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Beachley Outduels Falconer for Title This Time Around

Surfing: In rematch of last year, outcome of U.S. Open women's final is reversed.


HUNTINGTON BEACH — In a repeat of the women's final last year, Australians Neridah Falconer and Layne Beachley faced off in the U.S. Open finals Saturday.

Last year, Falconer pounded Beachley to win. This time, Beachley held her off for the title.

"I'm feeling really relieved," Beachley said. "This win is such a confidence boost. I just hope I can keep it going for the rest of the year."

Unlike the morning, when the waves were big, the afternoon surf offered little for the two.

"The current was so strong, that's one of the reasons why I couldn't move over sooner to where the waves had a little better shape, because it was hard to paddle over there," Beachley said.

Despite the strong riptide, Beachley eventually moved north of Falconer to catch her winning wave with a few minutes left in the heat.

"I wish I didn't fall off my board during that wave or the score would have been larger, but it was enough," she said.

Beachley ended up with the highest wave of the final (6.50) and finished with 16.00 points to Falconer's 15.90.

"Conditions were tough out there," Falconer said. "I sat in front of the [priority] buoy most of the heat, but it didn't make that much of a difference."

Beachley, who won last week in the AirTouch Pro Surfing Championships, moves up to fourth on the world tour standings.

"I feel really good now and I'm really looking forward to France next week," Beachley said.

In the men's fourth round, the world's two top surfers advanced to the quarterfinals to set up a possible rematch of the 1994's U.S. Open final.

World champion Kelly Slater advanced Saturday after edging Flavio Padaratz of Brazil, 19.25 to 18.75.

Slater, ranked first on the world tour, was unable to duplicate Friday's perfect 10 score, but did pull off a 7.50 in the six-foot surf.

On the bottom of the bracket, second-ranked Shane Beschen of San Clemente put aside his friendship with Derek Ho of Hawaii to win his heat, 22.75 to 17.00.

In 1994, Beschen beat Slater to win the U.S. Open.

However, before any possible '94 rematch, Slater will be reliving the 1995 U.S. Open finals when he'll face Rob Machado of Cardiff in the quarterfinals.

Machado, who beat Slater in the finals last year, dominated his heat against Matt Hoy of Australia to advance.

"It's too bad it's not the finals," said Machado, referring to the Slater matchup. "This is the first time I'll be surfing against Kelly since Pipeline. But it should be exciting."

Also advancing was Laguna Beach's Jeff Booth, who beat Kalani Robb of Hawaii. Robb, who was flip-flopping the lead with Booth for most of the heat, took a couple of wipeouts late in the heat.

Booth scored the day's highest wave score (9.0) to finish the heat with 22.30 points and gain the victory. Booth will face Beschen in the quarterfinals.

Also advancing was Brazil's Victor Ribas of Brazil, Taylor Knox of Carlsbad and Luke Egan and Michael Barry of Australia.

Taking advantage of the large surf was Ben Holland of Australia, who was able to hold off Brian Press of Rancho Palos Verdes to win the men's bodyboarding championship.

In the women's finals, No. 1-ranked Daniela Freitas of Brazil dominated the championship heat.

Mariana Nogueira was second, followed by Neymara Carvalho and Claudia Ferrari.

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