News Column

Muniz Ends Brazil's Surfing Drought in U.S. Open

July 29, 2013

Every summer, Huntington Beach stops for one week for its surfing competition, the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing.

Close to 700,000 people attended the week-long event in Orange County, and 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater, defending 2012 champion Julian Wilson and two-time U.S. Open champion and Huntington Beach local Brett Simpson were attempting to capture this year's grand prize.

A total of 108 men entered North America's only ASP prime event, which started July 21.

By the end of Friday, that pool was narrowed to the last 16 competitors.

By the end of Sunday's final, 23-year-old Brazilian Alejo Muniz was the U.S. Open champion after defeating Southern Californian's own Kolohe Aldino, 16.23 to 14.54.

"Today it makes four years that my grandfather passed away, so there were a lot of emotions going on," Muniz said. "Every time I hit sevens or eights and I was getting the scores I was needing, I believe that he sent those waves to me. I believe in that. That's why when the heat finished, I pointed to the sky."

Muniz had his best two scores in his first two waves of the final. Andino then failed to reach 8.46, the score he needed to win.

Muniz reached the finals by beating American Nat Young in the quarterfinals and Australian Matt Banting in the semifinals.

"For some reason, when I woke up this morning I knew I was going to do well," Muniz said. "I didn't think I was going to win, but I knew I was going to do well."

Muniz

became the first Brazilian to win the U.S. Open since Titav Tavares, who won the women's event back in 2000.

"I'm really stoked because this is the biggest win of my career," Muniz said. "In Brazil we have guys like Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo pushing all the young surfers. So this is good, so they don't forget about me."

Slater and Wilson failed to qualify for the final day, which included the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all within five hours.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Andino, the only American who made it past the quarterfinals, made it to the final day of the U.S. Open for the second time in his young career after making the semifinals in 2011.

"I wasn't thinking I was going to win at all," Andino said. "I was taking it heat by heat."

Muniz received a cash prize of $100,000 and earned 6,500 points toward a top-34 world ranking qualifying spot for the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship.

On the women's side, it was Hawaiian Carissa Moore who defeated local favorite Courtney Conlogue, 16.00 to 15.27, to win her second U.S. Open since 2010.

Conlogue rallied on her last wave, but her last score of 7.77 wasn't enough to get by Moore, who took home the first prize of $15,000 and 10,000 points.

"It feels amazing," Moore said. "To win at the U.S. Open two times is incredible.

"It was definitely a really exciting finish with Courtney."

Vans also hosted the ASP Pro Juniors for men and women. Those events were won by American Conner Coffin, who won for the second consecutive year, and South African Bianca Buitendag.

This event, the largest surfing competition in the world, was first held in 1959. In 1964, it became known as the United States Surfing Championships.

The event was changed to its present name in 1994.

The U.S. Open of Surfing took place on 14 acres of sand south of the Huntington Beach Pier. All of the events were free.

Vans also hosted a skateboarding and BMX competition.

Spending at the nine-day event added a reported $21.5 million to the Orange County economy and $16.4 million to that of Huntington Beach.

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(c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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