Occy was over it. “I’ve got to get home and see the missus,” he said in his thick Australian drawl. After watching a lone dude on a jet ski destroy the texture of the already feeble surf at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier, contest officials threw Occy and his fellow competitors out into the mess of spent fuel and exhaust. “I couldn’t believe it,” said the former world champ, “the jet-ski guy got all the good waves!” Believe it champ. This contest isn’t about you guys and your supernatural talent-it’s about corporate schmoozing, fake breasts, beach volleyball, breakdancing, tattooed motocross guys soaring above the dirty Huntington sand, groms grabbing anything not bolted down, pool skating, autograph signings, raffles, beachside talk shows, and a mullet-coiffed grown man wearing a bright yellow G-string in front of a hundred-thousand people. At least there was no extreme in-line skating.
That said, most people had a blast, except Sunny Garcia, who was overheard snapping, “Get me the f-k outta here!” after signing one too many autographs for freebie-hoarding grommets. That’s the thing for the surfers involved with the Bank of the West Beach Games featuring the U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill (You get all of that?)-it becomes real work. Like a real job, where you have to do things you don’t want to do. Call it the less glamorous side of pro surfing-no perfect Gold Coast lines, no Teahupo’o heart-attack sets, and no Pipeline drama. There is one thing the U.S. Open has that no other contest can claim, however-nearly half-a-million screaming, sunburnt spectators.
Some of the “Beach Games” were a complete flop, while others actually stole the thunder from the surf event. I don’t know what happened to beach volleyball, but I didn’t see one match or a single spectator. It could’ve been because the visor-wearing volleyball players were set up on the north side of the pier, close by, but a world away from the real action. Then there was the longboarding. Don’t get me wrong-I love to ride a longboard, and I even own one myself-but after seeing Rob Machado do his patented lightning-quick snaps and Taj Burrow fly four feet above a section, I don’t want to see some guy try the same maneuver on a nine-foot board. The nail in the coffin was the fact that the best waves of the final day came in during the longboard semi-final. One bored spectator compared watching the final to watching paint dry.
Then there were the motorcycle jumper guys. I’m not sure what exactly they’re really called, but they were on motorcycles and flying what seemed like 80 feet into the air and doing “supermans” and backflips-crazy shit that made Taj’s airs look boring in comparison.
Skaters have never liked me, and I felt like an out-of-place dork watching them rip the wooden bowl that resembled a giant sinkhole. Still, I thought their act was cool and made surfing two-foot waves seem really docile.
You know what, though? Surfing rules any other “game” wherever it’s played, and the boys and girls of our sport-the sport of kings (don’t forget it!)-put on a marvelous display of small-wave ripping. Chelsea Georgeson, last year’s winner of the same event, took the ladies’ division with her powerful and smooth turns. Word has it the girls went nuts that night in celebration of Chelsea’s victory, but if you’re familiar with them you’ll know that’s not a big surprise. The Lost Pro Junior was won by a Brazilian named Adrian De Souza, whom many thought was one of the most exciting surfers in the entire event. His huge forehand air in the final terminated anyone else’s chance of winning the event, that is America’s answer to the Australian Pro Junior.
The highlight of the final wasn’t Taj’s last-minute, come-from-behind victory over fellow Aussie Trent Munro, but, rather an event that took place out of the water and was a repeat from last year-G-string Mullet Man. Imagine waking up in the morning and saying to yourself, “Todayy I’m going to wear my yellow thong, comb my awesome mullet, and bike down to the pier, where I’ll show my white ass to 80,000 people.” It happened-again. G-String Mullet Man, who is becoming a fixture at the most highly attended event in all of surfing, rocked the house.
I was watching him stroll under the pier and toward the water’s edge when someone shouted, “Here he comes!” as if it were Jesus himself. Once he was positioned smack dab in the middle of the contest area, and with shorebreak lapping against his bare ankles, he stood up straight, put his hand to his forehead like a visor, and checked out the comp-just like any other fan, except he kept running his hand through his mullet, and 99 percent of his ass was there for all to see. The crowd went apeshit, which probably confused the finalists because nobody was riding a wave, but by then they were probably used to surfing being the sideshow.
See all you freaks next year, and Mullet Man, if you’re out there, we love your work.-Justin Cote
2004 U.S. Open of Surfing Results
1. Taj BurrowAUS$15,000
2. Trent MunroAUS
3. Cory LopezUSA
1. Adriano de SouzaBRA$10,000
2. Dustin CuizonHAW
3. Kekoa BacalsoHAW
1. Brendan WhiteUSA$10,000
2. Colin McPhillipsUSA
3. Matthew MoirSARF
1. Chelsea GeorgesonAUS$6,000
2. Sofia MulanovichPERU
3. Melanie Redman-CarrAUS