While Kim Mearig was struggling to regain something she lost, Sunny Garcia was striving to get something he never had.
Contrasted with Thursday's major upsets, Friday's competition at the sixth annual Op Pro Surfing Championship at Huntington Beach seemed as reserved and orderly as a library.
Tom Curren, the Assn. of Surfing Professionals world champion the last two years, had an average of 100.5 points on four waves, the day's second-highest score, to beat Martin Potter's 96 and advance to today's semifinals.
Today's competition, which begins at 9 a.m., will include the men's trials final, a consolation event, followed by the women's and men's semifinals. The women's and men's finals will conclude the contest.
Curren will meet Barton Lynch of Australia, who defeated fellow Australian Gary Elkerton. Freida Zamba, the ASP women's champion the last three years, also moved into the semifinals against Wendy Botha of South Africa. Still, everything wasn't perfectly in order.
Garcia, the 17-year-old who has survived through the trials and first two rounds, defeated fellow Hawaiian Derek Ho to advance to the semifinals. Meanwhile, Mearig, 23, defeated Pam Burridge to advance to the semifinals against Jodie Cooper of Australia.
The extra work hasn't exhausted Garcia, who today will meet Damien Hardman. Garcia lost to Hardman in the Stubbies semifinals last year at Australia.
"I'm getting pumped up even more," said Garcia, who has never won or been seeded in the top eight of an ASP event.
Making the semifinals was especially pleasant for Mearig, who once was at the top of women's surfing. In 1983, she won the Op Pro and was first in the ASP standings the next year. The next year she was second. The two years after that she slipped to sixth as the competition continued to improve.
"It seems once you reach your goal, it's hard to keep up your enthusiasm to stay there," Mearig said. "I had a bad year and started losing a lot, and I just lost my enthusiasm."
That was especially hard because she believes she is actually surfing better now. To make matters worse, she was eliminated from the first ASP stop, the Stubbies at Oceanside, in the first round.
"When you lose, it just haunts you. It's all you think of for several days," she said. "This is good for me. I needed this."
Officials from the Huntington Beach lifeguard headquarters estimated Friday's crowd at between 15,000 and 20,000, substantially less than last year's numbers. . . . Officials are expecting a crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 for today's final. . . . Many spectators arriving at the beach early for the Friday afternoon men's events found out they had not come soon enough. Without announcing it to the public, tournament officials had changed the schedule so the men, not the women, were competing Friday morning. The women competed in the afternoon. What's more, tournament officials moved the quarterfinals back from today to Friday afternoon. Al Hunt, the ASP tour representative, said the changes were made to keep surfers from exhausting themselves. By moving the quarterfinals back, officials reduced the maximum number of heats that would be surfed from five to four. . . . Nea Post, a 15-year-old Huntington Beach surfer, was defeated by Pam Burridge of Australia in the first round of the women's main event. . . . Todd Holland, the 18-year-old rookie pro who shocked defending tournament champion Mark Occhilupo, was eliminated in the second round of the main event. . . . Martin Potter's average of 102 points in round two of the main event was highest average for four waves Friday. . . . Jorja and Jolene Smith, twin sisters from San Clemente, were both eliminated Friday. Jolene fell in round one and Jorja was toppled in the quarterfinals. . . . Tournament officials are still hoping the size of the waves will increase in time for today's finals. Hurricane Hillary, which is off the coast of Baja California, should have little effect on the waves, most of which have been three to four feet. However, the pull of the full moon will generate the highest tide of the year tonight at 9:16 p.m. and could increase the size of waves.