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Best Moments of the U.S. Open of Surfing

Top Local in YAH Global

Best Moments of the U.S. Open of Surfing

The U.S. Open of Surfing is the biggest thing to happen to Huntington Beach (since the oil pretty much dried up) and continues to be HB's main draw bringing vistors from all over the world every single year. You don't have to be a fan, or even be aware, of professional surfing to have the time of your life at the U.S. Open. In fact, YAH declares it the biggest event in the world that the world doesn't know about. Visit our Events section to learn more about this world's largest "unkown" phenomenon.

For now, take a gander at this list for the Best Moments of the U.S. Open of Surfing. We almost had to call it the Best Moments of the U.S. Open 2009 or put the whole of 2009 as the #1 spot on the list since, as those that were in attendance can testify to, 2009 was packed full of the most intense and relevent occurances that the event had ever seen. Nonetheless, there was room for one other non-2009 entry so we kept the list as is. Not to mention we were just too lazy to dig deep in the archives to look for other moments worthy of placement on the list.

2012 UPDATE: The US Open of Surfing 2012 was another record breaking phenomenon in Huntington Beach. If we could recommend only one annual sporting event to attend in your lifetime, this is it!


Hometown Heroes Take Top Spot

2009 & 2010(recent update)

Everything had been going perfect for the 2009 event. The wave conditions were epic, especially in comparison to many previous, if not all, years past. The weather and water temps were beyond comfortable, the local economy seemed to make a 180 degree turn around in one week due to the massive influx of heavy pocketed tourists dropping enough cash into the HB piggy bank to keep the town prosperous for another year. And last but not least, the local pro-surfing contingent was tearing through multiple rounds dropping their foreign (anyone born outside of HB would be considered foreign) counterparts one by one. Basically, by rule of thumb or Murphy's Law or whatever, there wasn't a chance in hell (inland valley) that they could possibly succeed against the BEST in the world and win the whole event in front of the hometown crowd. Those are story book endings that stopped being written in the early 1950's. Right?  

Wrong. Brett Simpson, the proverbial boy next door with a smile that probably got him out of many highschool detentions for missed homework assignments (traveling the world on surf trips is NOT a good excuse), and most importantly a native of Huntington Beach won the whole enchilada in dramtic fashion. Seeing the crowd of family, friends and supporters erupt was enough to not only find the moment at the top of this list, but deserving of a place in the greatest moments in professional sports.   

We're not finished. On the women's side of things, a 16 yr old underdog (by outsiders standards) and yes, local, Courtney Conlogue dismantled the competition including the wonderkid, Target sponsored, one day World Champion phenom Carissa Moore and ended up lifting the #1 spot trophy over her blonde locks in a victory felt by the whole beach.

These results would have played out cheesy and impossible in Hollywood and yet it all happened here at the U.S. Open of Surfing. Let's just hope they don't make a movie out of it. Some moments are better left untarnished without the likes of Zack Efron and Amanda Bynes throwing on wetsuits for press junkets and having their faces CG'd on the real deal.

UPDATE (Aug 8th 2010) - Brett Simpson won a 2nd consectutive US Open title! 

Photo: Brett and Courtney being honored at HB City Council Meeting.


The All-Star line up actually showed up


For the first time in "who can remember?", the complete all star cast of professional surfing decided to show up and thrill everyone, fans of the sport and otherwise, with their high flying antics and personality showcasing. To put this in perspective for those that don't follow this professional sport, in the past the US Open "All Star" showing was more like watching an NBA All Star game WITHOUT the likes of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kobe, LeBron showing up, in their respective eras. The fans cried "foul".

For "some" reason they all showed up in 2009. They'll tell you it was because of the support of a major surf brand, Hurley, coming on board to sponsor the event. Their personal accountants however will say it had alot to do with the prize money increase skyrocketing from 30K to 100,000K in one year, and the fact that their own sponsors offered hefty bonuses for attending the event. Eitherway, it was a win-win situation for all and the audience truly came out on top. It seems to have set the tone with an impressive All-Star lineup slated to attend again this year (2010). 

YAH Says if the fans keep showing up, they will too from now on.


The waves actually showed up


The U.S. Open and it's home break at Huntington Beach had often been ridiculed for the lackluster waves and thus gained a notorious reputation on the professional tour. The contest had already been in danger of becoming a broad action sports extravaganza and ultimately a product/service trade show. Then all of a sudden in the summer of 2009, the ocean woke up with a thunderous roar followed by the same sound erupting ashore as the crowd was whipped up into a frenzy.

