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Huntington Beach Native Wins U.S. Open Surfing Competition

Jul 25, 2009

Washington, Jul 25, 2009 - Dad spent countless nights in front of his computer tracking his son surfing across the world. South Africa or Australia or anywhere with an ocean and everywhere against competition, Brett Simpson had fallen short of a breakthrough victory.

In a somewhat joking tone, knowing the too-good-to-happen opportunity would be improbable, Bill Simpson got off his computer after Brett lost in Brazil last week and said, “God, I guess you just wanted him to win in Huntington Beach next week.”

And there's where the stars began to align the big swell and compelling story: Orange County's hometown favorite not only captured every surfer's dream of winning the Hurley U.S. Open, but the Huntington Beach surfer did so in front of his hometown fans to win the largest first-place purse in surfing history.

“I'm speechless. There's not many words how I can describe it,” said Brett holding an oversized check for $100,000. “My body just wants to freak out.”

The fairytale ending concluded the U.S. Open that brought an estimated 140,000 spectators on Sunday alone. As the final horn went off, fans swarmed to carry Brett from the ocean to the trophy presentation, slapping high fives all along the way. It topped a heady week for Simpson, who was also namedOrange County Shortboard Surfer of the Year on Thursday.

That's when the victory lap officially began - but the underdog had assured himself the win much earlier.

Just 10 minutes into the 30-minute heat, Brett's third wave provided enough breathing room with a 360-degree aerial — judges gave it a 9.10 — that eventually served as the early knockout punch.

Opponent Mick Fanning, the 28-year-old former World champion from Australia, needed to land his own almost-perfect 9.43 to spoil the homecoming party.

“I've been watching the event since I was 12,” said Brett, who is believed to be the first-ever U.S. Open winner from Huntington Beach. “Every year I've been down, every day, it's been the goal in the back of my mind. It's nice to be up on top.”

Brett admitted his “home-court advantage” helped keep him focused on surfing and not distracted by a foreign daily routine. Beyond home cooked meals and his own bed at night, Brett used almost ten years of local knowledge to read the swell.

Those ten years were far from what Bill expected.

Raised in a traditional sports-revolving household, Brett remembers surprising his father by giving up football, basketball and baseball.

When Brett started surfing, “(Dad) was like, 'what the hell are you doing?'”

On Sunday it was clear what Brett was doing. Bob Hurley asked Bill, a former Los Angeles Ram: “Did you want him to be a free safety or a surfer?”

Bill paused then looked down at his son's check worth more than double what he made as an NFL rookie, and responded with: “A surfer.”

Brett has become more than just a surfer, improving his No. 9 world ranking after this weekend. Overcoming nine days of competition against the world's best – including nine-time world champion Kelly Slater and three-time world champ Andy Irons - Brett's accomplishment comes under the historic conditions of incredible surf and star power that showed up.

“I was kind of pissed at Hurley when they (invited the best surfers),” joked Brett. “Like, 'why are you inviting all these nuts guys?' It's amazing to get to surf against these guys; they're the biggest faces in the world.”

“I didn't win a cheap U.S. Open,” he added.

Surfing icons like Rob Machado, Slater and Fanning shared the stage with the up-and-coming group of stars like Brett, who are earning points on the World Qualifying Series to one day be on the World Tour. They are two groups that rarely get to share a stage – but this contest illustrated how the complexion of surfers is balancing out between the long-established veterans, and highly capable young guns.

Even on the women's side, 16-year-old Courtney Cologne of Santa Ana won the women's Open on Saturday, beating out some of the best women’s surfers in the world.

“Surfing's become much more of a sport,” said Brett, who starts training at 6 a.m. “People really started training and taking advantage. That extra work kind of pays off.”

Ian Cairns, Brett's coach for the past two years and founder of the Association of Surfing Professionals, thinks that Brett's win was a long time coming.

Brett plans to relax before heading out to France, continuing his quest to make the World Tour — a feat looking closer and closer.

“He just proved to everyone he is a contender to be top five in the world,” Cairns said. “Now he knows how to be an animal.”

“Having the level of those guys here, it really validates this contest and the level of these surfers,” Cairns added.
Original Article: OC Register