Toledo, Wright win U.S. Open of Surfing

Brandon Means

For Filipe Toledo, who first exploded onto the scene with a performance at the U.S. Open Pro Junior a few years ago, winning the 2014 Open marks the biggest victory of his career. "I just turned my game to the air game so I could do what I love to do, and it worked," Toledo said.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- The world's richest surf contest wrapped on Sunday afternoon in Huntington Beach, California, as the weeklong Vans U.S. Open of Surfing pitted a pair of stylistically different Brazilians in a final head-to-head worth $100,000 for the winner. In the end, 18-year-old Filipe Toledo's agile aerial surfing outpaced his more powerful countryman, Willian Cordosa, in the inconsistent waist-high surf.

"I'm just super stoked and excited -- I'm shaking, bro," Toledo said right after the victory. "I just started really good with that [eight-point wave]. Then [Cordosa] got that 9. I [was] just trying my air game ... and it works. I've been waiting for this since I won the juniors."

Toledo -- the 2011 Junior Pro Men U.S. Open champ -- opened his final campaign with an 8.73, deploying his signature forehand aerial attack before beefing up his score with a light-footed connection as the wave reformed on the inside to offer steep sections for more maneuvers.

With a more traditional power-surfing style, Cordosa, 28, answered right away with a 9.03 (out of a possible perfect 10), but that would be by far the best he could muster in the less-than-ideal conditions. Meanwhile, Toledo -- widely considered one of the best aerialists on the world stage -- delivered two more scores in the eight-point range, nailing the coffin shut on Toledo with a tail-high reverse in the final minutes of the 35-minute exchange.

Toledo's victory -- secured as tens of thousands of fans watched from the beach and pier -- came with relative ease, despite the fact that the Brazilian surfed all week on an injured ankle, sprained last month in South Africa during the J-Bay Open.

"I had to surf though a lot of pain with my ankle and just put it out of my mind," said Toledo, considered one of the most improved competitors on this season's ASP World Championship Tour. "I felt comfortable in these conditions."

As Toledo became $100,000 richer, Cordosa's runner-up finish at this prime event on the ASP Men's Qualification Series earned him $20,000, as he jumped from a rank of 67th all the way into the top 10.

2014 U.S. Open of Surfing Highlights

Local favorite Brett Simpson, who posted back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010, finished in a tie for third with Australia's Adam Melling.

On the women's side, the event marked the sixth of 10 stops on the ASP championship season.

After dispatching tour front-runner Carissa Moore, Australian Tyler Wright did away with Hawaiian Malia Manuel in the semifinals before defeating five-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore in the final. The win was Wright's first of the season, and it moved her up to third place in the race for the world title.

"It's been a long event and really enjoyable for me," Wright said after the win. "We sat there for 25 minutes waiting for waves, but when they came through ... I performed the way I wanted to perform."

And in the pro junior men's division, Australia's Matt Banting capitalized on a last-minute wave to claim the victory over South Carolina's Cam Richards by three-tenths of a point.

"I'm over the moon," said the 19-year-old Banting after the win. "I couldn't really buy a wave throughout the heat, and for that last wave to come in the last minutes was a gift from God."

Surfing double-duty, Banting also competed in the prime event, advancing throughout the week until losing in the quarters to Toledo.

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