Kanoa Igarashi flew to the air, spun above the wave’s lip and landed his board perfectly, the expression on his face looking as if he even surprised himself at the unbelievable move.

The Huntington Beach surfer, who is representing for host country Japan, was up Monday, July 26, against Gabriel Medina, a Brazilian known for his own aerial acrobatics that have earned him multiple world championships.

Igarashi needed a score of 9.03 to overtake Medina, who had dominated the heat since the start. The judges gave him a 9.33, adding to his 7.67 for a 17-point total – enough for him to win the heat and move on to the finals, ensuring he would take either a silver or gold medal before returning home to Surf City.

The waves were big and messy at Tsurigasaki beach as a tropical swell filled in.

Earlier in the day, Igarashi won his quarter-final heat against San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino, who was the last male remaining on the USA Surfing team.

In that heat, Igarashi earned a 12.60 heat total (out of 20), edging out Andino’s 11.00 score as their quarterfinal heat wrapped up on Monday, July 26, the third and likely final day of competition.

Igarashi and Andino grew up competing against each other in their younger years, both prodigies from a young age who would rise up the ranks to become the world’s best and go up against each other on the World Tour.

Igarashi, a two-time US Open of Surfing winner who grew up surfing the famed Surf City pier, chose to surf for Japan because he has dual citizenship and wanted to pay homage to his family’s roots. In Japan, he’s a rock star, with a reality show that followed him around in his younger years.

After the heat, the two men met at the shoreline for a high-five hand shake.

Following the men’s quarterfinal heats, the women hit the water. USA Surfing still has both female surfers in contention, with Caroline Marks, who lives in San Clemente, and Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, both in the hunt for a medal.

Marks beat out Brisa Hennessy for a spot in the semi-finals while Moore won her heat against Brazilian Silvana Lima.

Surfing debuted at the Olympics for the first time over the weekend, with both men and women competitors taking to the water in small, messy conditions when the contest got underway.

Sunday’s action saw a match up between  Andino and fellow teammate John John Florence, of Hawaii, who also grew up competing against each other as youngsters on the amateur circuit and later as the world’s best surfers as they battled on the World Tour.

Andino was able to win the heat and was looking to be a strong contender for an Olympic medal, before Igarashi stopped his attempt.

Next in the water was Brazilian world champion Gabriel Medina, who took out France’s Michel Bourez, with a total score of 15.33. Bourez tucked into a barrel as the clock ticked down, needing a 8.61 to back up his 9.40 for the lead, but the score judges gave him, a 6.93, was not enough.

Medina’s fellow countryman Italo Ferreira earned a 16.30 to knock out Igarashi’s teammate Hiroto Ohhara, also a US Open of Surfing title winner, who had a 8.0 score and couldn’t earn enough on a last-minute wave to advance.

Watch it live: nbcolympics.com/surfing

California

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