Even though the Vans tents are packed up, the Red Bull skate pool deconstructed, and local businesses disheartened after last night’s mayhem, I continue to reminisce about my first ever U.S. Open of Surfing experience.
Taking place in the SoCal surf capital, Huntington Beach, the annual U.S. Open of Surfing attracts surf enthusiasts from all over the globe. With names like Kelly Slater, Alana Blanchard, and Coco Ho, it’s a can’t-miss, star-studded spectacle of wave-charging professionals.
I decided to head out early on Saturday to get a good look at the venue before the masses started congregating. As I walked towards giant colored flags at the end of the Pacific Coast Highway, I took in all the sights of kids skateboarding, families tailgating, and beach-goers sunbathing. Men’s quarterfinals were already underway, and I walked up the first set of stairs I came upon, hoping to secure a spot in the heralded Surf Stadium.
Instead, I found myself in the Red Bull Skate pool arena, overlooking a huge, graffiti-covered pool that looked like a scene straight out of Lords of Dogtown. Pretty cool, but only a few skaters warming up. So, I kept journeying to the next set of bleachers, passing at least 20 or 30 beach-related business tents along the way, and then I found the shore – and the Surf Stadium.
Once I sat down, I took in the view of the open sea and the masses of people gathered on the pier and on the sand. There was a crew of cameramen riding jetskis as well as a moving camera placed on a giant cable overhead. I listened to the announcers giving the play-by-play and watched the guys in the last few heats seamlessly carving through sets of waves. I even took a break to watch from above, and then rushed back to the beach for the women’s semi-finals.
Some of the big names were eliminated earlier in the week (Slater, Blanchard, Peterson, Gilmore), making this year’s title anyone’s game. Even though I was disappointed I didn’t get to see some of my idols take on the waves, I was pleasantly surprised by a few unfamiliar faces. One of my newest surfer crushes is Courtney Conlogue, the SoCal native, who used the home-field advantage to take her first wave of the quarterfinal heat and weave through the underbelly of the HB pier (girl’s got serious style).
Sitting on the beach before the third round, I saw both Carissa Moore and Coco Ho run right by me to start stretching under the pier. I stood up and managed to get a killer picture of a smiling Coco moments before her heat, but the Hawaiian showdown proved Moore victorious. Moore went on to win the Women’s title the following day.
The final round was French surfer Pauline Ado versus Aussie surfer (and one of our fitness idols) Sally Fitzgibbons. It was a serious showdown of skill and prowess, with Ado up most of the heat. Sally came back with a huge-scoring wave, but came up short by less than half of a point.
It was hard deciding to leave just when the Longboard round was starting, but by mid-afternoon I could barely make my way back to the boardwalk in the growing crowd.
But with the sun on my skin and souvenir in hand, I went home a happy gal with an itching to get back in the water…