Brett Simpson, a two-time U.S. Open of Surfing champion from Huntington Beach, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

Brett Simpson, a two-time U.S. Open of Surfing champion from Huntington Beach, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open. (Charles Ryder / August 6, 2014)

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U.S. Open of Surfing, Brett Simpson, Tim Reyes, Kanoa Igarashi, Filipe Toledo, Ryan Callinan, Hodei Collazo, Mitch Coleborn, Koholhe Andino, Bede Durbidge, Peterson Crisanto, Garrett Parkes, Adam Melling, Willian Cardoso, World Qualifying Series, Maxime Huscenot, Matt Banting

When the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing competition launched July 26, there were a handful of local hopefuls seeking to land the coveted men's title in their own backyard.

A trio of those athletes, Brett Simpson, Tim Reyes and Kanoa Igarashi, gave strong performances and made their way to the late rounds of the competition. All three fell short of winning the title, but brought a sense of pride to the hometown fans who watched each surf.

It was Simpson who went deep into the Men's Prime, surfing the last day of the Open Sunday. He had reached the semifinal round and was two victories away from clinching his third U.S. Open Men's title.

His run ended in a semifinal loss to high-flying Filipe Toledo of Brazil, who went on to win the coveted trophy and $100,000 check.

Simpson's said his approach to the U.S. Open was in contrast to other events the 29-year-old had competed in earlier in the season.

"I pretty much let everything go heading into the Open," he said.

"It hasn't been the best of years for me, competition-wise. Sometimes I put pressure on myself, sometimes I let heats get away from me that I should have won. I just had to learn to relax, to clear my head. Surfing is such a mental game.

"I realized that I needed only two good wave scores, to make the whole 30 minutes (heats) easier than past ones with good scores. I had some close ones (heat wins) this past week but I got through with the scores that I needed to advance."

Simpson, the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open Men's champion, entered the competition ranked 34th on the World Championship Tour.

His six-day run at the Open began July 29 with a comfortable Round 1 heat victory over challengers Ryan Callinan (Australia), Hodei Collazo (Spain) and Mitch Coleborn (Australia).

He finished second in his Round 2 heat to Koholhe Andino (USA) and second in Round 3 heat to Bede Durbidge (Australia), but advanced through to Round 4. Despite a hip issue that he said started to hinder him as the week progressed, he got past Peterson Crisanto (Brazil) to secure a spot in Round 5 Saturday.

In Round 5, he got even with Durbidge by posting a 13.53-12.53 win that eliminated Durbidge and kept Simpson's title hopes intact.

Those hopes went into Sunday and continued into the early afternoon after Simpson scored a 13.83-11.43 quarterfinal round win over Garrett Parkes (Australia). That put him into a semifinal showdown with Toledo.

"He's always been one on my radar," Simpson said of the 19-year-old Toledo.

"He's maybe a buck-thirty-five soaking wet and he's super-light on his feet. I think he's arguably one of the best aerialists in the world. He's quick and he's able to take mediocre waves and turn them into something special and get big scores. He did that throughout the competition.

"I knew it would be a tough heat. He took a wave that barely broke during our heat and went vertical on the outside off the white wash, and landed a solid score. He's a guy who is able to keep his board speed up."

With best wave scores of 8.93 and 8.60, Toledo was able to fend off Simpson who held an early lead but whose best wave scores of 6.93 and 6.67, weren't enough to get the victory. Toledo moved on to Sunday's final by virtue of a 17.53-13.60 win.

Simpson, who finished equal third-place with Australian Adam Melling (defeated by Men's runner-up Willian Cardoso in the other semifinal Sunday) earned $11,000 for his placement. Simpson said his result allowed him to jump 69 spots in the World Qualifying Series ratings standing, landing him in 14th place.

The third-place showing is his best in a Men's Prime competition this year.