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U.S. Open of Surfing begins action-filled days Saturday

Organizer of the event, taking up a 14-acre site south of the pier, says 'there is no other experience like it.'

July 25, 2012|By Mike Sciacca
  • Set up work continues in preparation for the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Set up work continues in preparation for the U.S. Open… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

It has been billed as the place to be, worldwide, for action sports enthusiasts. Year in and year out, it hasn't failed to live up to that claim.

The Nike U.S. Open of Surfing launches nine days of continuous action Saturday at the Huntington Beach Pier. Many of the world's top surfers and action sports athletes are in Surf City for an event that last year drew record crowds to the pier, plus a record more than 3.6 million webcast viewers.

This year, the Open, which runs through Aug. 5, is coming up bigger and better, said James Leitz, vice president of IMG which owns and produces the U.S. Open of Surfing.

The 14-acre site at the south side of the pier, which began construction July 9, will showcase surf and skate competition, art, fashion and music.

"There is a certain 'wow' factor going on here right now," Leitz said Monday. "The structure, the actual footprint, is awe-inspiring. We're creating a new experience for the fans who come down and for the athletes themselves.

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"There will be a lot going on down here for nine days. There is no other experience like it."

The U.S. Open is the largest surfing competition in the world and plays a key role for the men and women on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals, or ASP, World Tour. The contest is a North America ASP Men's Prime Event and, for the women, marks the conclusion of the 2012 World Title Tour.

A women's world champion could be decided Aug. 5.

"We have 30 of the top 32 surfers on the Men's ASP World Tour coming to Huntington to compete for the title," said Jennifer Lau, vice president of IMG Action Sports and event director for the U.S. Open of Surfing. "We also have the top skate athletes coming to Huntington, as well.

"It's very exciting for us. The number of athletes who are scheduled to compete speaks volumes about the event and how we try to elevate the athletes and their experience here. For the fans, in addition to the surf and skate aspect, we have 14 acres full of sponsors, vendors, musicians, art and product available."

Last August, division titles were won in surfing by U.S. athletes Kelly Slater (Men), Lakey Petersen (Junior Pro Women), and Joel Tudor (Longboard),Australia's Sally Fitzgibbons (Women) andBrazil's Filipe Toledo (Junior Pro Men).

Each reigning champion is back and will vie for a repeat title.

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