Two boards under one arm, hood pulled over his cropped head, eyes buffered by dark sunglass, "Surviving, that's what it was all about," noted CJ Hobgood, giving one last turn towards the beach.
"It's pretty tough out there today," told a dozen other competitors.
Carissa Moore called it "tricky."
In summation, that's what Wednesday meant for you if you were a surfer at the U.S. Open. Any presumed bump in swell was for not. The waves were smaller than yesterday. To boot, as Huntington lifer Micah Byrne pointed out, "There's no sandbar on the south side of the pier."
Adding insult to injury, "You don't get any new wristbands after you lose," told a beleaguered Sebastian "Sea Bass" Zietz, wondering how he was going to get into the competitor's area after getting knocked out of the contest.
So how bad was it? It's summertime in Huntington, it can't be that bad, right? For all its madness, the contest complex is very well thought out -- not saying it's a tranquil zen garden, but it's certainly more orderly than in years past. The freak count seems to be abnormally low too, which is nice. But the surf, it is just not wanting to cooperate.
Plagued by all of the above, and a brisk northwest sea breeze, defending champ and local hero Brett Simpson lost to Brazil's Thiago Camaro and John Florence in the first round. That might be what you call an upset?
"I told myself I should do airs, but it never happened because it was kind of weird and small, but I just surfed and tried to go for the sets because they were the good scores," said Camaro afterwards, who stands a very good chance at qualifying for the tour with a big result here.
But there were winners, and to be honest, watching all these guys make the most of surf like this speaks to their level of talent. Dusty Payne and Evan Geiselman are both looking very sharp early in the event. Both made it through their second round heats in "tricky" afternoon conditions.
"My favorite thing about the U.S. Open?" pondered Geiselman, "It's the people, the women ... you have to introduce yourself to new people."
He has a point, but some old favorites that were on point today included Joel Parkinson, Bobby Martinez, Bede Durbidge and Taj Burrow. While the Brazilian contingent are giggling, beside themselves at their good fortune -- these are ideal conditions for an Andre or Alejo or Pupo to steal the $100,000 first prize check -- the perennial favorites are hanging tough.
The women also got involved, firing through Round 3 in the middle of the day. Not a lot of surprises. As it was a "no losers" round, nobody was eliminated today. Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Lakey Peterson and Coco Ho all advanced directly into the quarterfinals. Stephanie Gilmore, Sofia Mulanovich and local favorite Cournty Conlogue were all relegated to Round 4.
As far as lining things up for tomorrow, the heat of the day, maybe the heat of the entire event, will be Round 2, Heat 8: Dane Reynolds, Julian Wilson and Kolohe Andino. Things might get a little weird in that one. Later in the day Nike's hosting the world premiere of Kai Neville's new film "Lost Atlas." It's free, open to all, so if you like skinny jeans and radical surfing, dig it.
Nike US Open of Surfing Round of 48 Results:
Heat 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.93, Hizunome Bettero (BRA) 13.23, Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.04, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 7.33
Heat 2: Evan Geiselman (USA) 14.34, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 7.60, Torrey Meister (HAW) 7.30, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 6.50
Heat 3: Richard Christie (NZL) 12.67, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.23, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.43, Pedro Henrique (BRA) 8.90
Heat 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.26, Joel Centeio (HAW) 8.70, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.60, Chris Davidson (AUS) 7.23
Nike US Open of Surfing Round of 96 Results:
Heat 17: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.37, Junior Faria (BRA) 13.24, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 10.77, Mitch Crews (AUS) 10.00
Heat 18: Jadson Andre (BRA) 15.66, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.10, Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.90, Tonino Benson (HAW) 6.00
Heat 19: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 9.10, Hodei Collazo (EUK) 8.00, Granger Larsen (HAW) 5.10, Heitor Alves (BRA) 4.30
Heat 20: Bobby Martinez (USA) 13.93, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.43, Rob Machado (USA) 12.03, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.57
Heat 21: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.37, Nat Young (USA) 11.33, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 7.97, Dale Staples (ZAF) 2.73
Heat 22: Thiago Camarao (BRA) 13.17, John John Florence (HAW) 12.26, Brett Simpson (USA) 10.24, Davey Cathels (AUS) 7.00
Heat 23: Nathan Yeomans (USA) 13.27, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.03, Stu Kennedy (AUS) 10.53, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 9.83
Heat 24: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.10, Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 12.64, Heath Joske (AUS) 11.67, Ricardo Santos (BRA) 4.86
Women's Nike US Open of Surfing Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.50, Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.17, Silvana Lima (BRA) 9.54
Heat 2: Carissa Mooer (HAW) 12.03, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 10.67, Laura Enever (AUS) 9.56
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.60, Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 10.60, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 9.57
Heat 4: Coco Ho (HAW) 11.67, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 9.97, Rebecca Woods (AUS) 9.86