The anniversary of the Huntington Beach riots that occurred last just July is quickly approaching this summer and the city of Huntington Beach has made some changes this year to ensure the U.S. Open focuses on what is really important: the sport.
The first U.S. Open, then called the West Coast Surfing Championship, was held in 1959. The event usually consists of the world’s best surfers in competition and most have been made famous by the event. The likes of Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Andy Irons became huge draws for eager crowds to catch a glimpse of these talented wave riders. However over the last couple of years the spotlight has been taken away from the competition and shown on the huge spectacle that the event has become. Live music acts, skate park demonstrations, and a huge vendor village with alcohol and free swag. Every year more then five hundred thousand people attended the event, making the downtown area nearly impossible to navigate with sometimes unruly out-of-towners.
Last year the event reached a breaking point when on the last day of the competition a huge riot broke out on the streets of downtown. Local businesses were destroyed and all the bars and businesses went on lock down.
Huntington Beach resident and bartender at Perqs Bar on main street, Yuri Choi was working when it happened. Choi says, “It was crazy, people tipping over port-a-potties and breaking down street signs. The police came in and told us no one could leave and so we locked the doors and we all just watched”.
This year, from July 26 to Aug. 3, however, is going to be different. According to city council member Chris Cole, “we are focused on the sport this year.”
Cole also says that this year there will be no live music, no public skate park, no vendor village, and no alcohol.
“The city of Huntington Beach is celebrating 100 years of surfing this year, as in 100 years ago, the first surfer went out and caught a wave on the pier,” said Cole. In addition to those changes the task force has upped its staff this year to ensure the safest possible experience for everyone.
Cypress College student and psychology major, John Forsythe 19, attempted to go last year but it just looked too crowded. He said, “Last year me and my friends wanted to go but it was so just crazy down there. There was nowhere to park and everyone was just walking around not even watching the competition”.
When told about the changes being made this year Forsythe said, “I think that is just for the best, I mean no one was even watching the surf!”
Don’t expect the event to be any less fun this year with the changes: the city plans to celebrate 100 years of surfing in a big way, and the competition will be tough this year making for some great surfing action. Huntington beach is, after all, Surf City USA for a reason. This year everyone will be reminded why.