Show stopper

This weekend as Tiger Woods returns to golf, surfing celebrates the return of Dane Reynolds. It's good to have him back. Kenworthy

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It could have been the final, maybe it should have been. But Thursday at the U.S. Open dawned with one of the most anticipated aerial assaults since "shock and awe." Cued up for everybody's viewing pleasure was Dane Reynolds, Kolohe Andino, Julian Wilson, and dark horse Spaniard Aritz Aranburu.

Winning a Prime in Portugal, getting second at another in South Africa, then making the quarters at J-Bay, the smart money would have been on the momentum-carrying Wilson in this most intriguing of Round 2 match-ups. But then earlier this year Andino posted his first-ever ASP win in Huntington, and he's surfed too many contests here to count. As we've come to learn over the last few months, you never quite know what Reynolds is going to do. He's the best surfer in the world when he wants to be, but the small and dribbly surf didn't seem all that inspiring. As for Aranburu, nobody gave him a chance. Here's how it played out:

9:05: Aranburu opens the heat with a throwaway score. The big three keep hunting the lineup. A minute later Reynolds will post a three-point ride, another throwaway.

9:09: Andino opens up with a 4.00, but five minutes later strokes into a chest-high left, sticks a massive inverted backside rotation, getting an 8.17 for the effort. He seizes command of the lead. He'll catch the next two waves, one a throwaway, the other a respectable backup of 5.76. His board's looking good under foot, and he's surfing with vim and vigor.

9:17: Wilson finally gets into the swing of things. He gets in and out of one quick one, then paddles into a 7.00. Andino and Wilson now sit first and second, respectively. The world waits to see how Reynolds will respond. He's not one for coming back when trailing, but he is one for garnering big scores for one maneuver -- and he's not trailing by that much.

9:21: Reynolds drops a 7.33, he's back in the hunt.

9:22: Reynolds launches a full-rotation 360 air. He gets a 9.33. He won't look back.

9:30: Reynolds gets an 8.10 for an air out the back, a couple turns through the middle, and another air on the inside. Game, set, match. A minute later he'll get another fairly good wave, which turns out to be a 7.40 and won't go into his score line.

9:31: Aranburu rips off three solid, albeit conventional backhand turns to earn himself a 6.33. He moves into second place. Could this be the end for Andino and Wilson, the poster boys of the U.S. Open?

9:33: Wilson has over cooked his airs, he's pushed too hard. He posts a string of one's and two's, nothing worth keeping. Ever since Reynolds posted the nine the need to push boundaries was obvious, but Wilson was unable to answer with any scores of consequence.

9:36: Andino's proving to be Mr. Clutch, dropping a 7.50 in the waning moments to edge up into second. He'll end his ride with a little fist pump claim, obviously feeling a surge of adrenaline as he gets the score he needs. Even at 17 years old Andino knows blood when he smells it.

So there you go, there's the play-by-play on that. The only thing that could have made that heat better is if it had been at six-foot Lowers, but just the same, as the Aussies like to say, it was a "cracker."

Other notables on the day include Kelly Slater (of course), who snuck through his Round 2 heat behind Tanner Gudauskas at the start of the day. By mid-afternoon the champ was in fine form, somehow even managing to get tubed in the otherwise meager conditions. He made short work of Dylan Graves, and will now face Taj Burrow and Tanner Gudauskas in Round 4.

Dusty Payne and Evan Geiselman also put in solid showings today, as did the Gudauskas boys, who squared off against one another in the last heat of the day. Tanner edged out older brother Pat. Burrow, a former winner in Huntington, is also going to be dangerous in the later stages of this party.

Things are tightening up as we head into the weekend. Surfline's calling for a much needed bump in the surf. Thanks to a little tropical south southeast swell, we could be looking at waist to head high surf. Tomorrow kicks off with Andino versus Brazil's Jesse Mendes in the first heat of the day, followed by Reynolds against Adam Melling ... you may want to set your alarm for those.

Nike US Open of Surfing Round of 24 Results:
Heat 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 13.96 def. Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 13.80
Heat 2: Evan Geiselman (USA) 10.60 def. Hizunome Bettero (BRA) 9.77
Heat 3: Richard Christie (NZL) 11.04 def. Joel Centeio (HAW) 8.67
Heat 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.27 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.27
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.47 def. Dylan Graves (PRI) 10.93
Heat 6: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.97 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 10.86

Nike US Open of Surfing Round of 48 Results:
Heat 5: Dylan Graves (PRI) 15.80, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.53, Brian Toth (PRI) 11.73, Jano Belo (BRA) 11.27
Heat 6: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 16.33, Kelly Slater (USA) 13.90, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.86, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.50
Heat 7: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.77, Adam Melling (AUS) 13.47, Gabe Kling (USA) 11.56, Mick Fanning (AUS) NS
Heat 8: Dane Reynolds (USA) 17.43, Kolohe Andino 15.67, Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 13.90, Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.07
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.90, Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.87, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 9.06, Hodei Collazo (EUK) 8.97
Heat 10: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 14.50, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.57, Bobby Martinez (USA) 11.74, Junior Faria (BRA) 7.54
Heat 11: Thiago Camarao (BRA) 16.16, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.40, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.00, Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 9.80
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 14.00, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.57, Nat Young (USA) 11.97, Nathan Yeomans (USA) 9.57

Women's Nike US Open of Surfing Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Laura Enever (AUS) 11.54 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 8.90
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.94 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 4.83
Heat 3: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 14.50 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 11.23
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.60 def. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 10.44