U.S. Open of Surfing
Following the July 4th holiday weekend we know two things: Summer is in full stride and the world’s best surfers are set to invade Huntington Beach for the annual U.S. Open of Surfing. This year marks the 50th running of the contest, although it ran under three different names until 1994. The largest North American surf contest and surf spectacle will run from July 18th-26th on the South side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Among those surfers scheduled to compete are former World Champions Sofia Mulanovich, Mick Fanning, CJ Hobgood, and Kelly Slater. The contest will also feature 3-time U.S. Open Champion Rob Machado and young startups Kai Barger and Coco Ho. Hurley is the new title sponsor and the slogan for this year’s event is “50 Years at the Pier”.
According to USopenof surfing.com, contest organizers held the first “West Coast Surfing Championships” in 1959. It soon became the biggest surfing event in the country, and possibly the entire world. A Huntington Beach local by the name of Jack Haley won the inaugural event in the men’s division while Linda Benson finished on top for the women.
The contest evolved over the years, getting renamed to the United States Surfing Championships in 1964, but it always held its ground as the most anticipated surfing event of the summer. By the early 1970s the sport’s culture shifted. Contests no longer had the same appeal and the event shut down after the 1972 US Surfing Championships. It wouldn’t run again until clothing brand Ocean Pacific founded the OP Pro in 1982.
The OP Pro ushered in a new era of surfing. Surfing’s appeal hit the mainstream as world class surfers, led by California wonder kid Tom Curren and Australia’s hero Mark Occhilupo, competed in front of huge crowds. With side events such as bikini contests drawing people from miles around, the event reached a critical mass in 1986 and ended in a destructive riot. Damaged, but not defeated, the OP Pro continued until 1993.
Starting in 1994 the surf contest now runs under the title U.S. Open of Surfing. Organizers successfully created a stadium style atmosphere where the world’s elite surfers flock to compete in front of the thousands of surf fans, industry giants, and a peer group that pushes the envelope of surfing ability year after year.