Despite growing up in Southern California, I had never been to a surfing competition until I went this past Sunday to the US Open of Surfing, held in Huntington Beach, about 100 miles up the coast from San Diego. I caught the final day of the week-long competition, and soon learned that surfing tournaments operate on a strict “rain or shine” policy. Observe the conditions just 4 days before I made my way north–among other things, note that Kelly Slater, the Michael Jordan of surfing, participated in this tournament:
By the time the final day of the competition came along, conditions had diminished significantly. It was my own fault for showing up too late to grab a decent spot, so I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses on the beach, but even a good vantage point wouldn’t have afforded much. The women’s final preceded the men’s final and was definitely the highlight of the day. Both surfers displayed ingenuity–and otherworldly balance–while riding several waves in, cutting and thrusting through the water with the verve of a palette knife incising paint onto a canvas.
It would seem that the women exhausted all the good waves, however, because as soon as the two surfers in the men’s final took to the water, they had to wait, wait, and wait some more. In the 35 minute final round, a total of FIVE waves were caught between the two. To their credit, the surfers pulled off some exceptional moves and really did make the most of their chances. Ultimately, the lack of action was still a bit of a letdown, especially considering that the winner took a $100,000 purse.
Luckily, there were other things to see besides surfing, like the guy in the jetpack; the person wearing the suit took full advantage of everyone’s collective boredom and put on quite a show.
After the tournament finished but before the riot started, I headed south to nearby Newport Beach, curious to see the fabled Wedge. This is why it’s famous:
Of course, driving about ten miles south was not going to magically alter the size of the waves, so when I got there, I saw this:
Despite the underwhelming nature of the waves, it was still a very worthwhile trip. On the way back to San Diego, I stopped in Laguna Beach and visited the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. For only $6 I gained admission to see a variety of outstanding art displays, and was even able to speak with a couple of the artists about their work. My favorite paintings were by Gina Mead Howie, a Midwestern-born skyscape painter who counts Inness and Rothko, of all people, as influences. Unfortunately, seeing as I’m about to embark on a long, costly journey I’m not currently on the market for purchasing art, so I had to pass. This doesn’t quite do her work justice, since her paintings are rather large, but it should give you the basic idea:
After meandering around Laguna Beach for a couple hours, it was finally time to go home, rinse off all the dust–there was so much kicked up by all the bystanders–and get ready for my next trip. And no, it’s not quite time to leave the USA yet. I have one more destination in the works, so stay tuned!
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