"True Performance" Walk of Champions celebrates storied history
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California – Youth collides with history at the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing, July 18 to 26, when the world's largest professional surfing competition honors the golden anniversary of competitive surfing at the famed Huntington Beach Pier. The U.S. Open venue will be infused with history, the highlight of which is the "True Performance" Walk of Champions. This unique tribute pays homage to the men and women champions of the original U.S./West Coast Championships, Op Pro Surfing Championships and the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Flashback 50 years: Ben Hur won the Academy award and a loaf of bread cost 14 cents. Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, American Bandstand was the most popular TV show, Boston defeated the Minneapolis Lakers to win the NBA championship, the cost of a first class stamp was 4 cents and Jack Haley and Linda Benson won the inaugural West Coast Championships (later named the U.S. Championships) at Huntington Beach’s famed pier.
The event was an overnight success, drawing thousands of screaming fans to pack the sand and pier. In rapid succession Wide World of Sports began broadcasting the event in 1962 and Duke Kahanamoku (Olympic swimming champion, Hollywood actor and Hawaiian folk hero), credited with introducing the sport to Huntington Beach in the 1920s, attended in ’63 and was mobbed by hundreds of fans. Sports Illustrated chronicled the event (mid-60s).
In 1966 Corky Carroll, who went on to star in Miller Light and Ocean Spray commercials, won the first of several titles and pioneered sponsorships for pro surfers with a Jantzen advertising campaign in Surfer magazine. Bell Helmet became the first mainstream company to sponsor the event in 1967 and the “Duke” returned along with fellow Olympic champion and TV’s original Tarzan, Johnny Weismuller. ABC provided the first “aerial” coverage in 1968 when helicopters hovered so close to the surf during the finals that they knocked Carroll off two waves.
The Op Pro Surfing Championships took over in 1982 and elevated the “stadium seating” concept to a new level and began to create new stars for the sport (Tom Curren, Sunny Garcia, Frieda Zamba, etc.). Dodge sponsored the event and awarded cars to the winners, Cheyne Horan and Becky Benson. The next year, fledgling sports cable channel ESPN aired the competition and later (1987) signed a groundbreaking, three-year broadcast deal. Crowds topped 100,000 for the first time as the “priority buoy” and instant scoring were introduced. Pontiac stepped in as event co-sponsor in 1988, signing an unprecedented three-year, six-figure deal.
In 1994, the venerable Op Pro gave way to the Prime Ticket (later called Fox Sports Net) driven U.S. Open of Surfing. Television promotion, extensive marketing and a huge action sport/lifestyle festival drove attendance to over 200,000. San Clemente's Shane Beschen downed Florida's Kelly Slater to claim the first-ever U.S. Open of Surfing title while Lisa Andersen downed four time World Champion Frieda Zamba to take the women's crown. The Surfing Walk of Fame was founded and posthumously honored the “Duke”. In 1997 the Surfers' Hall of Fame celebrated its first induction inside of Huntington Surf & Sport where several slabs remain.
In 2001 International Management Group (IMG) purchased the U.S. Open of Surfing. Philips Electronics became the umbrella sponsor of Philips Fusion featuring the U.S. Open of Surfing and the presence of skateboarding, BMX, music, technology and lifestyle exposition grew significantly.
This July, Hurley takes the U.S. Open of Surfing to a new level, infusing a youthful attitude, elite athletes, fashion and music—all against the backdrop of 50 years of competitive surfing. The "Walk of Champions" pays tribute to this storied history with a special walkway dedicated to the "50 years at the pier" celebration. This will include a timeline with key dates and happenings, along with photos and a list of all the former champions.
"The Pier created a half century of incredible moments for surf fans and the world's best surfers," said Evan Slater, Hurley Content Manager. "Huntington Beach is ground zero for competitive surfing in America and we're proud to be a part of that legacy."
The Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing hosts 500 world-class athletes and draws more than 400,000 spectators over nine days. More information is available at www.usopenofsurfing.com.
Founded in 1999, Hurley is an authentic "Microphone for Youth" brand rooted in surf, skate, art, music and beach cultures. Driven by creativity and freedom of expression, Hurley develops world-class products for guys, girls and kids, including sportswear, footwear, eyewear, accessories, loungewear, swimwear and wetsuits. A wholly owned, independently run subsidiary of Nike, Inc., Hurley's corporate headquarters are located in Costa Mesa, CA, with international offices in Tokyo, Sydney, Barcelona and Bali. www.hurley.com.
About the U.S. Open of Surfing
Staged at the famed Huntington Beach Pier, the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing is the world's largest professional surfing competition. Produced by IMG Action Sports, the leading sports, media and entertainment company, the massive event hosts 500 world-class athletes and draws more than 400,000 spectators over nine days—July 18 to 26. The U.S. Open features North America's only combined men's and women's six-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) competitions along with junior divisions for boys and girls, and longboarding. In addition to world-class surfing, the U.S. Open showcases skateboarding, BMX, music, fashion and art. More information is available at www.usopenofsurfing.com.