October 13, 2003

Huntington Beach Chapter Checkin' In

[this entry comes straight from Bojon's huntington beach correspondent, The Grand Jordanian]

Here are a few shots and commentary from this year’s US Open of Surfing:

Each year the world’s top professional surfers make a mid-summer stop in Huntington Beach, CA for the annual U.S. Open of Surfing.

Beach Day

Sandwiched between wealthier Newport Beach to the south and more urban Long Beach to the north, HB has a reputation as a blue collar town with consistent, but crowded, surf conditions. Writer Kem Nunn summed up the undercurrent of the place pretty well in his 1984 book Tapping the Source:

    People came to HB in search of the endless party, the ultimate high and the perfect wave...In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blondes, Ike looked into the shadows and found parties that drifted towards pointless violence, joyless violations and highs you might never come down from….and what once passed as hunger and vitality had only a certain desperateness about it now, coked-out fatigue…

While the city has cleaned up a bit over the last twenty years, HB can still be characterized as a gritty surf town where tatoos and pick-up trucks are standard issue.

The surf contest itself has managed to survive relatively intact. This year’s installment – the event’s 45th year - included over 160 surfers competing in 100s of heats during 10 days in early August.

Contest Time

Competitors in the main event included current world champ Andy Irons, past world champs Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, and Tom Curren, and two-time US Open winner Rob “the Mob” Machado.

The surf was a disappointing 1-3’ for the first 5 days of the event but picked up to a clean, consistent 3-5’ plus south swell for the final weekend that included a fierce south to north shallow water current that washed many competitors through the pier. Despite 85 degree air temps, the ocean remained a chilly 58 degrees throughout most of the contest, leaving all but the longboarders to bust out their full suits.


Spectators showed up in force - estimated to have reached 80,000 for the final weekend - but whether due to the heavy police presence, the calming presence of the Reef girls, the reggae / ska / hiphop / punk tunes pumped non-stop from behind the bleachers, or the clear blue skies, the onlookers generally managed to behave themselves without incident (unlike 1986 when a full blown riot ensued when a planned concert was shut down early).

Reef Girls

The men’s final included Andy Irons (Kauai), Cory Lopez (Florida), Bobby Martinez (Ventura) and a tour rookie from Kauai who’s name I can’t remember.

The Finals

The surf picked up to a solid 4-6’ and Cory Lopez took the trophy with a series of big-time, crowd-pleasing floaters that had the fans in the bleachers and on the pier hooting like a bunch of NASCAR fans in Fontana. It was appropriate that Lopez took the title, considering his boardshort sponsor had a 15’ x 30’ picture of him hanging from the pier (triple overhead Teahupoo tube ride).

Until next year….

Yours truly,
Hound Adams

Posted by bojon at October 13, 2003 09:41 PM