convincing, after Tahti the world tour arrives at Lower Trestles, where he's the winningest surfer ever.
Then, as the south wind continued to cheddar up the lineup oh so slightly, Reynolds paddled out against Emma Wood, Calif., compatriot Nathaniel Curran.
Trailing for most of the heat, Reynolds was on the brink of getting axed, but like a magician the man can pull scores out of thin air. "I knew I had to try and pull one of the biggest turns ever to get the score, and it worked out," he said afterward. And while it's been fun to watch him, and the world can't wait for the Reynolds-Slater quarterfinal Sunday morning, the question was put to him. Will we see him in a jersey again this year? "Yeah, I'll do a few more events, the Quik Pro France and the Hawaii events."
So, Slater versus Reynolds in the second heat of the quarters, what do we make of that? "We've surfed against each other a few times, it's fun," said Reynolds.
And Slater has made no illusions that Reynolds is one of his favorite surfers. It's going to be a radical contrast, calculation versus reckless abandon. Reynolds has never won an event of this scale, so there's probably more pressure on him, but it's hard to tell if he even thinks about pressure. For him and his surfing, it just seems, like Operation Ivy alludes, he's on his way to save the surfing world … the world that Slater holds with an iron fist. No knock on Slater, we've just been world title obsessed for so long. It's like Herbie Fletcher says, "Radical people do radical s***." And Dane does radical stuff.
The rest of the round of 16 was accented by favorites solidifying their positions in the quarters. As he tends to do, Gabriel Medina comboed his competitor, in this case Maui's Granger Larson. Hard to figure anybody can stop Medina. But it will be Adriano De Souza's job to try. De Souza made short work of Nat Young, making it a total of four out of the eight quarterfinalists from Brazil.
"We have so much pride, us much hunger to win," boasted De Souza.
It's hard to imagine a quarterfinal matchup could get any better than Slater-Reynolds, but John John Florence vs. Julian Wilson won't be a bummer either. Sunday is stacked. Florence took down surging brethren Keanu Asing, while Wilson pulled out a squeaker against Brett Simpson.
"It was a heavy heat," Wilson said later. "I got that eight at the end, and that was enough to get me through, but it was a nail-biter."
MEN'S NIKE US OPEN OF SURFING ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.90 def. Tim Reyes (USA) 8.66
Heat 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.07 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 8.70
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.50 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.37
Heat 4: Dane Reynolds (USA) 16.90 def. Nathaniel Curran (USA) 16.70
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.90 def. Granger Larsen (HAW) 9.93
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.74 def. Nat Young (USA) 11.40
Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) 16.70 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.10
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (USA) 14.93 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 14.00
MEN'S NIKE US OPEN OF SURFING PRO JUNIOR FINAL RESULT:
1. Conner Coffin (USA) 17.10
2. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.60
3. Cooper Chapman (AUS) 11.97
4. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 3.03
MEN'S NIKE US OPEN OF SURFING PRO JUNIOR SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
Heat 1: Conner Coffin (AUS) 17.96, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.53, Michael February (ZAF) 11.37, Hiroto Ohhara (JPN) 11.17
Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.60, Cooper Chapman (AUS) 12.00, Kalani David (HAW) 9.67, Taylor Thorne (USA) 8.93
WOMEN'S NIKE US OPEN OF SURFING PRO JUNIOR FINAL RESULT:
1. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.90
2. Leila Hurst (HAW) 12.33
3. Quincy Davis (USA) 11.83
4. Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA) 11.30
WOMEN'S NIKE US OPEN OF SURFING PRO JUNIOR SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Quincy Davis (USA) 17.00, Leila Hurst (HAW) 14.20, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 10.49, Chandler Parr (USA) 8.71
SF 2: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 18.34, Bailey Nagy (USA) 11.50, Frankie Harrer (USA) 7.50