While most of the events on the ASP World Tour are featured at fixed world-class surf locations like Lower Trestles, Jeffreys Bay and Pipeline, the Rip Curl Pro Search introduces a different venue for the world’s greatest surfers to compete in each year. Over the past six years, the Rip Curl Pro Search has been held at Reunion Island, Mainland Mexico, Chile, Bali, Portugal, and Puerto Rico, where Kelly Slater won his unprecedented 10th ASP World Title. This year, the Rip Curl Pro Search is coming to San Francisco, where from November 1st – 11th the top surfers in the world will be surfing the frigid, churning waters of Ocean Beach.
Rip Curl held a private meeting at a local bar last week with some of Ocean Beach’s top surfers to go over the details and to make sure the community was behind it. While there wasn’t overwhelming support, the surfers didn’t voice an opposition to the idea either.
“I think generally, the take was the surfers are in favor of doing it,” said longtime Maverick’s competitor and Ocean Beach resident Ryan Seelbach, who attended the meeting. “We’re in favor of everyone seeing the real Ocean Beach. Everyone only sees those perfect days that happen a handful of days. We want the public to see that this is a beach break that only sees perfect days maybe 20 days out of the year.”
The ASP World Tour is seeing a shift from isolated surf locations with pristine conditions to urban areas that may not have the best waves but can bring in more attention to a major surf contest. The Billabong Pro Santa Catarina is moving to Rio de Janeiro, Quiksilver is introducing the Quiksilver Pro New York this year which will be based off Long Island, and now the Rip Curl Pro Search is having a contest in San Francisco.
“I like that it’s a small footprint,” said Seelbach. “They’re coming in, they’re going to have a contest, they’re going to leave. No billboards, no huge advertisements, it’s what everyone wants to see. It’s not like the Bud Tour (a series of surf contests that took place at Ocean Beach in the 80’s and 90’s) is coming in. It’ll also be awesome for the city and the surfers to see the professionals surfing Ocean Beach, and how well they surf it. It’s going to be awesome to see guys rip.”
Surfline‘s Editor-in-Chief Marcus Sanders announced a few rules set forth by Rip Curl. There will be no local trials. There will be no hoopla accompanying the event, meaning no music festivals, skateparks, etc. There will be no personal water crafts assisting surfers (with the possible exception of PWCs available for rescue purposes). And there will be no backup venues, with the stretch of Ocean Beach available for contest purposes running from stairwell 20 at VFW’s north to Kelly’s Cove.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of a contest of this size coming to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach will be checking out how the top 35 surfers in the world handle Ocean Beach’s extremely fickle, and often dangerous conditions. While Maverick’s receives most of the attention for big waves, when a strong northwest or west swells hits the Pacific Coast, Ocean Beach will often times see waves that are just minimally smaller than its neighbor to the south.
“Ocean Beach takes care of itself,” said Seelbach. “It’s hard to paddle out, conditions are incredibly dynamic and constantly changing. Between the tides and winds, trying to predict a good session can be really difficult.”
Given that the World Title chase often comes down to the final few contests, San Francisco could be the site of where the 2011 ASP World Champion is crowned. The contest window for the Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco opens on November 1st and closes November 11th.