The Return of The US Open to ‘Surf City’
Surfing made its Olympic debut this year in Tokyo as part of a mission to make the Olympic programme more youthful and culture driven. Due to the nature of the sport, the judging criteria are quite different taking into account the fact that no two waves are ever the same and bringing with them the potential to make or break the surfer’s speed and flow. All of these measures still didn’t help the competition from being subjective and a matter of luck and opinion.
For many years, critics have touted surfing as an activity and not a sport for this very reason. A competitive sport is played in a controlled environment with rules and structures in places, it’s what makes the game “fair”. In surfing, however, one could be the greatest surfer but the tide could let them down. This is why it is difficult to elect a single “best surfer” using the same measure employed to name someone the best tennis player.
In an article for , Brain Bickemstaff who himself was a former surfer argues that championship surf leagues resemble a long-winded advertisement rather than a legitimate sport. He goes on to add that “the clothing and apparel industry that banks on the surfing culture are far, far bigger than the actual professional surfing economy”.
Surfing is associated with a calmer life, you can’t surf with a phone in your hand and the places in the world where surf culture thrives are the quieter and more laid back cities and towns such as Venice Beach, Hawaii, the outskirts of New York and Australia. They have gone beyond a sport and influenced counter culture in the same way skating does.
The US Open of surfing opened this Monday in Huntington Beach and is receiving significantly more attention due to the sport’s presence in the Olympics. It has always been a grand affair for surf enthusiasts though, who are more than disheartened to hear about how the event will be a lot smaller this time around and include only 150 surfers. The sting of a scaled-down event is even harsher when reminded of the fact that the last time there was a US open was upwards of two years ago.
The US open of surfing has a long history and brought with it hordes of tourists to Huntington Beach every year since 1959. With an estimated 375,00 visitors in it's 2018 edition. The beach town is now colloquially called “Surf City, USA” and is synonymous with the event. Back in the 2000s, the event was usually sponsored by vans and included free concerts and a lot more pomp and splendour than its 2021 counterpart.
The event will run through September 26th with standout competitors such as Kanoa Igarashi, Zeke Lau, Brianna Cope and Conner Coffin.
Attendees are most excited for the return of two time US open winner Kanoa Igarashi, who returns to his home turf of Huntington after surfing around the world and even winning a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this summer.
The women’s event will also include past winners such as Sage Erickson and Courtney Conlogue. And although securing the coveted win is high on everyone’s list, most surfers are expressing that what they’re most excited about is to just have fun again and finally enjoy competitive surfing after the gap the pandemic brought with it.
“I just like competing here, I love having my hometown fans. I love being here and coming back to where it first started.” expressed Courtney Conlogue in an interview with the Orange County Register.
It’s the very laidback aspect of surfing culture that makes the sport so enticing. It isn’t nearly as competitive as other sports and maybe that’s a good thing. The culture that surrounds the sport and its association with fashion and lifestyle shouldn’t be considered garish but an extension of the sport. In the same vein as skating, surfing becomes an identity and wetsuits become a second skin. These competitors don’t just participate in the competition but embody being a surfer.
Catch the tail end of the US opens through this