- 01 July 2009 | Surfing
What’s the closest thing to watching the world’s best surfers compete in a full-on stadium atmosphere? Look no further than Huntington Beach in July, when up to 500,000 people will find their way to the real Surf City, post up in the sand and cheer on their heroes at the Pier.
It’s been that way for 50 years now, starting with the US Championships in 1959 and evolving to today: the Hurley US Open of Surfing.
As the new title sponsor of this storied event, Hurley and its partners intend to make it a life-changing experience from dawn to dusk: Late-afternoon concerts. Hurley’s Walk the Walk fashion competition. Elite-level BMX courtesy of Nike 6.0.
The best skateboarders courtesy of Converse and Red Bull. And a swarm of activity, demonstrations and booths surrounding our “50 Years at the Pier” celebration.
Of course, center stage will be reserved for the ocean, where both men and women will be competing for points, prize money and HB glory in the title event, the Hurley US Open of Surfing. As a six-star ASP qualifier at the mid-way point in the season, the winner here often goes on to the coveted Dream Tour.
Case in point: last year’s US Open Men’s Champ Nathaniel Curran, who ended up winning the 2008 World Qualifying Series and is now a rookie in the elite Top 45. Along with the six-star, Nike 6.0 will be holding an ASP Pro Junior event — another important challenge on the path to become the 20-and-under world junior champion.
Rounding out the center stage will be a celebration of the world’s top longboarders in a soon-to-be announced format that will certainly have the crowd cheering for more.
In addition to all of this, the Hurley US Open, in conjunction with the World Professional Surfers athlete union, will be introducing the first-ever WPS All Stars event. This will include participation from 10 of the world’s best surfers voted on by you – the fans. They will surf in the event, sign autographs and blow us away in a special-format expression session that must be seen to be believed.
This isn’t just the closest thing to a stadium; it is a stadium. The only place to witness a gathering of the world’s most talented action sports stars all in one stretch of sand. As local favorite Brett Simpson says, “Competing in the US Open is one event I look forward to all year — there’s no other event like it, really. The crowds, the activity, the excitement…it’s like you have no choice but to perform at your very best.”
Competing at the Hurley US Open of Surfing is a lot of pressure. Not only are upwards of half a million people on the beach plus tens of thousands in cyber world scrutinizing your every move, there are major points and prize money at stake.
In short, if you do well at the US Open, chances are you will do well anywhere. As a six-star ASP qualifier, it’s a gateway to the coveted breaks of Teahupo’o and Pipeline on the Dream Tour. A win here means 2500 points and a major boost in the ratings.
Just ask last year’s champ Nathaniel Curran, who ended up winning the entire World Qualifying Series after taking the US Open. He also called it the “most significant win” of his career. The prize money is real motivator as well, with a $145,000 purse and $16,000 for first.
Format-wise, we’ll see more than 250 surfers whittle down to eight man-on-man heats on Saturday, which will play out to the last man standing on Sunday. Man on Man heats are a welcome addition to ASP World Qualifying series events, allowing the event to be focused, back-and-forth battles that hearken back to the glory days of the Op Pro.
This year, the addition of the WPS All Stars should add even more TNT, as guys like Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Dane Reynolds will be dropping bombs next to the Pier. Be prepared for a whole new level of performances on the South Side in 2009.