As the heat action in the Men's Prime at the Vans US Open of Surfing wound down by early-afternoon Friday, so, too, did Huntington Beach's hopes of having one of its athletes snag the coveted title.
By noon, though, those hopes were still alive.
Huntington's Brett Simpson withstood a last-minute wave ride by Peterson Crisanto that could have put the Brazilian into the lead, and the Huntington Beach High grad was able to emerge with a 10.83-10.20 edge in scoring in the next-to-last heat of the day.
The 29-year-old is now in the Round of 16. Simpson moves on to a Round 5 heat battle Saturday with Australian Bede Durbidge. The winner will head to Sunday's quarterfinals. Sunday's action also features the semifinals and finals.
Simpson led the entire way in his Round 4 heat. Crisanto needed a wave score of 2.90 to take the lead, and, holding priority, rode his final wave with under two minutes left on the 30-minute heat. Crisanto slashed right and came in with a backhand finish with 1:10 remaining on the running clock.
Was it enough to push the 22-year-old through and into the next round? It wasn't. He scored a 2.27 on his final ride of the competition.
"I thought, ultimately, he would get that 2.90 score that he needed," Simpson said. "He had passed up a few opportunities out there which, I don't know why, but I really was only concentrating on myself. I thought if I could land another big score, I'd be OK. But time just kept winding down and he wasn't able to get the score he needed."
Hopes of a local reaching the final weekend of the Open hinged on how Simpson did.
In early Men's Prime heat action Friday morning, Tim Reyes and Kanoa Igarashi carried the banner for Huntington. In the opening heat, Reyes, 32, was edged by Maxime Huscenot, 22, of France, 12.63-11.76. In the fifth heat, Igarashi, a wild-card entry to the Men's Prime, was left out of the Round of 16 by a mere 0.51 points. The 16-year-old also was edged, 11.67-11.17, by 20-year-old Matt Banting of Australia.
Banting also has a spot in Saturday's U.S. Open Men's Pro Junior semifinals.
Simpson nearly suffered the same fate as Reyes and Igarashi despite jumping out to and maintaining the lead on Crisanto throughout Heat 7. He recorded the first score of the heat, a 4.33 on a ride that included a backside hook. He got his top wave score on his third ride which included a down-line hook, vertical half and backside curves. His work on the outside of the set earned him a score of 6.50.
Working the outside worked to Simpson's advantage. Crisanto took the inside route on his rides, his first coming with under 20 minutes left in the heat. He took a floater up and over on his second ride, took two turns out back and hit the inside. That ride was enough to garner him the top wave score (7.93) of the heat. It came with 8:20 left.
More than six minutes went by before Crisanto took off one final time with under two minutes to go. He nearly pulled out the win, which nearly mirrored what Filipe Toledo of Brazil did in the previous heat. Toledo took a last-minute wave and landed the score he needed to come from behind to knock out Michael Dunphy (USA).
"I felt like I was in a decent rhythm today," Simpson said. "I did feel, though, that on my first wave (4.33 score) I could have been in the 'excellence' category, had I been able to finish. I was kind of pushing myself early but started to settled down a bit after that.
"It's exciting to be moving on. This (Round 5) is my best result in a Prime event this year."
Next up for Simpson is a matchup with Durbidge. The two previously went up against each other in a Round 3 heat Thursday that included another Aussie, Ryan Callinan. Durbidge (14.77 score) slipped past Simpson (14.43) to win that heat to gain an automatic bid into Round 5. Simpson still moved on but had to face Crisanto in Round 4.
"It should be a good one," Simpson said of Saturday's heat. "Bede is so consistent. He's top five and has won some big events. He's the consummate professional."
Friday's Men's Prime results
Heat 1: Maxime Huscenot (France) def. Tim Reyes (USA), 12.63-11.76.