There will be more than just a surf contest to enjoy when the US Open of Surfing splashes back into Huntington Beach.
Plans are unfolding for a return this summer to the more-typical mega festival the event is known for, after last year’s scaled-down version on the south side of the famed Huntington Beach pier.
Costa Mesa-based Vans has signed on as sponsor this year after a two-year hiatus, and offered a bit of an early look at some of the features planned for the July 30 through Aug. 7 event.
A “Vans Showdown” will bring skateboarding back to the sandy stage, in an event “where culture meets competition,” according to an update by George Pedrick, Vans brand communication manager.
In previous years, Vans has built entire skate pools and street courses on the sand, a few years ago even putting a mega half-pipe on the beach. The skate contest draws some of the globe’s best riders.
BMX riding will also return to the festival.
A main theme for the event will emphasize creating an “awareness on the importance of sustainability and eco consciousness” and Vans plans to work with groups such as Orange County Coastkeeper and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Pedrick said.
It’s unclear exactly how big the festival area or Vans’ retail center will be this year; in pre-pandemic times, booths and games would fill the entire sand area on the south side of the pier to the boardwalk.
This year’s event will also include a Duct Tape Invitational and Festival, featuring a field of male and female longboard surfers.
The World Surf League, which hosts the US Open of Surfing, announced on Monday, March 28, the Huntington Beach specialty event as one of three stops on the WSL Longboard tour. The tour kicks off in Australia before stopping in Huntington Beach, with a final event planned for Malibu.
The US Open of Surfing is a stop on the World Surf League’s Challenger Series, a new format for professional surfing that allows hungry surfers to earn valuable points for a chance to make it the following year onto the elite Championship Tour.
The Challenger Series field will include 96 men and 64 women for most events, pulling from the Championship Tour, WSL regions and wildcards.
Last year, San Clemente’s Griffin Colapinto and Oceanside surfer Caitlin Simmers won the US Open of Surfing events.
Huntington Surf & Sport owner Aaron Pai said he will be bringing back the Surfers’ Hall of Fame induction at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway during the US Open of Surfing. The event recognizes iconic and legendary surfers who fly in from around world to put their hands and feet in cement for the honor.
The past two years, smaller Hall of Fame events have been held at different times of the year, rather than its regular slot during the big surf contest. Details of who will be recognized on Aug. 5 are expected to be released in coming weeks.
The Surfing Walk of Fame, across the street at Jack’s Surfboards, where surfers are honored with granite pavers, is also planned this year, landing on Aug. 4.
For many Huntington Beach businesses, the nine days of the US Open of Surfing represent some of their biggest weeks for sales outside of the holiday season.
“We’re happy things are getting back to normal and the Vans US Open is coming back to Huntington Beach,” Pai said.
And it’s a big tourism draw not just for Huntington Beach, but also for nearby Newport Beach and Seal Beach, he noted.
“It’s just good for the sport of surfing, good for the business, good for the community,” Pai said. “It’s just good all around – good to be back to normal.”
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Visit Huntington Beach, said it’s big news for the city and region’s tourism to have the event back to its normal time of year, with last year happening in September instead of summer.
“We’re stoked beyond belief,” Miller said.
In 2018, Visit Huntington Beach teamed up with Destination Analysis to study the local impact of the US Open of Surfing, finding direct visitor spending had jumped from $ 21.5 million in 2010, the last time a study was done, to $ 55.8 million in 2018 – more than doubling in less than a decade.
If the last two pandemic years are any indication, people will continue to seek outdoors space, with the Huntington Beach event on the beach a perfect venue for people who want to do nearby, domestic travel, Miller said.
“I think people want to get out and travel, and the regional drive market is really our No. 1 focus right now. We are spending a lot of time, resources and energy on messaging to our core drive markets,” he said. California is our No. 1 market. ”
Typically, hundreds of thousands of people visit for the surfing competition and festival; the same tourism study showing 375,000 people attended over the course of nine days in 2018.
Miller said he expects crowds won’t be as big as in pre-pandemic years, “but I think it’s going to be a must-come-down-and-watch event in Southern California.”