The US Open Of Surfing: The Calm Before the Shit Show

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Words: David “Crappy” Campbell

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The pure chaos of Huntington Beach. Photo: Vans/Brandon Means

Ah, the infamous US Open of Surfing in Surf City, USA, aka Huntington Beach. Love it, or hate it, you’re going to have an opinion on it, it’s unavoidable. It’s the biggest event in surfing not on the WCT (heck, it’s probably the biggest event in surfing, period), though this year the talent, and today the waves, are making a good case for ‘CT inclusion. Besides the surfing, this is a shit show, an all ‘round storm of shit – chaos, but fun chaos. The kind of chaos we like. This year, like all years, the surfing is complemented by the crowds, the BMX, the skateboarding, the partying, the free concerts (including this year heavy-hitters like Modest Mouse and The Faint). It’s everything you loved as a kid, now all grown up and graduated from business school, dabbling in steroids and hitting on your sister. I would like to believe that soon the surfers will enter the “surf stadium” wearing spandex, and with intro songs. I shit you not, there is a surf stadium here.

The waves showed up for the first day, on the South side of the pier in Huntington. It’s overcast, and the waves are a little overhead with the lefts running into the pier looking the goods. Those lefts, the ones we’ve seen drive points-hungry surfers wild and into dangerous liaisons with the barnacle encrusted pier pylons. The juniors started today, men’s trials tomorrow. Men’s round one starts on Monday, and the women on Tuesday. The whole thing spontaneously combusts on the weekend to come. There are no lay days, no waiting periods, and we’re out of the season for surf. This can mean crumby conditions but in the past we’ve been blessed, and this year the forecast ain’t looking too bad.

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Kalani David in front of all the chaos... and the pier. Photo: Vans/Michael Lallande

The first weekend is supposed to be the quiet weekend, and right now, on the morning of the first day, it’s fulfilling it’s destiny. The thing is, the US Open can turn on a dime. It’s an entity of its own, nobody knows who controls it, where its main power source is. Some people say the sponsors control it, but I would say it has a mind of its own. It could be the people, the hordes, big business or the geared-up riot police. It’s probably all of them, together, and then something else. That’s what I want to do for the next week, get inside this mother and dissect what makes it tick. Remember the ’86 riots? You’d think they happened because of socioeconomics, because of police brutality, or because, most fittingly, the surfing was just so rad that it drove the crowd bat-shit crazy. But no, the rioters rioted and burned cop cars because of good old, all American titties. That’s another story for different time.

This morning, today, it’s all about the waves. The giant tents, and massive big screens are set up, but no-one is here yet, not the bros, the 17 year olds with autographs on their buttcheeks, nor the mobs – they aren’t yet in full-effect. This is the calm before the storm, and while we’re guaranteed that things are going to get nuts, right now, today, it’s still about the surfing. The junior surfing, but nevertheless. For me, when the surfing is done, and the storm has passed through, and the crowds have gone home, I kinda hope the whole thing combusts, burns to the ground, to be born again phoenix style. I just know it’s going to get so gnarly, and out of control, that immolation might just be the only thing that can cure it. There is, after all, a goddamn shopping mall on the beach.

Dave’s our man in LA, and after too many years of being one of the shit slingers at the US Open, this year he’s opted to get in to the belly of this beast, so that we might ascertain what exactly makes it tick. God speed, Dave, and good luck. Yahweh knows you’re going to need it.



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