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Travel Tramps

Surf City hosting the U.S. Open of Surfing

by Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin
- Posted // 2012-08-03 - We’ve been hanging out in Huntington Beach, Calif., this week, which happens to be the center of the surf universe at the moment. “HB,” which officially calls itself “Surf City USA” is hosting the U.S. Open of Surfing. The nine-day event ends this weekend with both men’s and women’s finals on Sunday, when about 150,000 people are expected to pack the beach to the point that you can’t even see the sand.

HB_Surfer_.jpgPhoto by Kathleen Curry

Dubbing yourself Surf City USA is a pretty bold claim, sort of like Ski Utah proclaiming our resorts have “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” but Huntington backs it up in a lot of ways. It’s home to the International Surf Museum, the Surfers'Hall of Fame, the Surfing Walk of Fame, a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, who brought surfing to California from Hawaii, and a restaurant named after him -- Duke’s -- that serves fresh seafood, great coconut shrimp and Hula Pie, a delicious combination of macadamia nuts, ice cream, whipped cream and fudge. The phrase, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” doesn’t really apply here since happy hour finds the bar full of people in bikinis, bathing suits and flip-flops. Even the bus benches in HB are shaped like waves.

Most of the above sit in an area known as “The Times Square of Surfing,” where the HB Pier, Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street all meet together, with Huntington Surf & Sport on one corner and Jack’s Surfboards on the other in a sort of Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry of beach-inspired clothing.

If nothing else, Huntington Beach has a laid-back surf vibe. It’s the sort of place where a surfboard shop owner like Rick Fignetti aka Rockin’ Fig will open the Rockin' Fig Surf Shop a bit late if the waves are good that morning, since he prides himself more on being on the Walk of Fame than his business acumen.

The U.S. Open this week is one of those events, like the Super Bowl or Sundance, where the party surrounding the event often overshadows the event itself. Behind the stands set up facing the beach to watch the surfing are a number of stages, an arena for biking and skateboarding and bunches of tents selling anything you might be able to think would be related to the beach. It’s a reminder that surfing’s most successful contribution to America is its culture. Not a lot of people actually surf, but everybody wants to look like a surfer.

The number of actual surfers were exponentially outnumbered by people just looking for cool drinks and hot babes -- a not unreasonable expectation given that most of the girls were walking around with “Free Hugs” written on their stomachs in magic marker. But hey, except for the bikinis, it’s not much different from a typical ski-race event at one of Utah’s famed resorts.

To hear more about all of the above, check out our radio show about Huntington Beach by clicking here.

The Travel Tramps write regularly about their treks near and far in City Weekly, as well as blogging online at CityWeekly.net. You can also listen to Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin on the weekly Travel Brigade Radio Show and  follow them on Twitter @TravelBrigade.

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