U.S. Open of Surfing: Protesters, Activists, Snakes Square Off on PCH

​Visitors to the U.S. Open of Surfing hoping for a relatively friendly, laid-back atmosphere were instead greeted Saturday by several dozen protesters, Christian activists and a fucking boa constrictor over the course of the day on Saturday.

Many of the most vocal groups set up at the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, directly in front of the Huntington Beach Pier and the opening gates of the Open, trying to catch the attention of the thousands of people streaming onto the beach from the downtown area.

More pictures and a recap of yesterday's Open competition, after the jump.
Christian activists show up at pretty much every major Orange County event, but these ones were a little more vocal than usual.

One group, Christian Surfers, in partnership with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, decided that marching straight down the Pier and into the festival village, flags and chants ready, was the best way to get themselves noticed.

U.S. Open of Surfing: Protesters, Activists, Snakes Square Off on PCH
All pictures by Josh Cain/OC Weekly
​​The cause was good--one member of the CFF said that surfing actually helps alleviate some of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis in children who have contracted the deadly respiratory disease--but there's a very good chance that most of the bros who showed up for the Open at that point had no idea what was going on.

​​Of course, there was also the usual crowd of faithful downtown. If you live here, you've probably seen guys with these signs.

They were out in force on Saturday.

The loudest of them all was the man with the microphone you'll see below.

By mid-afternoon, he was there yelling at everyone on Main Street. The man holding the cross, whose name I couldn't hear above all the chanting and jeering from the crowd, said that the group of supporters was from several different ministries around Orange County.

U.S. Open of Surfing: Protesters, Activists, Snakes Square Off on PCH
​Jameer Gilmer, one of the group's supporters, had this to say when asked why they protesting:

"Homosexuality is legal. Marijuana is legal. We're just trying to take the country back!" she said.

As for weed, Gilmer was probably referencing the protesters who had set up shop right across the street on the curb of PCH.

U.S. Open of Surfing: Protesters, Activists, Snakes Square Off on PCH
The protesters were from the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)​.

Their leader at the rally, Tracie Neria, said they were out on PCH because they had tried to get a booth in the Open's festival village a few years ago, but were denied.

"We're just trying to keep people out of jail," Neria said of the group's mission.

There was one other pretty noticeable group near the pier yesterday, but they didn't have a political message, just a big-ass snake.

U.S. Open of Surfing: Protesters, Activists, Snakes Square Off on PCH
One man who was carrying the snake, which they pulled out of a large, rolling backpack, said that they brought the animal to the Open to "make money for food." Good plan. They charged five bucks for a photo with the boa constrictor.​

U.S. Open attendees probably could have taken a few seconds to admire this circus-like atmosphere just outside the festival village and called it a day well spent, but there was also plenty of excitement on the ocean on Saturday.

​​​Last year's cinderella story and Huntington Beach local hero, Brett Simpson, had a tough draw in surfing phenom Dane Reynolds of Ventura in the final heat of the day. It was worth the wait.

Things started off badly for Simpson, who couldn't land a trick on his first wave, going under after his air attempt. Luckily for him, Reynolds wasn't on top of his game either; he struggled to land quite a few of his own tricks. Even so, Reynolds must have gotten a few of his points just for the difficulty of the maneuvers he was attempting. On one wave he got a ton of air and tried a spinning reverse, but he couldn't complete it.

Simpson picked it up on his second wave, catching huge air near the pier and grabbing a 7.77 score. Later, he'd grab another almost perfect score on a wave near the shoreline, pulling off a huge air that earned him a 9.37. With that score he advanced to the quarterfinals, which started today.

The men's final will start today a little before noon, so if you get your ass down to Huntington Beach Pier in time, you'll be in store for plenty of entertainment. And if you miss that, there's always the crazies right out in front of the pier. 


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