Words Mimi LaMontagne
For anybody who doesn’t know, Huntington Beach is like surf city. In fact, I think there’s a shopping complex called Surf City. And that’s on any ol’ ordinary day. But once a year the frothers, punters, bums and puberty-blues-style-teenagers come out of the woodwork all at once, ready to listen to live music on the beach, get their arms (and other body parts) signed by their favourite pro surfers, and get their tan on, as the kids say.
Sometimes this results in good, clean fun, but history proves that it can also resul in fires, riots and some serious carnage – which the locals really freaking hate.
Now, Brett Simpson is a Huntington Beach local, but he’s also a surfer on the World Tour. He sees both sides of the coin – the benefits and the drawbacks – the cash money and the cash stealing – the crowd cheering and the crowd going berserk. I remember seeing him at an all-time high when he won his second US Open title – behind the bar pouring tequila everywhere – it was happy days for Brett. But in recent years, the riots and the crowds have put a bad taste in people’s mouths…
So we wanted to get his take on the mayhem, as it currently stands. Like, srsly…
Huntington. What’s it all about?
Well, Huntington Beach is a vacation place… so even when the comp isn’t here, in the summer time the beach is packed nearly everyday… then once the US Open comes it ramps up even more. You have a lot of people in the city that love coming down, as well as people from the inland areas, that all come to the beach to get away from the heat (California summer, what can ya do).
What do you most look forward to at the US Open?
Surfing in front of friends and family. That’s what is the most fun for me. And then, at the same time we get to have these huge crowds to perform in front of.
What do you least look forward to?
Parking. If you have a heat midday or later it gets really tough to find a park. It can be really frustrating when you just wanna focus for your heat, and you’re driving around trying to park your car. You’ve really gotta keep a cool head during all the madness.
How do you feel about the masses streaming into your town?
Well, Orange County is pretty much the surf industry, and Huntington Beach is smack dab in the middle, so I’m kind of used to all of it. I think the guys that come in once a year, and that’s it, can get a little overwhelmed, but it’s nothing new for me.
What’s it like surfing in front of such a huge crowd?
Oh man, it for sure fires me up! It’s the best part about it all! Yeah, the waves are not all that great, but still, to be able to put on a great show for the people on the pier and the beach is unbelievable.
I mean, at certain times it’s so packed it’s hard to get to the water’s edge. Everyone’s down there for a day on the beach and to support their favourite surfers. It can get really crazy on finals day!
Does the hometown factor add pressure?
All the pressure I feel is what I put on myself. Everyone else just seems to back me and get me pumped up. That’s all. I feel like my equipment is just really dialed for the waves at home, and I’ve surfed out there so many times… comfort is everything in surfing a contest and that’s definitely helped in my successes out there.
Yeah. You’ve got a good track record at the US Open. What’s your best moment?
Ha, it’s hard to choose. I think my second win was the best, because it just proved the first one was for real.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen at the US Open?
Yeah, some funny stuff goes on at some of the signings… weird body parts… but they have been trying to limit that and keep it clean.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen at the US Open?
People from out of town rioting. It’s pretty disrespectful in my eyes. To go and have a great day at the beach and then to ruin it like that… it sucks.
Yeah… how do the riots affect you as a local?
I know they’re taking preventative movements this year… I don’t want a few bad apples to ruin everything… you know? It definitely bums you out when you see stuff happening like that.
I think the city will be more prepared for instances like this though, this year, and I hope we can keep it safe, fun and clean.
Well, best of luck Brett, both in and out of the water.
For more photos and the full story, check out: http://www.surfinglife.com.au/news/sl-news/11970-brett-simpson-s-surf-city