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U.S. OPEN OF SURFING

Georgeson Emerges From a Tough Crowd

August 01, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Chelsea Georgeson found herself in tough company Saturday in the women's final at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. Also entered in the four-woman heat was close friend Sofia Mulanovich, winner of the last three World Championship Tour events, and Jacqueline Silva, who won the tour's only other stop this year.

But Georgeson relied on her growing pool of experience, which included a victory in this event last summer, and held on to win her fifth career title and fourth on the World Qualifying Series tour.

Georgeson, 20, of New South Wales, Australia, took an early lead with the highest-scoring ride of the final and finished with a two-wave score of 13.83. Mulanovich, 20, of Peru, finished second with 12.44 points and Australian Melanie Redman-Carr was third with 12.10.

A year ago, Georgeson produced the highest heat score of the week in winning the women's final, which also included Silva and two-time defending champion Pauline Menczer of Australia.

"This year is exactly the same feeling as last year," she said. "It doesn't get much better than this."

The 30-minute final was held in inconsistent two-to-three-foot surf. The waves were smaller than during her victory a year ago and the current milder, but Georgeson said she felt at home.

"Growing up in Sydney, I got used to surfing small waves," she said.

Georgeson didn't begin surfing until she was 13. She was discovered by former four-time world champion Lisa Anderson a year later and finished third in her first competition. In 2001, still wearing braces, she became the youngest woman to qualify for the WCT, then she was named rookie of the year the following season.

Before her victory at the U.S. Open last year, she was probably most recognized in the Southland for her role in the WB network's reality show "Boarding House: North Shore." The series focused on Georgeson and six other professional surfers who were living together while competing in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in late 2002.

After her victory in Huntington Beach last year, Georgeson sustained the momentum and posted her first WCT career victory at the Roxy Pro in France. She's hoping to take the same path this year.

"This was definitely a confidence booster," said Georgeson, who earned $6,000 for the victory.

In the men's round of 32, Tim Reyes of Huntington Beach was among 16 qualifiers for today's final day. Reyes won a heat that shrank to three competitors when two-time defending world champion and current WCT points leader Andy Irons of Hawaii left the water after being called for interference against Australian Luke Stedman midway through the heat. The penalty calls for a competitor's highest wave score to be halved, but Irons decided to paddle ashore, even though he still had a chance to move into a qualifying spot.

"I knew it was my fault," said Irons, who clinched his first WCT title at Huntington Beach in 1998.

Former world champions Kelly Slater of Florida and Mark Occhilupo of Australia also were eliminated in the round of 32.

Today's final is scheduled to begin at 12:40 p.m.

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