It's baffling trying to get your head around how to start covering the early days of the U.S. Open. It's too massive, there are too many surfers, too many underlying subplots to consider, too many opportunies to make sarcastic comments about the patronage. But you have to start somewhere, so as the week-long surf extravaganza creaked to a start in Huntington, it was the kids that were sent out to test the waters first.
It's come to pass that today's best 17-year-old surfers can go toe-to-toe with the best 27-year-olds, which means you can't write off the pro juniors anymore -- which is unfortunate if you're covering the event because it means you actually have to pay attention rather than go find a peak down the beach until the real action starts.
Take 19-year-old Reunion Islander Maxime Huscenot, for example. Posting a 15.67 (the highest heat score of the day) in less-than-ideal condition, he was happy with his performance, but reckons there are bigger fish to fry.
"The junior is a big event, but I also wanted to warm up for the PRIME, I'm in the trials," told the 2009 world junior champion. "I feel a bit better after a couple of heats because when you first paddle out you're kind of stressing and you don't know what to expect. Now I feel more relaxed."
And then there's Hawaii's John Florence, who's knocking on the door of World Tour qualification come the mid-year shift this September. Coming off a big win at the Prime event in South Africa, he's also using the pro junior as a test run for the main event.
"I got lucky and got a couple. I'm super stoked that I got into the Junior and get a warm up and get my boards going," told Florence after advancing out of the Round of 48.
But not all the teen phenoms from around the world are at that point yet. Take homegrown California kids Taylor Clark and Ian Craine. Both have been noted as exceptional West Coast talents for years, but have yet to really do anything on an international stage. But in the case of the Open they get to surf in their own backyard, while still enjoying the benefits of all the foreign eyes.
"All of those international guys are capable of winning the event, so for one of them to go down early I guess is pretty big," told Crane, who is one of Kolohe Andino's regular sparring partners in San Clemente. "I guess it loosens up the draw a little. It's pretty crazy with how many good guys there are in the event."
Much more to come from the juniors, and the men's trials get underway Sunday as well. We'll see Taylor Knox, Timmy Curran, Shane Besche, Eric Geiselman and a host of others in that, so yeah, bring on the plot lines.
Nike US Open Pro Junior Men's Round of 48 Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.47, Arashi Kato (JPN) 13.26, Jack Freestone (AUS) 13.20, Nick Rupp (USA) 7.97
Heat 2: Taylor Clark (USA) 11.76, Matt-Lewis Hewitt (AUS) 10.66, Parker Coffin (USA) 8.34, Dylan Kowalski (USA) 7.47
Heat 3: Maxime Huscenot (REU) 13.43, Tanner Hendrickson (HAW) 11.90, Dane Zaun (USA) 9.27, Cameron Richards (USA) 4.94
Heat 4: Taylor Thorne (USA) 13.43, Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 9.90, Keto Burns (USA) 9.50, Austin Rowe (USA) 7.50
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 14.00, Jacob Halstead (USA) 11.90, Keala Naihe (HAW) 9.83, Chris Tucker (USA) 3.76
Heat 6: Balaram Stack (USA) 12.93, Hiroto Arai (JPN) 12.10, Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 9.60, Billy Hopkins (USA) 7.87
Heat 7: Ian Crane (USA) 14.34, Colin Moran (USA) 13.27, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.06, Shaw Kobayashi (USA) 5.13
Heat 8: Kaimana Jaquias (HAW) 11.04, Christian Saenz (USA) 9.24, J.D. Lewis (USA) 6.80, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 4.56
Nike US Open Pro Junior Men's Round of 64 Results:
Heat 1: Jack Freestone (AUS), 12.44, Matt-Lewis Hewitt (AUS) 11.04, Kalani David (USA) 9.23, Colton Sarlo (USA) 4.90
Heat 2: Parker Coffin (USA) 10.17, Arashi Kato (JPN) 6.83, Tommy Wehsener (USA) 6.36, MAkai McNamara (HAW) 3.63
Heat 3: Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 15.67, Austin Rowe (USA) 7.13, Cole Richards (USA) 7.00, Scott Weinhardt (USA) 4.23
Heat 4: Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 13.17, Cameron Richards (USA) 10.87, Derrick Disney (USA) 10.17, Derek Peters (USA) 8.53
Heat 5: Keala Naihe (HAW) 12.07, Billy Hopkins (USA) 9.34, Dale Staples (ZAF) 8.74, Theo Lewitt (USA) 7.03
Heat 6: Hiroto Arai (JPN) 13.17, Chris Tucker (USA) 11.27, Nic Hdez (USA) 8.67, Theo Niarchos (HAW) 3.60
Heat 7: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 15.20, Christian Saenz (USA) 13.17, Evan Kane (USA) 11.50, Ian Simmons (USA) 7.54
Heat 8: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.66, Colin Moran (USA) 8.74, Ryan Croteau (USA) 6.63, Max Colvin (USA) 5.90
Nike US Open of Surfing Women's Quarterfinals Results:
Heat 1: Pauline Ado (FRA) 10.34, Coco Ho (HAW) 10.10, Meah Collins (USA) 7.20, Chandler Parr (USA) 2.76
Heat 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.33, Leila Hurst (HAW) 12.50, Quincy Davis (USA) 7.23, Shelby Detmers (USA) 6.33
Heat 3: Laura Enever (AUS) 12.12, Alexa Frantz (USA) 6.73, Jasset Umbel (USA) 6.33, Natalie Anzivino (USA) 5.26
Heat 4: Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.14, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 11.87, Taylor Pitz (USA) 10.57, Naomi Stevic (AUS) 5.27
Nike US Open of Surfing Women's Round of 24 Results:
Heat 1: Pauline Ado (FRA) 11.94, Quincy Davis (USA) 11.00, Chelsea Roett (BRB) 10.03, Bailey Nagy (HAW) 6.50
Heat 2: Shelby Detmers (USA) 10.56, Chandler Parr (USA) 9.03, Haley Watson (USA) 6.03, Frankie Harrer (USA) 4.50
Heat 3: Alexa Frantz (USA) 11.10, Naomi Stevic (AUS) 10.77, Lani Doherty (HAW) 8.43, Alisha Gonsalves (USA) 8.30
Heat 4: Alessa Quizon (HAW) 9.67, Natalie Anzivino (USA) 5.24, Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA) 4.57, Filippa Ferrara (USA) 1.40