Professional Grade

[Summer Guide] Welcome to OC in the summertime, where the big boys and girls come to play

Aug 2-8, Huntington Beach Pier

The approximately 45,000 asses that will fill Angel Stadium won’t come close to the hundreds of thousands who will attend the U.S. Open of Surfing.

An estimated 500,000 people attended the 2009 event, where local products took the men’s and women’s crowns. Brett Simpson, a Huntington Beach native, won the Men’s Open, and 17-year-old Santa Ana resident Courtney Conlogue won the Women’s Open.

Last year’s event attracted the best field in years due to promises of optimum surfing conditions. Who knows what Poseidon will summon this year, but James Leitz, executive producer of the IMG-owned event, believes the field will be even stronger due to the decision in April by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) to elevate the men’s division to six-star PRIME status. That means it’s now one of nine events on the ASP PRIME Tour, the last rung of professional surfing before the elite ASP World Tour, which features $400,000 purses. The U.S. Open of Surfing has a bigger men’s purse, $250,000, and, just as important for professionals, more world-ranking points.

“I think moving this event to PRIME status is an indication of how important the tour believes the Open is as a marketing and communications platform and as a showcase for its athletes in the back yard of the sports-marketing industry,” Leitz says. “But it also pays homage to the heritage of the event and the surfing culture in general.”

What makes the U.S. Open of Surfing unique among surfing events is that it’s a genuine action-sports event. Along with the surfing, there are BMX riding and a skateboarding bowl, a junior men’s and women’s surfing competition, and a longboard demo. “To wrap up all the other action sports along with the lifestyle and music makes it a magnet for youth culture and sports fans in general,” Leitz says. “There’s nothing else like it.”

The Open occupies 15 acres south of the Huntington Beach Pier. “We like to keep the north side free so people can enjoy the beach,” Leitz says. “But we stretch a good quarter-mile south, and every square inch has something. There’s the surfing stadium, the BMX stadium, the skateboard bowl, and the concert venue, festival village and seven Jumbotrons. There really is a lot down there.”

One thing you can’t get: alcohol. It’s a family-friendly vibe.

And finally: It’s all free. “To stage an event like this and allow people access to these athletes and a great experience for free is just about unheard-of,” Leitz says.

Aug. 4-8, OC Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa or

It’s going to be a very busy weekend in Orange County. At the same time surfers hit the water for the world’s largest surfing contest, the world’s top skateboarders will converge at the Orange County Fair for the third Maloof Money Cup.

The festival—which includes the U.S. Pro Men’s and Women’s Street Championships, the U.S. Pro Vert Championships, and the Maloof Money Cup Am Championships—sports the biggest purse of any professional skateboarding event: $450,000.

“What makes us unique in the sport is that we’re really built by skateboarders for skateboarders,” says Maloof Money Cup vice president Tim McFerrin. “I’ve heard it called the Woodstock of skateboarding, and I’d have to agree.”

A committee of professional boarders is building both the street course and the vert ramp for the OC event. The involvement of fellow professionals and the fat purse brought the cream of the world’s skateboarders to OC the first two years, and McFerrin has no doubts the pattern will continue.

“When we started this, we knew we had to do something that no other event had done: bring all the best skateboarders to the same event,” McFerrin says. “We didn’t want just a few of the best skateboarders; we wanted all of them. And that’s what we’ve done. Everybody wants to be in it. The only time we’re turned down is because of injuries. Because what’s the sense of not having the best? It’d be like an NBA all-star game without LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.”

About 8,000 people can fit into the fairgrounds’ arena for the event; McFerrin is hopeful that, beginning next year, a permanent street course will be built that can occupy the arena all year.

“We could add money to the purse, but what we really want to focus on is giving something back to the community,” he says. “We built a $1.8 million skateboard park for New York City [for the inaugural New York City Maloof Money Cup, held June 5 and 6], and to put something permanent in a place where the world’s greatest skateboarders live would be much more impactful for us—and the sport—than just raising the prize money.”

The Fair is hosting five days of Maloof-related shenanigans: On Aug. 4 is a legends-of-skateboarding event, followed the next day by an all-comers contest, which allows just about anybody to skate on the two mammoth structures built for the event. Both events are free with Fair admission.

The real action takes place Friday through Sunday, with preliminaries the first two days and finals on Sunday. Tickets begin at $15 for prelims and $20 for the finals, which begin at 10:30 a.m.

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