U.S. Open of Surfing: Tricky waves, winds challenge competitors on Day 3

Surfers faced small, bumpy and tricky surf conditions on Wednesday, Sept. 22, as the U.S. Open of Surfing contest continues on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.

The field of competitors was whittled down throughout Day 3 of surfing. But several Orange County surfers made the best of the wind-whipped waves and advanced to the next round, including two-time U.S. Open of Surfing champ Courtney Conlogue, who kicked off the action when the women hit the water early in the day.

“It’s grindy,” said Conlogue, who didn’t post a sizable score until the final minutes of the heat, having to move to the inside section to find waves. She won the heat with a 7.13 total score (out of 20)

  • Jack Robinson surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Griffin Colapinto of the United States surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Patrick Gadauskas of the United States surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • India Robinson and Zoe McDougall, from left, high five after their heat in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A scaled-down vender area is on display at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Kolohe Andino of the United States surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Lakey Peterson surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Patrick Gadauskas of the United States surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joshua Moniz takes a photo with a fan during the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Courtney Conlogue surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Fans sit on the beach for the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jack Robinson surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Hinako Kurokawa of Japan gets ready for her heat in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joshua Moniz surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Courtney Conlogue surfs in the U.S. Open of Surfing at the pier in Huntington Beach, CA on Monday, September 22, 2021.
    The competition field is 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women from the World Championship Tour. The World Surf League Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers a chance to earn points to make it onto the next year’s World Tour and also gives World Tour surfers a safety net if they are in danger of falling out of the top rankings. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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She had to adjust and adapt, she said.

“The tide was maxing out,” she said. “It was pretty weak out there. I’m super happy to get through.”

Conlogue, from Santa Ana, talked about how important it was to be surfing at the event, which she’s entered since she was 11 or 12, she said.

“It’s my grassroots event,” she said. “This is where it all started for me, where I drew inspiration from and where I get my drive from.”

The waves got better through the afternoon as the tide dropped, despite the strong wind that showed up.

San Clemente’s Pat Gudauskas was able to earn a 6.40 and a 6.37, saying it was all about wave selection.

“The wind flared up right before my heat, got real tricky looking,” he said.

Long Beach’s Nolan Rapoza was up against three Brazilians, including Alejo Muniz, who won the event in 2013.

Rapoza took to the air and followed up with two big turns to post a 7.17, backing it up with a 5.57. It was his best performance yet – previous years he got knocked out in the first round.

“The last few days I’ve felt confident, I feel like I can take down anyone at this point,” he said.

Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau used his power surfing in the small waves to earn the win, knocking San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino to second spot, both surfers advancing to the next round. World Championship Tour surfer Conner Coffin, of Santa Barbara, was edged out of the event.

Lau was stopped on the sand by fans taking selfies before talking about his experience winning “The Ultimate Surfer” reality show, which had its finale aired Tuesday night.

“It feels great, it was an awesome experience for me, something way out-of-the-box and my comfort zone,” he said. “I look back now and it was amazing, obviously because I won, but being able to compete when nothing else was going on.”

Even though he’s earned three wildcard spots for next year’s World Tour through the reality show contest, he wants to do well at the US Open of Surfing and other contests on the horizon to earn a spot full-time on tour.

“I want to qualify any which way I can,” he said. “When I did the Ultimate Surfer, it was a chance to get on quicker, but here I am at the Challenger Series. I’m looking to qualify and win a QS, that’s my goal and what I’m setting out to do.”

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