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O'Connell still part of the action

Laguna Beach resident and surfing great no longer competes, but he's the contest director now for the U.S. Open of Surfing, which wraps up Sunday.

August 04, 2011|By Mike Sciacca, michael.sciacca@latimes.com
  • Laguna Beach resident Pat O'Connell, seen here in a 2003 photo, is now the contest director at the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Laguna Beach resident Pat O'Connell, seen here… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

It wasn't long ago that long-time Laguna Beach resident Pat O'Connell would have been a must-watch at the U.S. Open of Surfing.

Between 1998 and 2005, O'Connell — who turns 40 in late-September — was a force in the Men's competition, regularly making a run at the title with a couple of third-place finishes to his credit. With the Nike U.S. Open of Surfing heading into its stretch run this weekend at the Huntington Beach Pier, O'Connell is still in the thick of things, but it's in a different capacity: contest director.

"My job is to make sure everything is going smoothly, that everyone is having fun," he said after completing the fifth day of the competition Wednesday. "It's interesting to see things from a different perspective."

The nine-day U.S. Open of Surfing extravaganza — which in addition to surfing includes skate and BMX competitions — features the world's top surfers annually in what is the world's largest surfing event. The Open runs through the weekend, culminating with the Men's ($310,000 total purse) and Women's ($110,000 prize purse) semifinals and finals heats Sunday.

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The Junior Pro Men ($20,000 total purse) semifinals field is set. Advancing to the final eight are John John Florence (Hawaii), Conner Coffin (USA), Tanner Hendrickson (Hawaii), Filipe Toledo (Brazil), Keanu Asing (Hawaii), Kolohe Andino (USA), Dylan Goodale (Hawaii) and Colin Moran (USA). The division's semifinals and finals are Saturday.

The Junior Pro Women ($6,000) semifinals and finals also are Saturday. The semifinalists are 2009 champ Malia Manuel (Hawaii), 2008 champ Coco Ho (Hawaii), Lakey Peterson (Santa Barbara), Pauline Ado (France), Leila Hurst (Hawaii), Laura Enever (Australia), Alexa Frantz (USA) and Alessa Quizon (Hawaii).

The Pacifico Noseriding Invitational (longboarding competition) qualifying round takes place at noon Saturday and the final is Sunday at Surf Stadium.

Skate and BMX competitions take place Saturday and Sunday. The Converse Coastal Carnage, featuring some of the world's most talented riders competing in a state-of-the-art skate bowl, has its final Sunday. BMX riders will go head to head in the Nike 6.0 HB BMX Pro, which concludes Sunday.

O'Connell has been impressed with several of the young hot shots in the surfing competition but says don't count out the seasoned veterans.

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