When and where to catch a pro surf contest this summer

From last month's Puerto Escondido Challenge to the Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak, the Vans World Cup at Sunset to beach breaks in France and reefs in British Columbia, you can pretty much always find a surfing webcast to watch. You can study the instant replays, listen to Pottz’s commentary, and otherwise waste time at work.

But it’s not the same as being there. It’s not the same as being on the beach, feet in the sand, watching the competitors, the crowd and the ocean. Here’s all you need to know to catch the pro surf action (in person) this summer.

Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro: Oceanside, CA, July 22-24

The Supergirl Pro in Oceanside, California is a chance to see ladies not only surf but skate the vert ramp. Photo: WSL/Kurt-Steinmetz

The Supergirl Pro in Oceanside, California is a chance to see ladies not only surf but skate the vert ramp. Photo: Courtesy of Kurt-Steinmetz/WSL

If you’re a dude, half the reason you go to the beach is to watch girls. But can you handle going to the beach to watch girls surf … way better than you?

The WSL Women’s Qualifying Series comes to Oceanside Pier with not only 6,000 points on the line, but also the Supergirl Skate Pro on the vert ramp, plus a concert and full female-focused action sports festival. Great chance for the groms to see some ripping lady role models, as well.

Vans US Open of Surfing: Huntington Beach, CA, July 25-31

The Vans US Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, is the big show on the West Coast every summer. Photo: Sean Rowland/WSL.

The Vans US Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, is the big show on the West Coast every summer. Photo: Courtesy of Sean Rowland/WSL

This is kind of the big daddy of domestic surf contests as far as crowd and exposure.

Huntington Beach swells to max capacity (and there have only been two riots in the competition’s history) although it’s a much more mellow event these days. The US Open is technically a WQS qualifying event, but it brings out much of the elite World Tour making it an amazing opportunity to see Slater, John John and Gabriel Medina.

There is also the Women’s Pro, part of their World Tour, men’s and women’s Junior Pro, a Vans Park Series skate event, the Invitational BMX Bowl contest and Joel Tudor’s Duct Tape Invitational, which is as cool as it gets. Just don’t set a Jeep on fire like they did in ’86.

Vans Pro, East Coast Surfing Championships: Virginia Beach, VA, Aug. 23-28

The East Coast's version of a full action sports festival is the East Coast Surfing Championships and the Vans Pro in Virginia Beach. Photo: Furgeson/WSL.

The East Coast’s version of a full action sports festival is the East Coast Surfing Championships and the Vans Pro in Virginia Beach. Local Michael Dunphy won in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Furgeson/WSL

This Men’s Qualifying Series event is all part of the East Coast Surfing Championships, which go back to 1961.

What Virginia Beach might lack in summer swell, it makes up for with a massive gathering. The Vans Pro, with 3,000 qualifying points on offer, is for top surf talent. But there’s also dozens of amateur surf divisions as well as flag football, volleyball, a 5K, swimsuit competition and boxing, if you want to compete in something.

Hell, there’s even a corn hole tournament. With the Vans Off the Wall BMX Invitational and bands, it’s basically five days of no sleep. This year, watch to see if local boy Michael Dunphy can repeat his 2014 title among an international field.

WRV Outer Banks Pro: Nags Head, NC, Aug. 31-Sept. 4

The Outer Banks Pro is a great event to catch because thirty minutes away you can explore the wide open Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo: Fergeson/WSL.

The Outer Banks Pro is a great event to catch because thirty minutes away you can explore the wide open Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo: Courtesy of Fergeson/WSL

Southern Hospitality. Of all these event venues, the Outer Banks is the least congested region. Of course, it’s Labor Day weekend, so there’s always a party, but 30 minutes from the contest site, you can be searching out your own sandbar at Hatteras Island National Seashore.

Although it brings surfers from all corners of the country for the 1,000 qualifying points, it’s something of a showcase for East Coast professional surfing talent … And hush puppies.

Hurley Pro at Trestles: San Clemente, CA, Sept 7-18

Lower Trestles, normally there would be 250 guys on it. But during the Hurley Lowers Pro, it's about the most high performance wave on tour. Photo: Rowland/WSL.

Lower Trestles, normally there would be 250 guys on it. During the Hurley Lowers Pro, it’s about the most high performance wave on tour. Photo: Courtesy of Rowland/WSL

If you’re really looking to see world-class surfing, this is your event. It’s the only WSL World Tour event on the mainland US and it’s held at the cobblestone point of Lower Trestles, which means the surf can be utterly flawless, making for one of the most high performance events of the entire year.

Beware that Trestles is located in San Onofre State Beach, so you’ll be paying to park and then doing a 30-minute hike in. There is also a tram, but either way, it’s a long wait. But it’s worth it, considering this is the one event you are sure to catch surfing’s top dogs — and by this point in the season, the world title race is starting to come into focus (although who the hell knows what that means in 2016).

Volcom Unsound Pro: Long Beach, NY, Sept. 14-18

In the shadows of NYC is the Volcom Unsound Pro, a classic East Coast urban surf event. Photo: Nellie.

In the shadows of NYC is the Volcom Unsound Pro, a classic East Coast urban surf event. Photo: Courtesy of Nellie

New York, New York. Long Beach is located just outside the five boros, a pure urban surfscape if there ever was one.

Perhaps you remember when epic surf graced these beaches in 2011, when Quiksilver came to town with the New York Pro? This event is no longer sanctioned by the World Surf League, but has been run by Unsound Surf Shop since the late 90s. Volcom does a nice job of hosting this event now and the fact that it’s in the shadows of NYC with all this city has to offer always makes it exciting.

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