Update: Shortly after publishing this article several large fights and a riot broke out on Main Street in Huntington Beach. The Huntington Police Department is handling the situation and will provide an update soon.
I had to leave Huntington Beach yesterday. After brushing past a pretty intense “chick fight,” getting screamed at by cops for accidentally walking into a HAZMAT-obstructed horror scene on Main St., and watching a billboard-carrying evangelist accost a lesbian couple, I couldn’t stay any longer. And don’t get me wrong, I love a party. But after three days, Huntington had begun to wear on me. On my soul. The teenage-public-make-out-and-ass-slapping frenzy rioted quietly on the beach, and I tried to make sense of it all. Impossible. Festivals like these need not make sense. I don’t expect them to. But, being that Huntington Beach is our stomping grounds, and the US Open of Surfing is our creation (meaning the action sports and surf industry), it’d be nice to roll it up into a sensible sentence or two. If I spent another hour thinking about that sentence, I’d deliver one. Instead, I’ll do this pictorially. Because it’s the imagery that has the staying power. Brace yourself. Apologies in advance.
When I think of the US Open, I think first of this image a friend shared on Facebook (which, coincidentally, is not from this year’s event, but representative nonetheless):
Then, I think of this:
Then I think of this:
Which may have subconsciously lead to a series of fights and riots in Huntington Beach this evening. So, now I think of this:
Here’s a press release Huntington Beach Police Department released in response tonight:
Disturbance in Downtown Huntington Beach
July 28, 2013 at 9:21pm
On the 7-28-13 at 7:16 PM officers encountered a large crowd at Main and Pacific Coast Highway. The crowd had gathered at the conclusion of the Van’s US Open of Surfing, an 8 day surf and skate event. A large fight broke out and when officers attempted to break up the disturbance the crowd moved into the downtown area. The crowds began fighting, damaging property and refused to disperse.
HBPD requested mutual aid from other agencies to help disperse the crowd. The area was declared an unlawful assembly and officers have moved in to deal with the crowd and make arrests. The police now have control of the downtown area and the disturbance quelled.
We do not have any specific information about the number of arrests, number of agencies who have responded, damaged property or injuries at this time.
We will update this press release as soon as possible.
The reason I associate Huntington Beach’s US Open with these things is because they all happened. And things like these (riot aside…despite the first OP Riots happening in 1986) happen every year at the United States Open of Surfing. It’s not surfing’s (or humanity’s) best foot forward. I have a certain respect for surfing and its rejuvenating purity that makes the debauchery especially offensive. So it bothers me when imagery and behavior like this so boldly perverts our passion. And that’s not to say the U.S. Open of Surfing didn’t have inspiring moments.
The women’s final essentially WAS the story of the event (before the riot, at least). Carissa Moore and Courtney Conlogue battled fiercely down to the wire, and their showmanship did its part in restoring the focus to the surf. Alejo Muniz’s win over Kolohe Andino was also inspiring despite the lackluster surf.
And I’d like to focus on surfing at the US Open of Surfing, but I cannot. I don’t think anyone can. It’s impossible. I mean, what’s more memorable? Kolohe’s heat, the fights and riots, or that Facebook picture?
Read 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater’s opinion on the Huntington Beach riots as well as 2-Time US Open Champion Brett Simpson’s perspective.