Surfers and fans alike are gearing up for Monday’s start of the US Open of Surfing, a scaled-down event this year that will spotlight action in the ocean.
Typically, the US Open of Surfing is one of the biggest action sports festivals in the world, with a town on the sand that draws tens of thousands of swimmers to Huntington Beach.
This year, as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic persist, the event is mostly about the contest which brings together more than 150 surfers from around the world – although many are from Southern California.
The event runs until September 26.
While the recent World Surf League Finals at Lower Trestles had bombarded 10-foot surf for competitors, the upcoming event is expected to have smaller waves 2-4 feet for much of the week, according to Surfline.com.
Meg Bernardo, WSL North America Regional Director, is hoping that the excitement of last week’s WSL Finals carries over to the inaugural Challenger Series event.
“A whole new year is the way I see it,” she said.
This year’s footprint is much smaller, minus all of the games and other draws on the sand that the US Open typically put on. There will be no skating or BMX events.
“This is really going to focus on the surf competition,” said Bernardo, comparing it to the early days of the event 40 years ago, when there was only scaffolding in the sand and surfers in the sand. water in competition.
Among the most notable surfers expected to show up is Kanoa Igarashi, a surfer from Huntington Beach who has won the event twice and just won a silver medal at the inaugural Olympics.
In an interview with the World Surf League, which hosts the event, Igarashi said it was the “golden time of the year” when locals reclaim their beaches from tourists and crowds.
“There are lovely temperatures, beautiful sunsets every day and crystal clear mornings with light winds all day – and there is always a good combined swell in the water,” he said. “I’m glad people see a different side of Huntington and are here with a little more room to breathe than usual.”
Igarashi said he recently took time for himself, surfing and hanging out with friends.
“Before this contest I’m super motivated,” he said, noting that he hopes to clinch his third US Open of surf title.
The competitive squad will consist of 96 men and 64 women, including some of the top 34 men and 17 women on the World Championship Tour. The prize money for the winners will be $ 20,000 for the men’s and women’s divisions.
The competition will be part of a new Challenger series, bringing together a mix of surfers from the World Tour, considered the best in the sport, and the qualifying series, the sport’s minor leagues, to compete against each other on the south side of the pier of Huntington Beach.
The Challenger Series events allow up-and-coming surfers to earn points to compete in next year’s World Tour and also provide World Tour surfers with a safety net if they risk falling from the top rankings.
Renowned surfers include Kolohe Andino from San Clemente and Griffin Colapinto. Andino, who missed several events last year due to injury, will look to earn valuable points at this year’s event to secure a spot on next year’s tour.
Peter “PT” Townend, the first world champion in surfing, said the US Open’s footprint could be reduced this year, but the surfing competition itself is getting bigger.
“All of a sudden it becomes extremely important,” Townend said. “The level of talent that will be here is the highest in years. And because this is the first Challenger Series, you want to build momentum. It’s pretty important to get a result at the US Open, for sure.
Fans of the new reality show “The Ultimate Surfer” will spot the contestants on the ocean waves, rather than the freshwater setting where they filmed the show. Among those on the show’s competition roster are Hawaii’s Zeke Lau and Brianna Cope and Oceanside’s Tia Blanco, all still in the running to win the show, which will have its season finale on September 21.
Another familiar surfer ready to compete is Conner Coffin, who was among the Top 5 men to fight in the WSL Finals last week. The Santa Barbara surfer grew up competing on the pier.
On the women’s side, Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue will attempt her third US Open of Surfing title in front of her hometown crowd, but she will have to overtake 2019 champion Sage Erickson.
Erikson, from Ojai in central California, called her 2019 performance a “massive victory” that helped her maintain her place on the World Tour.
“My family was there, it was for my grandmother because she had just returned weeks ago. It was a highlight for all of us, ”she said in an interview with WSL, recalling the mixture of emotions of nervousness, excitement, doubt and then triumph. “That’s why I’m doing this, so I’m delighted to feel it all again at home. A win would be really good.
Last year’s event, like most other gatherings across the country, was canceled, but since then the beaches – and the outdoor space they offer – have become a place to people flocked during the pandemic.
The US Open had its wildest years, once hosting a freestyle motocross competition on the sand, poker in the festival area and even 100 oxen and 25 horses on the sand in 2007 to promote the OC Fair.
In recent years, after Vans took over sponsorship in 2013, the event has become more family-oriented, offering movie nights and games for young people on the sand. Vans has chosen not to sponsor this year’s event.
This week’s event will be just a glimpse of years gone by, with bleachers set on the sand for spectators but few options for exploring a festival area that in previous years was like a city on sand. .
One event still in the books is the Surfing Walk of Fame induction in front of Jack’s Surfboards, which takes place at 10 a.m. on September 23. This year’s inductees include Carissa Moore (Woman of the Year), Damien Hardman (Surf Champion), Mike Tabeling (Surf Pioneer), Cecil Lear and Hoppy Swarts (Surf Culture), Mike Downey (Local Hero) and Tim Brown and Ron Abdelfattah (Honor Roll).
“After 18 months of closures and uncertainties around the world, the class of inductees at this year’s Surfing Walk of Fame are incredible,” said John Etheridge, Chairman of the Board of the Surfing Walk of Fame, in an announcement. . “Our goal of celebrating surf, surfers, surf culture and its history has never been more fully represented than in this class.”