Reports credit this phenomenon to good ol' El Nino, but we have a sneaking suspicion that Hurley, backed by NIKE dollars, may have "lost" a couple of suitcases filled with cash somewhere near Poseidon's doorstep. 


Women's pro headbangs the Pier and still wins


One of the most awesome, and nail biting, things a spectator can see when watching surfers from a bird's eye view on the Pier is seeing them navigate from one side of the Pier to the other THROUGH the barnacle encrusted pillings. Lifeguards forbid it but its still a daily occurance. During a contest, it will pretty much earn you a perfect 10, but you know...don't do it.

When the waves are powerful, its even more death defying...or inviting. In 1997, Hawaiian competitor Rochelle Ballard came off a wave in the semi-finals and found herself right next to the above mentioned pillings with a monster wave making its way directly at her. Long story short, she was lifted up and smacked head first into the hard concrete barnacle decorated totem pole and left unconscious for a few seconds. On the way to the hospital, trooper that she was, asked about her score and found out that she advanced to the finals. Postponed until the following day, Rochelle against the advice of her practitioners got right back on the horse and won, and most importantly to her we're sure, landed her at #4 on this list.


OP Pro Riot


Not exactly a "best" or shining moment in Huntington Beach history but definitely memorable and one for the record books. Back in the summer of 1986, when the U.S.Open was known as the OP Pro, the surf contest had morphed into an all out carnival. Surfing had become intertwined with a bevy of other related (and some not so related) events all compounded into one. Other action sports gained representation, MTV got involved, Jet Ski demos ripped apart the shorebreak, and then came the most testosterone fueled event, the "barely there" bikini contest. To this day, many blame THAT contest on the riot. Common sense would say that by including so many different aspects you attract as diverse a crowd, and thus personalities clashed. Add to all of that what some say to be too heavy of a police "show of force", resulting in the proverbial pot boiling over. At the end of the day bleachers were torn down, the beach did its best visual impression of a war torn middle east and an HBPD squad car slowly disintegrated into flames. 

The effects are still seen 24 years later with the continued absense of a bikini contest, replaced in fact by a pre-teen/tween inspired fashion show and a more professional (while fairly courteous) policing policy. For those in desperate need of testosterone enhancement, a quick stroll throught the event village provides more of an unofficial bikini contest than they could ever hope for.


Kelly Slater proves (again) age is just a statistic

15 years after his first and only other U.S. Open of Surfing win, 10 time WCT World Tour Champ and household name - Kelly Slater - finally nabbed another prestigious title in Huntington Beach. Although every year he competes he is expected to be a contender, it was the quarter final round up that makes his place at this point in time so telling. Slater was in the company of "spring chickens" (relative to the world's elite) in a final four that consisted of himself, Kolohe Andino (17yrs), Dusty Payne (22yrs), and Yadin Nichols (26yrs). He dominated his way to the top spot on the podium further hammering the nail into the All Time Greatest moniker.     

Not only does Slater find the perfect place in the pit (barrel) time and time again, it appears that with this most recent victory at the 2011 U.S. Open of Surfing that he may have found the Fountain of Youth as well.  

Photo Courtesy of TransworldSurf - Checkwood


NIKE Stamps the Swoosh on the World of Action Sports

The 2012 US Open of Surfing really stamped head sponsor Nike's presence in the world of action sports. Not only did the event once again receive record breaking crowd numbers on the sands of Huntington Beach, Nike’s surf prodigy Julian Wilson, who they scooped from Quiksilver’s grasp a couple years ago by offering up a contract rumored to be worth seven figures, dominated his way through the event and took down what seemed to be a certain Brazilian claim to the 2012 US Open of Surfing title. The Brazilian Team had five entries into the quarter finals and it seemed that green and yellow flag waiving on the first place podium was imminent. While Nike also indirectly owned the sponsor rights to runner-up Miguel Pupo (who is sponsored by Nike owned Hurley), Julian placed the swoosh in the air during his aerial onslaught throughout the event and on the stage when the marine layer and smoke cleared on the final day of the contest. The 2012 US Open of Surfing was a victory for Julian Wilson, Huntington Beach, and for Nike’s inclusion as a serious brand name contender in the world of action sports – like it or not.