Slater's still the one

Slater with his best Jordan impression. Kenworthy

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Just when you thought all hope was lost, just when it seemed the Huntington Hop was the key to victory, a healthy tropical swell filled in to save the day at the U.S. Open. After slogging through a week's worth of waist-high mush and tricky reforms, well-recieved overhead sets greeted competitors this morning.

Starting the day was Kolohe Andino, who met surging Brazilian Jesse Mendes in Round 3. "I went to bed early last night," told Andino prior to the heat, and that should pretty much tell you all you need to know. The 17-year-old, who's coming of age before our eyes, made short work of Mendes. He's one heat away from the quarterfinals ... his partner in crime, Evan Geiselman, is already into the quarters.

The following heat featured one of Andino's heroes, Dane Reynolds, who briskly dispatched Aussie Adam Melling. Whether by his own design or not, Reynolds appears to be one of the most in-form surfers in the event. His heat scores have consistently been in the excellent range, and so far his aerial repertoire has been unrivaled.

And speaking of being in good form, Mr. Robert Kelly Slater's on a completely different level. In a contest that has seen youngsters like Andino, Geiselman, John Florence and Tanner Gudauskas assert themselves, Slater remains a notch above ... or maybe two or three notches.

Yesterday he got a flukey barrel on the inside that got people talking, but the two tubes he pulled into in Round 4 today were no fluke. Facing Andino and Taj Burrow -- another stacked heat -- Slater found the only two barrels of the entire day, posting a near-perfect 18.77 heat score as a result.

"I saw some barrels before my heat so I went out there to try and find some and I wanted the airs because the wind is perfect for the airs on those rights," told Slater in his post-heat interview. "There are some fun peaks. You try not to peak too early in these events and if you have a really good heat like I just had, you kind of readjust and know that you can't always go to that level of scores."

As surf scribe Sam George noted, "He's better than everybody. Even after all these years, he's technically just better. I don't see Dane even being close."

There's still a lot of surfing left, but we're getting closer, which means we can start speculating about potential finalists. Slater and Reynolds find themselves on opposite sides of the draw, setting up a hypothetical mind-blowing final. I guess we'll have to wait and find out.

Nike US Open of Surfing Round of 12 Results:
Heat 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 17.17, Richard Christie (NZL) 12.63, Evan Geiselman (USA) 9.47
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.77, Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.50, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 10.00
Heat 3: Dane Reynolds (USA) 16.43, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.60, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 8.93
Heat 4: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 12.90, Thiago Camarao (BRA) 12.53, John John Florence (HAW) 10.80

Nike US Open of Surfing Round 24 Results:
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.06 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.87
Heat 8: Dane Reynolds (USA) 11.17 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 6.77
Heat 9: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 14.33 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.83
Heat 10: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.10 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.84
Heat 11: Thiago Camarao (BRA) 11.17 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.77
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 15.83 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.60

Nike US Open of Surfing Pro Junior Women's Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.27, Coco Ho (HAW) 11.27, Leila Hurst (HAW) 10.90, Pauline Ado (FRA) 6.94
SF 2: Laura Enever (AUS) 15.50, Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.84, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 12.53, Alexa Frantz (USA) 6.66