5 Massive Moments in (Recent) US Open History

Remember: that Slater-Beschen heat, when A.I. won it, or when a 14 year old girl slayed them all?
Julian Wilson
A Photo We Love: Julian Wilson © Peter Dive/Surfline.com
By Teddy Ward

Listen, the US Open has been happening for over 50 years. I know, right? You could fill a book full of its great moments from Nuuhiwa’s noserides to Gerlach’s air-drop floater to Curren’s and Occy’s battles. There’s a zillion epic moments.

But this is 2014 and, sure, we must remember our legends, but maybe you only got time for some history, like, 20 years back, tops.

Thus, to put this event of all surfing events into some context, here are 5 epic moments in the last two decades that prove why we keep coming back for more.

1. That Slater-Beschen Final in ‘96

Kelly and Shane, hot and cold at '96 US Open.
Kelly and Shane, hot and cold at '96 US Open. © English

Forgot that world champ Carissa Moore’s coach Shane Beschen used to be WCT big ballah that commonly battled (and beat) King Kelly way back when? Well refresh yo’ self.

Indeed, back in 1996 Slater and Beschen (Kelly No. 1 and Beschen No. 2) were in a bit of a title-race, and coming into the US Open (which Beschen beat Slater in 2 years prior) the pressure cooker was on full-blast.

Earlier in the year at Kirra, Beschen even scored a perfect 20 heat (never been done) and Slater knew his title was in jeopardy. So in the ’96 final, on a peak that Slater faked he was splitting, Beschen checked left, stood up, and wouldn’t ya know, Slater had, too (behind the section). Beschen got a DQ and lost the final, plus the steam he had built for a title that year.

One of the more controversial heats in ASP history. 

2. Hello, My Name Is: Andy Irons

I am A.I., hear me ROAR.
I am A.I., hear me ROAR. © Sherman

It’s 1998 and, sure, Kelly’s been dominating the better half of the mid-90’s, but this US Open introduced his soon-to-be nemesis to the scene.

And that young man was Andy Irons.

While the young Kauaian had proved his cunning in large Hawaiian surf and Pipe comps, not many knew he could sweep a comp in California slop. But Andy came out and surfed the Open with such a raw intensity and ferociousness, it sent a chill down Slater’s spine.

And on the podium, hoisting that huge trophy high to the sky, what’d he have to say for himself? “Ladies, I’m single.” 

3. Machado, and That Peak He Surfs

This is Rob Machado's peak (keep out).
This is Rob Machado's peak (keep out). © Straley

The US Open ain’t Rob’s first rodeo. He’s been competing at HB since they were calling it the OP Pro and, yes, he’s won the Open 3 times.

But more than Rob’s silky smooth, knock-kneed style, it’s specifically where Rob wins that has become so legendary. After a very large-waved OP Pro in ’91 where everyone was swept out of the stable comp area, Rob found a lil sandbar on the southernmost side of the pier that has become known as “Rob’s Peak.”

And for years after, Rob has stuck to that left which people have tried but no one has quite yet figured it out like he has. He won in ’95, ’01 and ’06 on that peak.

4. Malia Manuel, Youngest US Open Winner (Ever)

Malia Manuel storms the Open at 14 years old.
Malia Manuel storms the Open at 14 years old. © ASP

Back in 2008 a new guard of [young] women were coming on the ‘CT scene. Names like Coco Ho, Carissa Moore and Sally Fitzgibbons were replacing the old. And all of them women well below the ages of 18.

Like 14 year old Malia Manuel. Yes, I said 14. And in the summer of 2008 Kauai’s Malia took out the entire women’s WCT, including a couple world champs to WIN the US Open. Which was absolutely phenomenal. The youngest winner in US Open history. And a statement for the youth in surfing annals.

5. Julian Wilson Breaks the Spell

US Open of Surfing
Julian Wilson Displays The Fins © Damea Dorsey

Throughout the years, the US Open, OP Pro, US Surfing Championships — whatever it’s been — has: A) always had some good cash to win, and B) been a place for out of towners to win and take that said-cash.

But in 2012, a non-American hadn’t won the Mens division since 2005. The win was getting pretty California-cated, no matter who showed up and battled with Simpo or Machado or Slater.

Julian Wilson, however, had something to say about that. That year, Jules broke the spell and stormed the beaches of HB, surfing like a spring-loaded jackrabbit. From fin-blast to air-reverse to wrap combos, nobody could touch him and the Americans watched from the pier and groaned.

*Did we miss any glaring ones that you would say should’ve fit in there? Have your say.

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