I have to admit when it comes to the topic of the US Open of Surfing I kind of feel like a schizophrenic. The hardcore anti establishment bad ass surfer in me hates it worse then getting poison oak on my penis. The entire event is everything that is wrong with the current state of surfing and the world for that matter. What is the Open but a bunch of commercialism bullshit where large corporate sponsors fill their pockets while the athletes themselves for the majority go home with pennies. Sure the men’s first prize was $100,000, but the rest of the crew went home with very little and on the women’s side the winner took home a measly $15,000.
This sounds great when one considers the fact that the money earned was for a day of surfing. Compare the prize purse with that of the US Open of golf or Tennis and its a joke. These days the contest draws crowds upwards of 200,00 to the Huntington Beach shoreline and millions watch the webcast at home. With that kind of attendance and media exposure it seems absurd that the prize purse be so low. Unlike a WT event not everyone at the open has a giant sponsor contract.
Money aside to add injury to insult, lets hold the event at one of the worst waves in California, Huntington Pier. It’s not like one of the best surf spots in California and the world, Lower Trestles is only about a thirty minute drive south. As I have heard and the media constantly makes a serious effort to point out “The US Open of Surfing is not about the surfers but the fans”. I am a very big fan of competitive surfing and I personally found nothing stimulating about watching competitors on the final day of the surfing competition sitting idle for the better part of 30 minutes staring blankly into the horizon. It’s cool though, the webcast “pervert cam” panned out on plenty of scantly clad females for me to beat off to while I waited for some one to catch a wave and milk it to the beach. Oh and Chris Cote’s checkered bow tie was pretty entertaining too.
Then there is the former professional surfer side of me that remembers just how much fun the US Open can be. It is true none of the fun I speak of happened in the water. That was a bunch of frustrating bullshit trying to make a 6 out of a wave that should be barely worth a three. I must note also that I absolutely suck at surfing Huntington Pier. Every year the US Open comes to California there is this energy that big things are going to happen. It is the only contest of the year that really makes one feel like surfing is as legitimate as any other sport. Part of me is proud to see how far the sport of surfing has come. Lets talk about the actual event.
First off I would like to give a shout out to both Vans and Paul Mitchell for stepping up and allowing the whole event to go down. In the wake of Nike turning its corporate back on professional surfing regardless of the consequences left behind many were worried about who would pick up the slack. Guess what we got along just fine with out those clowns in the past and are better off with out them again. One would think Hurley (a Nike brand) would have still had a hand in the comp considering at the moment the majority of the surfers competing were Hurley riders including both eventual winners and 3 out of the four finalists. I remember, it is because all the Nike riders still with contracts were honored by Hurley for their duration.
The Men’s Side
What can I say about the men’s prime event besides the fact that with the exception of Julian Wilson’s massive backside 360 air reverse I was bored to tears. There were plenty of upsets, but who really cares when the waves are inconsistent and fucking tiny. The fact that it had nothing to do with the world title race and that I didn’t care about the bubble guys who may or may not re-qualify left me rather over it only watching when I had nothing better to do. Had the waves been fun here in the 805 I would have most likely missed the whole event. Unfortunately if Huntington is flat so is the rest of California.
The judges did decide to give us a story book ending. A real Cinderella story in the form of Brazilian and this years champion, Alejo Muniz who in his own right surfed a solid run to the final. Its surprising more Brazilians have not won the Open considering the waves always suck just like their homeland. I must play devil’s advocate and make a quick comment on the judging in the final. Keep in mind I am far from a Kolohe Andino fan. I find the kid’s surfing about as interesting to watch as my cat pleasuring himself. His opening wave in the final where he landed that huge inverted air reverse was grossly underscored.
That shit was huge. He got a solid turn on the outside then coming into to inside close out launched an easily 3 feet out highly inverted front side air reverse and landed it cleanly. The air was bigger then the section he did it on. For that the judges awarded him a slightly better then average score. Meanwhile Muniz grabbed a larger wave out the back and did four similar front side hacks and fell on his last finishing turn. Any decent surfer could have pulled such off and he dropped an 8.5. I thought Andino’s wave considering that score should have been in the nine range then or at least a high 8. It was the move of the final.
The judges have apparently decided they are going back to the old antiquated format of three to the beach and have added that if one falls at the end of the wave it is extra flair points to the criteria as we have seen most recently in the case of Parko in Bali and Fanning back at Bells in 2012. I wish that rule was in effect when I was a pro surfer cause I could have won the world title. You know what Kolohe has enough money anyway so at least now Muniz will be in good shape for next year. I am always a fan of the underdog even if it comes from bullshit judging.
I hate to say it but I had a better time watching the women compete at this year’s open then the men. They were just way more exciting. Most of their heats were nail biters all the way down to the final which until ten minutes after the buzzer no one knew who the winner was going to be between Carissa Moore and Courtney Cologne. I for one was glued to the score board. The whole final everyone thought Carissa had it in the bag till the last ten minutes when Cologne went nuts. In the end Moore took the cake and the current world number one spot.
Sadly the most excitement of the entire US Open happened after the whole kit and caboodle was over Sunday evening on the 29th of July. Apparently a bunch of idiots decided to trash Main Street Huntington Beach in a post surf contest riot the likes of which has not been seen since the US Open of 1986 at the same venue. Although not nearly as severe as the ’86 riot damage was done, 8 people were arrested, police injured. I for one was outraged when I heard the news this morning as I was trying to enjoy my breakfast.
We have come so far to legitimize surfing as a sport to the world stage. The majority actual view surfing in a positive light as well. The US Open is a perfect venue to spotlight all of this being attended by so many and watched at home by many more. Instead of the mass media picking up the results of the contest all I was bombarded with was pictures of a bunch of dumb ass imbeciles who most likely don’t even surf destroying property and wreaking havoc for absolutely no good reason all the while making surfers and surfing look like a bunch of lawless bafoons, a stereo type I believe we have all been trying to get off our backs since the movie Point Break. Two steps forward, ten steps back eh?