One of the most popular and prestigious surfing events in the world is the US Open of Surfing, which took place in Huntington Beach (Surf City), CA from July 20-28, 2013 featuring top pro men and women surfers, plus skate and BMX events, street art exhibitions, loads of sponsors, and music with performances from Modest Mouse and Matt Costa. The past few years, this huge event was sponsored by Hurley (Nike), which elevated the level of the event into a full-blown festival experience, especially during the last few days of competition leading into the finals.
This year, Vans took over the coveted title sponsor position as Nike exited surfing in general, giving it over to Hurley which has also limited their involvement in the sport overall. What was interesting to see was if Vans and the other sponsors such as Fiat, Paul Mitchell, Pacifico, and Red Bull would still have as large and robust an event as before. With more than 100,000 fans onsite to catch the action, it was clearly a success.
The Vans US Open of Surfing also represents the 4th of 8 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) prime events on the 2013 calendar, offering crucial points towards surfers’ ASP World Ranking and for the men, a coveted $100,000 first place prize purse. Alejo Muniz, 23, from Brazil won the event over Kolohe Andino, 19 on Sunday, July 28 in front of a massive crowd.
Unfortunately when it comes to surfing, the discrepancy in prize purses is vast between the men’s and women’s competition even though they compete on the same waves within the same day. This is the dirty little secret that is rarely highlighted in any press releases or media. Sponsors and athletes are obviously painfully aware of this, even though ironically, surfing as an industry makes more money from the lifestyle surrounding the sport among females than males. However, little has been accomplished in changing the discrepancy, which is unlike action sports such as snowboarding which tends to have more equal pay for both males and females including most events and prize purses.
Carissa Moore, 20, from Hawaii won the Vans US Open of Surfing over local favorite Courtney Conlogue, 20, and moved into the No. 1 position on the ASP Women’s World Title Race from her win, but took home a check for $15,000 or basically, $85,000 less than Muniz.
Obviously Carissa was stoked as well as her sponsors and fans, but women’s surfing competitions and lack thereof over the past few years is in a bad situation. Several years ago, the Vans Triple Crown of surfing, the crowned glory on the North Shore of Oahu each December, dropped its women’s division in a heart-breaking move that upset the surfing community especially women surfers and their fans. The US Open of Surfing is the number 6 of 8 events the 2013 ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT), and plays both a crucial role in deciding the 2013 Women’s World Champion and qualification for next season’s ASP Top 17.
Muniz was in disbelief that he won the US Open, which earlier in the week, even had Kelly Slater beat.
“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it,” Muniz said. “Today marks the four-year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing and I’d like to dedicate this win to him. This is the biggest win of my career and it’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever surfed in front of. I knew I had to get scores and the waves were dying a little bit with the high tide and the ocean really cooperated with me today.”
Muniz, who entered the Vans US Open ranked No. 24, had struggled to find a big result throughout the first half of his ASP season, but vaults to No. 15 on the rankings compliments of his win in Huntington Beach today. “I’ve been really focused because I hadn’t really had big results coming in to this event,” Muniz said. “I was putting everything in to this event and the work paid off. I focused more on myself rather than who I was surfing against and what scores they were getting. I’ve been getting good scores, but losing heats for some reason. I knew inside that I just needed to get the good waves and surf how I could. I’m stoked that I was able to do it this week. I think I surfed smart all week and it’s been amazing.”
Kolohe Andino was the last Southern Californian remaining in men’s competition and was in dangerous form entering the final. The progressive regular-footer would open his final exchange with a 7.77 but was unable to find the second score needed to surpass Muniz, finishing runner-up overall.
“Congratulations to Alejo,” Andino said. “He surfed amazing all week. It would have been nice to win, but I just couldn’t find a second wave and I’m happy that I made the final.”
For Carissa, her won was just as astonishing for her. “To be honest I’m a little shocked right now because I thought Courtney (Conlogue) won when the crowd erupted on that last wave,” Moore said. “I let her go and I had priority and it was a bad decision, but I’m stoked that it worked out in my favor. I was happy to be in the final and Courtney’s in the title race and I had fun, but I was definitely nervous at the end of that heat. It’s such an honor to win this event in front of this big crowd. I feel amazing!”
Conlogue put in an amazing showing in front of her hometown crowd, besting then ratings’ leader Tyler Wright (AUS), 19, in the Semifinals. The regular-footer would fight hard to surpass Moore in the back half of the heat with her best two rides coming in the last five minutes. Unfortunately for the Californian, she was unable to surpass Moore’s opening heat efforts, finishing runner-up overall.
“It was definitely an amazing heat and Carissa (Moore), she’s been surfing really well,” Conlogue said. “With everyone screaming and the crowd on the pier I was definitely wanting to win. I was trying to be progressive and surfing the best that I could.”
Conlogue, who now sits at No 3 on the ASP Women’s WCT, is hoping to carry her momentum in to the final two events of the season in an attempt to rally for the 2013 ASP Women’s World Title.
“It feels really good to get second and I’m looking forward to going back to Europe,” Conlogue said. “Going to Hossegor is going to be exciting so it’s nice to get a result here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Tyler Wright (AUS), 19, was dominant throughout the Vans US Open of Surfing, earning her career-best result in Huntington Beach. The talented Australian’s run would end in the Semifinals, as she was stopped short by in-form local Courtney Conlogue, finishing equal 3rd overall. “I did the best I could with what I had out there and Courtney (Conlogue) caught the best waves,” Wright said. “A 3rd is the best result I’ve ever had here at the US Open and I’m happy with that.”
Pauline Ado (FRA), 22, matched her career-best result and crucial points towards her requalification campaign with an equal 3rd place finish. Ado put in a stellar performance throughout the Vans US Open of Surfing, but was unable to surpass Moore in their Semifinals heat. Ado now sits No. 10 among the ASP Top 17 due to her efforts. I’m a bit disappointed with my heat today,” Ado said. “I couldn’t find any good waves and feel like I didn’t surf my best, but I’m stoked on the result overall. I’ve had a great week at this event and a 3rd is putting me in a better position before the last two events in Europe.”
The range of other activities this year including a Hall of Fame celebration for Shane Dorian, Rockin’ Fig, and Skip Frye, plus a number of pro athlete autograph signings added significantly to the success of the event overall. Many young people flock to see their idols and get their autographs on posters and apparel, elevating such athletes to rockstar status. Non-profits are also on-site including Boarding for Breast Cancer, which has been a part of the scene for years, plus Surfrider Foundation, and Global Inheritance.
The Vans Doren Invitational including Open Skate (including a women’s competition) and BMX bowl were packed throughout the week as people jammed the stadiums to see the best in the world compete on cool, graffitied bowls and parks. Legendary longboarder Joel Tudor created a unique longboard event called the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational that showcased progressive style and creativity among top men’s and women’s longboarders. Finally, the Van Doren Village with the giant waffle shoe, various sponsor activation programs, and House of Vans Concert Stage which featured live music from Thursday evening through Saturday rounded-out the lively scene at Huntington Beach, CA.