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In his typically dominant fashion, Kelly Slater has won the 2011 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing. Facing West Australia's Yadin Nicol in the final, Slater opened up with an eight-point ride and never looked back, winning the U.S. Open for the first time since beating Shane Beschen 15 years ago.
In one of the most lopsided heats in recent memory, Nicol wouldn't even catch a wave until there were less than five minutes left on the clock -- and when he did finally stand up, the wave just closed out. Throughout the event, Slater had to work hard for his heat wins, finding tubes that didn't exist and landing air rotations that he never should have landed, but Nicol more or less handed the 10-time world champ the $100,000 first-prize check. It was, in the words of Nicol, "a shocker." The final heat score was 16.27 to 2.57 -- in other words, a blowout.
"I guess Yadin wanted me to win because he didn't catch any waves," Slater said. "I was just really frustrated for him because he was sitting out the back waiting for the big sets and the big sets were closeouts. The small ones he was just two far outside and I got them. I think what happened is I got the 8.50 to start and he was just going to be patient. If he got a good one he would have thrown a big rotator, but it just never came."
Hoping to qualify for the world tour with a result at the Open, Nicol inched closer to his goal, but still sits on the bubble."There are still two World Tour events to go so it doesn't completely change my life just yet," Nicol said of his second place finish. "It definitely helps the vibe though."
On the women's side of the draw, things were considerably closer. After besting Carissa Moore in the semis, Lakey Peterson held a commanding lead over Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons in the final. But Fitzgibbons sits No. 2 in the world for a reason, and as the clock ticked down to nothing, she found a shoulder-high peak and milked it all the way to the beach.
"Today was just about connecting the dots and stepping it up," Fitzgibbons said. "I think the future is bright for our sport. Lakey is only 16 and she was in both finals in this event. It was a great week for her, but to get the win was an amazing way to cap off the year."
All told, it's been a ridiculously successful week in Huntington. Beach attendance records were shattered, the surfing was top flight, the next generation of surfers rose to the occasion while the old guys proved they're not done yet, the waves cooperated (sort of), on the side stages the BMX and skateboarding were well received and the live music acts brought some energy in the afternoons. As Hurley's Evan Slater noted when it was all said and done, "Maybe we should make some shirts that say, 'I survived the U.S. Open.'"
Up next, some are heading to England for a six-star, while the world tour contingent will be heading to Tahiti.
Nike US Open of Surfing Men's Final Result:
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.27
2. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.40
Nike US Open of Surfing Men's Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.94 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.90
SF 2: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 13.44 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.87
Nike US Open of Surfing Men's Quarterfinals Results:
QF 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 13.93 def. Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 10.10
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.50 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.27
QF 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.44 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.33
QF 4: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 11.60 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 8.26
Nike US Open of Surfing Women's Final Result:
1. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.23
2. Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.40
Nike US Open of Surfing Women's Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.67 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.60
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.46 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 14.16