Pumping swell has arrived at the Vans US Open of Surfing, Stop No. 4 of the World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series (CS), with four-to-six foot, building toward eight foot sets pulsing into the southside of the Huntington Beach Pier. Women’s contingent overpowered the conditions with big performances while dealing with raging current and massive closeouts throughout the Round of 64 Heats 9 – 16 and Round of 32 in its entirety.
Former Championship Tour (CT) threat Bronte Macaulay (AUS) started her Vans US Open of Surfing campaign with a flurry to post an excellent 8.17 (out of a possible 10), making for a heat total of 14.17 (out of a possible 20). The Western Australia competitor powered through her second heat of the day in even heavier conditions and overpowered the walls of water once again to accrue a 7.33 with Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) notching an all-important advancing position.
“That was probably the most exhausting heat of my life (laughs),” said Macaulay. “It felt more like a triathlon or something. Just run, paddle, and hopefully you get a set out there. But, I guess when you have days like that it makes it easier for the rest of the event you hope.”
Each year, Philippa Anderson (AUS) proved she’s still a threat to the world’s best after taking down hometown hero and two-time Vans US Open of Surfing winner Courtney Conlogue (USA) behind Amuro Tsuzkui’s (JPN) big heat win.
Proven qualification threat Sophie McCulloch (AUS) earned massive, back-to-back heat wins alongside the likes of Macy Callaghan (AUS), who continued her winning form with another decisive victory to join her fellow compatriots into the Round of 16.
A star-studded battle unfolded between Round of 64 standout, two-time event Pro Junior victor and CT elite, Caroline Marks (USA) taking on 2012 event victor and World Title contender Lakey Peterson (USA), 2022 CT rookie Molly Picklum, and 2021 Olympic Games Tokyo competitor Mahina Maeda (JPN).
Marks unleashed her ferocious forehand once more to earn an excellent 8.50 and 14.33 heat total with Picklum advancing on to take a big upset over Peterson in the pumping afternoon conditions on a massive one-turn wonder to earn a 7.90.
“It was actually fun coming up against those girls,” said Picklum. “Caroline (Marks) and I were chatting on the walk down, and it’s always good to compete with them. They’re really good and they push my surfing to that next level. I’m just stoked to make it through such a tough heat in waves like that.”
The Southern California contingent continued to shine with the likes of San Clemente’s own Sawyer Lindblad and Vans wildcard Bella Kenworthy taking down their respective heats. Kenworthy made her presence known with a near-excellent 7.67 to take control of a formidable affair against 2022 CT rookie Luana Silva (HAW), former CT elite Keely Andrew (AUS), and Costa Rica’s top qualification threat Leilani McGonagle (CRI), also advancing.
“I was definitely nervous, but luckily I’ve had a lot of heats in Huntington Beach and know this lineup,” said Kenworthy. “It’s nerve-racking to be in an event this big with everything going on. I’m super thankful to Vans for this opportunity and to get the experience at this level.”
Also, reigning Vans US Open of Surfing victor Caitlin Simmers (USA) surged into the Round of 16 alongside two-time event winner Sage Erickson (USA) to round out California’s remaining contenders.
The next call will be made tomorrow, August 2 at 7:05 a.m. PDT for a possible 7:35 a.m. PDT start for men’s Round of 64 Heat 1.
The Vans US Open of Surfing begins July 30 – August 7 at Huntington Beach, California. The broadcast will begin on Monday, August 1 at 7:30 a.m. PDT, and fans can watch LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners.
The Vans US Open of Surfing is proudly sponsored by Vans, Visit Huntington Beach, Red Bull, Flying Embers, Hydro Flask, Shiseido, 805, Pacifico, Sambazon, StillHouse, Youtheory, BF Goodrich, Fu Wax, Boxed Water, Just Egg.