Monday, July 29, 2013

Riot Redux in Huntington Beach

July has been quite a month for surfing. I find it ironic that the subject of my last post, which championed the presence and influence of women on surfing and celebrated via Salted magazine, would be muted by the hysteria created by the video promo for the Roxy Pro in Biarritz (you can see my response in the comments section of an over reaction posted on and, more importantly, yesterday's riot following the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. 

The scene in 1986
Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz have argued with one another for years (in court even) over which town is more deserving of the title "Surf City." After two riots involving this event in the last 30 years, I think Santa Cruz is better suited for the crown. A lot has been written about yesterday's events with eye witness accounts and pictures and videos all over the web (I don't want to glorify the violence by posting photos or videos however for a good overview, click here). I wasn't there thankfully so I can't comment on what happened however I've been in enough large, boozed-up crowds (49'ers-Raiders games, Bourbon Street, rock concerts, Halloween in Isla Vista, etc.) to see the effects of too much booze and testosterone. 

Surf contest or martial law?
Now, I'm not an expert on crowd control, mob violence, event planning or sociology but I don't think it takes an expert in any of these fields to figure out that lots of people filled with lots of beer with lots of distractions over an extended period of time can lead to trouble. Inevitably, some Bobby Badasses who can't manage their liquor start getting obnoxious and get out of hand. Girls get disrespected, grabbed or groped, guys get pushed, shoved, or hit and then festival fun turns into chaos and mayhem. Valleys, gang bangers, hooligans; whatever you want to call them, they're losers.

I realize the riots weren't likely instigated by surfers or even by fans of surfing (hard to imagine exuberant Brazilians celebrating Alexo Viejo's win or dejected SoCal'ers lamenting Kolohe Andino's loss getting THAT out of hand) however that essentially doesn't matter because the violence is forever linked to the main event: a professional surfing contest. The ASP, the City of Huntington Beach, and the surf industry at large have got to get this figured out. Not just for public safety but for the very reputation of surfing. Because while surfing was born in Hawaii and today is enjoyed all over the world, a lot of our perspectives of surfing are set in Southern California, the epicenter for the sport's fashion, style and much of its talent. You don't see this bullshit at the events held in Hawaii, Australia, Europe or Asia. I'm fearful that this behavior signals to many observers here and around the world that we have lost the spirit and value of surfing. We can't let that happen.

What would Duke think?

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy and your head screwed on nice and tight.