The nine-day U.S. Open of Surfing, one of the sports biggest events, wrapped Sunday afternoon in Huntington Beach. Crowds during the week totaled in the millions and the final day was a bit of a madhouse with hordes of beach goers spilling out of the stadium seating and overtaking the expo area.
It’s unclear how many of the masses actually came to see the competition but given the sheer numbers, it’s no surprise that at the conclusion of the event, scores of people rampaged down the palm tree-lined streets, damaging city vehicles and street signs, throwing punches and flipping porta-potties. By the time helmeted police broke up the disturbance hours later — allegedly firing pepper-spray pellets and tear gas in the process — at least eight people had been arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse, the Huntington Beach Police Department reported.
Wave conditions in Surf City can be a challenge during the summer, with south or westerly winds popping up late morning or early afternoon. High tide also tends to suck most of the energy out of any swell in the water. When we arrived about noon for the women’s surf final, we had to fight our way through the claustrophobia-inducing crowd, encountering billboard-carrying evangelists, bikini-clad teenagers in various stages of PDA, young girls with sharpie requests written on their stomachs and plenty of Red-Bull-fueled party-goers queued up for free swag. The sun made brief appearances, but Sunday’s weather was mostly gray.
Until the spontaneous riots (which we blissfully missed) the women’s final WAS the story of the event. Hawaii’s Carissa Moore and local favorite Courtney Conlogue battled fiercely down to the wire, displaying grit and showmanship. Earlier, Conlogue put in an amazing showing in front of her hometown crowd, besting then ratings’ leader Tyler Wright (AUS) in the Semifinals. When the crowd erupted during Conlogue’s final ride, it seemed like it was her championship but Moore eeked out more points and took the title. Moore moves to the No. 1 spot and took home $15,000 (a far cry from the men’s $100,000 purse)
In the men’s contest, Alejo Muniz’s win over Kolohe Andino in what can only be described as lackluster surf. Muniz becomes the first from Brazil to win the U.S. Open of Surfing. To their credit, the finalists made 2- to 3-foot waves look fun.
On Saturday, Santa Barbara native Conner Coffin won his second straight U.S. Open Junior Pro championship while South African Bianca Buitendag took the women’s Junior Pro title with an almost-perfect 18.10 score.
There was a small mid-week crowd for the girls’ skate contest in the Vans Pro Bowl. Lizzie Armanto took first place in the competition followed by Julz Lynn, Nora Vasconcellos, Hunter Long, Alysha Bergado and Amelia Brodka.
Sunday’s men’s final was insane with Ben Hatchell taking the title followed by Grayson Fletcher and Raven Tershy. Fletcher got the wind knocked out of him during the jam session, but got up minutes later and blasted a backside air on the quarter pipe showing everyone that he was fine. All the top guys were inspiring.
Which brings us back to the conclusion of the event. Numerous witnesses caught the post Open mayhem on cellphone cameras and took to social media to share photos and videos. Footage shows individuals jumping on fallen porta-potties, kicking newspaper stands, yanking at least one street sign from its post, smashing the front window of Easy Rider and trying to loot the local, family-owned bike shop.
Another pic from downtown HB tonight. pic.twitter.com/EWkDRGfEfj
— Scott (@LinckHB) July 29, 2013
It was a bizarre end to what was otherwise an epic week of surfing and skateboarding and uncharacteristic behavior for the usually mellow surf crowd.
Courtney Conlogue is Pretty Tough athlete of the Month