If it’s July, it’s time to pull out the board shorts and head down to the HB Pier. The nine-day event, known as the U.S. Open of Surfing, returns to Huntington Beach (“Surf City, USA”) July 18 to 26, 2009. This is the mother of North American action sports events; the Vegas of surfing with over 500,000 spectators, a host of entertainment stages, peripheral activities and tribes of hardcore fans who pack the sand to watch the competition.
The pier’s been the site of the extravaganza for 50 years now, starting with West Coast Surfing Championships (WCSC) and evolving to today. When the first comp took place in 1959 it quickly became the biggest surfing event in the country – if not the world. HB local Jack Haley won the first event while the legendary Linda Benson took women’s. And it marked the beginning of a long tradition of competitive drama along the 300-yard stretch known as the “South Side.”
In 1960, the women’s division was added to the Championships. Last year 14-year-old Malia Manuel became the youngest finalist ever at the US Open. Runner-up Coco Ho, 17, made it an all-Hawaiian final and a major statement that there’s a new generation in town.
This summer, Hurley takes the U.S. Open of Surfing to a new level, infusing a youthful attitude, elite athletes, fashion and music-all against the backdrop of 50 years of competitive surfing. The “Walk of Champions” pays tribute to this storied history with a special walkway dedicated to the “50 years at the pier” celebration. This will include a timeline with key dates and happenings, along with photos and a list of all the former champions.
The U.S. Open of Surfing boasts North America’s only six-star World Qualifying Series-rated men’s and women’s competitions, longboarding and men’s and women’s junior disciplines. As work crews snap together the last bleachers, and put the finishing touches on the nearby Tiki village, this year’s event promises to be as big and bad as ever.
Technically, the US Open is an all-access event. Just about anyone can get in, but the truth is that because of its high ratings on the circuit, a lot of Big Names surf this contest. It may not be Pipeline or Trestles but the world’s best show up.
Many of the world’s best female surfers are barely getting their driver’s licenses. Carissa Moore, last year’s champ Malia Manuel, Coco Ho, Sally Fitzgibbons…the list goes on. Which is why this year’s Girls Nike 6.0 Pro Junior will pack in all the drama and performance level of a major world tour event.
Halfway through the grueling season, 3000 points up for grabs and $4500 for first place in the women’s division. But most important, it’s that launch pad into the Bigs. Win here, and you’re on your way.
Nevermind that the hype doesn’t always match the waves. Summer in Huntington can mean mediocre surf near the famed pier. Sometimes it’s a surfers ability to perform in sub-par conditions that divides the groms from the pros. Maintaining speed, pulling tricks and destroying mid-sized waves takes real talent.
Whatever the conditions, the event has enough sideshows to keep it interesting. BMX bikers drop into a 13 foot deep kidney-shaped pool, FMX demos take place, DJs and live bands crank loud music, and dozens of sponsor tents promote new products to the massive crowds.
With all the local and international talent, anything can and does happen at this comp. The next superstar might easily emerge from the pack to become part of the U.S. Open’s