Lakey Peterson cuts back into a wave during competition Saturday at the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Sitting on a table siphoned off from the rest of the sand, two pieces of upright wood faced the thousands of spectators clogging Huntington Beach.
The trophies for the Nike U.S. Open junior championships sort of look like slices of a log that have been shined, engraved and affixed to a mount. They are small but proper, and Lakey Peterson stared back at them before she dived into the ocean with her surfboard.
By the time her feet hit sand again, the 16-year-old Peterson was being carried off the beach in triumph, and about 10 minutes later, she was thrusting one of the pieces of wood awkwardly into the air.
It was hers now.
"I was looking at that trophy before the heat, and I wanted it so bad," Peterson said. "I don't know — getting carried up through that [crowd] is a feeling most people don't get in their lifetime."
Peterson posted the first big score of the 30-minute session when she slashed down her second wave and was rewarded with an 8.5. That put her ahead for the first 10 minutes, but she struggled to secure a second good run.
Meanwhile 2008 champion Malia Manuel took the lead with two average runs that gave her a slight three-point edge. All Peterson needed was a mediocre second score, and after many failed attempts, she was able to execute a board grab with some hang time on her final wave. It took more than five minutes of deliberation, but the judges rewarded Peterson with a 7.57 — good enough to vault her far into first for the win.
"It's been a good day," Peterson said afterward with a laugh.
And she's not done yet. The Santa Barbara native spent her Saturday morning advancing into the semifinals of the adult women's competition where she scored third-highest overall. Sunday she'll square off against 2011 world champion Carissa Moore for a spot in the final.
Stoked on winning
Filipe Toledo is hesitant to use his English and he spoke only a few sentences in the language after winning the men's junior title.
In one case, he didn't appear to understand a question. But his response showed that he's learned the language of Southern California surfing just fine.
"It's so unbelievable," Toledo said. "I'm so stoke-ed. I don't know what to say. It was perfect.
"I'm so stoke-ed."
Toledo, who is already the ISA junior surfing champion, won a tightly contested final in which no surfer was separated by more than four points. The competition was especially tight at the top, with the 16-year-old Brazilian edging out San Clemente's Kolohe Andino by just more than one point.
Andino, 17, will have one more opportunity to compete Sunday because a strong morning run earned him a place in the men's quarterfinals.
Big day Sunday
A head-to-head match between Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow headlines the men's surfing quarterfinals, which begin at 8 a.m. Sunday. … Three of the world's top six female surfers will join Peterson in Sunday's women's semifinals. … The Open's skateboard and BMX events will also culminate Sunday and name winners with up to $75,000 in prize money on the line.