Forget driving to many of the world’s biggest professional sporting events this summer: Most of them are FAR away. The World Cup takes place in South Africa, England hosts Wimbledon in July, the same month France gets a big ol’ boner for its Tour de France, and professional tennis’ U.S. Open is in Queens.
But sometimes, the greatest pro athletes in the world come to us.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF SKIMBOARDING
June 19-20, Aliso State Park, Laguna Beach
“This is the one contest that people travel to from all around the world,” says Tex Hines, the co-founder and owner of Victoria Skimboards, which has hosted the event for 34 years. “It’s the biggest field and the best competition.”
“Orange County really is the world capital of skimboarding,” says Nick Aleandro, the team manager of Victoria Skimboards’ group of sponsored riders. “We’ve got really good conditions, and [the techniques] of skimboarding really lend themselves to skateboarding. So kids here start really young, and they can do it year-round. But the sport is definitely changing. We’re starting to see great competition from other parts of the country and internationally.”
Though it doesn’t get the enormous gallery of a certain surfing championship held in Huntington Beach later in the summer, the WCS draws its own healthy contingent, Aleandro says, largely because the farthest skimboarders can catch a wave is maybe 30 yards off-shore.
This year is distinctive because it’s the first year women will compete for a cash prize. About 120 to 140 contestants participate each year, but most competitions begin and end with Bill Bryan; the Laguna Beach resident has won a mindboggling 14 times.
“He’s heroic beyond belief,” Hines says. “There are a lot of guys just waiting from him to retire, but he’s still out there in his mid-30s, just pummeling away.”
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ALL-STAR GAME
July 13, Angel Stadium, Anaheim
Some other heroes—and ridiculously well-paid ones at that—will converge on Angel Stadium in July. Unlike every other major-sport all-star game, the midsummer contest between the fan-voted starting lineup and the manager-selected reserves of the American League (AL) and National League (NL) actually means something. Since the 2002 game was disastrously called a draw after the score was tied at 7 after 11 innings, MLB has decreed that whichever league wins draws home-field advantage in the World Series.
Some new wrinkles for this year’s contest include the permanent inclusion of a designated hitter, regardless of which league is hosting the event; a one-man roster increase to 34 players; and a bending of normal baseball rules to allow one position player to re-enter the game if necessitated by injury.
This is the third year Anaheim has hosted the All-Star game; the first year was a classic, and the second featured a classic moment.
In 1967, Cincinnati Red Tony Perez blasted a home run in the top of the 15th inning that proved the difference in an NL 2-1 win. Not the most exciting game from an offensive standpoint, but just consider that 20 players who’d wind up in baseball’s Hall of Fame participated, including Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Tom Seaver. The big blow in the 1989 All-Star game at Anaheim came early: Bo Jackson’s mammoth home run in the bottom of the first. At the time, Jackson was as big an athlete as there was in the country—remember the whole “Bo Knows” campaign?—and he delivered with gusto. Former Angel Nolan Ryan got the win that day, in a 5-3 AL victory. (Don’t look for any Angels to make the starting lineup this year.)
The All-Star game brings much more to town than the world’s best baseball players: The All-Star Fan Fest will be held July 9 to 13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s 45,000 square feet of interactive activities and a slew of exhibits honoring the All-Star Game and baseball. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for kids 12 and under; brats under 2 are free.
Then there’s All-Star Sunday, which takes place two days before the All-Star game and includes a futures game, featuring hot domestic and international prospects, as well as a celebrity softball game. It’s a five-inning contest that is a lot of fun and attracts baseball legends and a decent selection of celebs. (Look for that contingent to be even brighter this year due to the whole SoCal thing.) But you pay for the privilege: The cheapest available tickets as of late May started at $75.
Finally, there’s the home-run derby the night before the big game. This exhibition of brute force is nearly as popular as the actual All-Star Game, with live TV coverage on ESPN. Tickets for the derby, which is part of the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, run $145 to $330, all of which is donated to charity.
The All-Star Game will absolutely sell out. Tickets started at $145 to $350 but quickly disappeared. As of May, the cheapest ticket on stubhub.com was $350 for view level, while a VIP Diamond Club ticket was being offered at a cool $10,000. America: fuck yeah, indeed.
THE U.S. OPEN OF SURFING
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.
MALOOF MONEY CUP
Aug. 4-8, OC Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa
www.ocfair.com or www.maloofmoneycup.com
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.”
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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.