World Champions Crowned at U.S. Open of SUP

Take the best SUP surfers on the planet. Pit them head-to-head in Southern California’s finest knee-high Huntington Beach chop. Put a World Championship title on the line.

What do you have? The 2015 U.S. Open of SUP.

The third and final stop on the 2015 Stand Up World Tour, the U.S. Open gave us a stark contrast to the season’s inaugural event—the Sunset Beach Pro—which last February found surfers contesting in double- to triple-overhead, snarling conditions at North Shore, Oahu’s fabled Sunset Beach. Between the two events, this season’s World Tour athletes were able to showcase an exhaustive gamut of skill sets. And while conditions for the grand finale of SUP surfing at Huntington were a bit anticlimactic, the battle for World Champion that ensued was anything but.

On the men’s side, we saw a stand-off among the best athletes in the sport. Heats were absolutely stacked entering the semi-final: Giorgio Gomez v. Caio Vaz, Sean Poynter v. Mattheus Salazar, Kai Lenny v. Zane Schweitzer, Leco Salazar v. Poenaiki Raioha. Going into the event, Vaz, Poynter, Lenny and Schweitzer were all within reach of the world title. After a whirlwind display of technical performance surfing—not without front and backside airs, laid out fin-drifts and power-packed rail surfing in the small waves—Vaz synched the world title, Raioha won the event, and the Men’s season came to a humble and early close.

For the women, fierce rivalries supplied an electric undercurrent going into the semis. Huntington Beach local and last year’s US SUP Tour champion, Sophia Tiare Bartlow, found herself facing 15-year-old world title-holder Izzi Gomez in Heat 1. Despite being in-form at her homebreak, Bartlow’s dream of a world title came to a screeching halt when the judges ruled in favor of Gomez, yet again.

That left the title race pending on the following heat, in which Gomez’s title rival, Candice Appleby, toed up with Kauai underdog Mariko Strickland. And what’s that saying about dogs and their days? That dogged status went out the window when Strickland out-surfed Appleby to win the heat, thus synching Gomez’s second consecutive World Title before the event reached the final round. Gomez went on to beat Strickland in the final, taking the U.S. Open of SUP title in edition to World Champion and capping off the 2015 Stand Up World Tour season once and for all. —MM

Check out our recap and gallery from the events’ early rounds.

What’s next? Read about the unsure future of the SUWT.

More Stand Up World Tour.