In ten days’ time, droves of people will descend on Huntington Beach for the 2018 Vans U.S. Open of Surfing. Ask most residents, and that 8-day summertime window is almost universally viewed with scorn. In the last few years, the event has managed to shake its riot-inducing reputation by eliminating free concerts and promoting a family-friendly vibe. Still, most HBers see it as a time to hibernate and avoid downtown and Pacific Coast Highway altogether. Myself included. The nature of my job, though, often finds me down on the sand despite my better judgment.
To say attending the U.S. Open is a chaotic amalgam of sand-breathing, underage boys and girls sporting scant clothes and bodypaint with mildly-entertaining surfing save the occasional flash of brilliance is putting it lightly. For a devoted surf fan, the experience can be infuriating. Apparently, the World Surf League knows this. And among the laundry list of unprecedented changes professional surfing has undergone this year, here’s another: for 1,499 bucks or $199 per day, you can purchase a VIP U.S. Open experience with a handful of perks while the plebes roast in the sun.
The whole kit and kaboodle includes, and I quote:
- Access to the exclusive, shaded WSL VIP deck with great views of the action in the water, from 7 AM – 5 PM each day
- Free catered breakfast, lunch and beverage
- An exclusive event gift bag
- A 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour of the event, and
- A VIP parking pass
It’s “something cooler, breezier, and more comfortable,” explains the WSL.
As I mentioned, the cost is $1,499 for all eight days (January 28-August 5) or $199 per day. To which I say: don’t fucking bother.
Come closer, friend, and let me give you a few tips here.
You’ll want to shoot yourself if you go every day
Number one, if you’re even considering going to the U.S. Open every day without being obligated to do so, smack yourself. Then smack yourself again. Everyone knows the action is more entertaining as the week goes on. Not to mention the wait period for the Men’s QS and Women’s CT events doesn’t even start until Monday the 30th. Of course, the surfing is all condition dependent, so take a look at the forecast and adjust accordingly – preferably avoiding the weekend as it’s infinitely more hectic.
Existing obstructions make great shade
One of the main selling points of the WSL experience is the “VIP deck.” The funny thing about the contest area is it’s next to the HB Pier, which, if navigated properly, can be a great source of free shade for your viewing pleasure. Every year, Vans also scatters free umbrellas up and down the beach for the crowd’s use. Also free. No promises if that’ll be the case this year, but to be safe you can always bring your own.
Pack a lunch and get breakfast elsewhere
I fancy myself a breakfast aficionado. Here are a few recommendations to support local businesses that are off the main drag and unlikely to be crowded during U.S. Open time: Breadcrumb Ohana Café, Jon’s Coffee Shoppe. Or if you want grub in spitting distance from the contest site, you can battle the line at Sugar Shack. All three I promise you will cost you less than $299 for a meal. And a packed lunch in a backpack is a good idea, too.
Buy your U.S. Open garb online
A create-your-own gift bag, here.
If you want to go “behind-the-scenes” of the U.S. Open, there’s no helping you
Here’s to hoping the entire contest is run by crazy, intelligent rabbits from outer space. Short of that, personally I’d pass.
A bike is your friend
The most valuable element of the WSL’s VIP package is its VIP parking pass. Still, trying to get to either of the pier’s main lots (where, I presume, VIPs will be allowed to park) on the last weekend of the contest will mean enduring weekend PCH gridlock both north and south of the pier. I don’t wish that upon anyone. The best option, really, is to park a mile or two away and bike the rest. Avoid the boardwalk, too, as foot traffic will be so slow it’ll force you to walk that bike most of the way.
In the end, the whole VIP experience seems unnecessary and begs the question: Who, exactly, is the WSL hoping will buy into this whole thing? If you enjoy throwing money away, learn more here, I guess.
Editor’s note: Since this story was originally published, the WSL has reduced the price of VIP tickets from $2499 for the week and $299 per day to $1499 for the week and $199 per day. Prices mentioned in the article have been adjusted accordingly.