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Jaquias Needs Just Seconds to Finish First

Surfing: Hawaiian defeats San Clemente's Ward in the final moments of the heat.


HUNTINGTON BEACH — The men's finals of the AirTouch Pro Surfing Championships turned into a wild-card race Sunday, with two unseeded competitors vying for the title.

In three- to five-foot swells spawned by Hurricane Douglas, Hawaiian Kaipo Jaquias took the title from Chris Ward of San Clemente in the last 15 seconds of the final heat.

"It was just like in the movies," Jaquias said. "This is the first time I've won a contest in California. I'm very happy and this has been a good warm-up for me going into the U.S. Open."

Jaquias said he was able to hold it together and not "crack."

"It just comes with experience," he said. "But it's cool to have these young kids surfing in the finals."

Ward, who earned a wild-card berth to the U.S. Open, and Sunny Garcia are the only 17-year-olds to compete in the finals of this contest. Ward joins Tim Curran of Oxnard, Shawn Sutton of Ewa Beach, Australia, and Ryan Simmons of Seal Beach as the four-wild-card winners for the upcoming U.S. Open in Huntington Beach.

"I have a lot of respect for Kaipo, so I'm just thankful to make second," Ward said. "Now, I have to get ready for next week, and I'm stoked."

Australian Nathan Webster, who last year qualified for the U.S. Open as a wild-card winner, finished third with 27.63. Curran finished fourth with 22.16.

From the start of the men's quarterfinals Sunday morning, it looked like the day of the rookie, with eight wild-card candidates still alive. There were also some surprises, when some of the world's best surfers were eliminated in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

Jeff Deffenbaugh struggled in his semifinal heat, where he finished last with 13.44 points. Deffenbaugh, from Huntington Beach, was only able to score a high-wave score of 5.17 on seven waves.

San Clemente's Shane Beschen, who is ranked second in the world, took third in his quarterfinal heat. However, Beschen was penalized for interfering with Jaquias, dropping Beschen to last place and enabling Dino Andino to move into second place and advance to the semifinals.

Beschen's goodwill gesture, however, was not enough to help the fellow San Clemente surfer advance with a wild-card berth as Andino finished fourth in his semifinal heat.

Ryan Simmons of Seal Beach was the fourth wild-card winner after he beat Andino in the semifinals.

After the heat, Simmons said he was stoked.

"I didn't even think about making the finals," Simmons said, grinning. "This is by far the biggest win in my career. I'm completely overwhelmed. Now, I'm just going to relax and take it easy for the U.S. Open."

In the Billabong junior finals, Andy Irons of Hawaii won the championship final after scoring 31.13 points. Irons, who represents Hawaii on the International Surfing Assn., beat Omar Etcheverry of Santa Cruz, who finished second with 28.43. Ben Bourgeois of North Carolina was third (23.10) and Jeremy Heit of Oceanside was fourth (16.50).

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