The vast open stretch of sand around the Huntington Beach Pier faces due west. That means a lot. It represents the future. Charging ahead. Optimism and the next big thing. HB — as the locals call it — seems like it’s always been where history meets future.
In geographical terms, it also means it catches a lot of different swell rolling off the Pacific.
The city’s been dubbed “Surf City, USA” since it became the land where mainland surf contests were invented, and later, perfected. Much of the surf industry was born and evolved in and around HB, feeding off decades of big summer surf contests and the stars who made their names here. Generation after generation of the world’s best surfers have come here to prove themselves. Or to prove something. For all who did, their names are literally etched in the sidewalks in the Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame along either side of Main Street.
From Jack Haley to Tom Curren and Kelly Slater, from Linda Benson to Freida Zamba and Lisa Andersen, to the recent local royalty of Brett Simpson and Courtney Conlogue, they all come here. But so do plenty of surfers whose names will never be famous. Locals can crowd the lineup north and south of the pier most days of the year, but if you go far enough south or far enough north along the Orange County coastline between L.A. and San Diego counties, there are generally waves for everybody.
Not bad for an old oil town built on a swamp.
The town formerly known as Shell Beach, Smeltzer, Gospel Swamp … yes, Gospel Swamp, Fairview and Pacific City eventually became Huntington Beach, after businessman Henry E. Huntington, and tourism has slowly been replacing oil as HB’s primary revenue since at least the 1960s.
Hawaiian George Freeth was the first to ride the waves here in June of 1914. The father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku put on a show a decade later and the idea was planted that locals could join in on this old, yet new sport too. And at once, history met future in Huntington Beach.
By 1956, Gordie Duane opened Gordie Surfboards at the pier and business was booming. The West Coast Surfing Championships began in 1959 and quickly grew so large and attracted so much national talent, they were renamed in the U.S. Surfing Championships in 1964. The path was set, a scene was happening. History was being made.
As the scene grew, surf music, surf fashion, and a surfing lifestyle evolved into what is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. To mark some of that history, the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is just a few blocks from the pier.
In 1982, the Op Pro arrived and the scale of surfing got even larger. The pier was host to the world’s largest surfing events, featuring hundreds of international athletes and “stadium surfing” in front of thousands of people. But even a riot on a blazing hot Labor Day weekend in 1986 couldn’t stop the appeal of big contests at the pier. Today, the U.S. Open of Surfing remains the world’s largest surfing contest, often referred to as the “Superbowl of Surfing” or “Superbowl of Summer” for its level of spectacle.
But most days, the breaks are here for the local long boarders, short boarders, body boarders, skim boarders, stand-up paddlers, kite surfers, kayakers and body surfers. Surf spots range from Bolsa Chica State Beach and Huntington Cliffs to the north, to Huntington State Beach, and Newport Beach’s 56th Street, Blackies and the infamous Wedge to the south.
After a surf, downtown is full of cafes, restaurants, breweries and shops in easy walking distance from the shore.
Even after you’ve left the water or on days when the surf is flat, you’re about 40 minutes from Disneyland, 35 minutes from Angel Stadium, an hour from Hollywood, a hour boat ride to Catalina, and in the winter, about 2 and a half hours from snowboarding and skiing in the local mountains.
Here in HB, history meets future, and options are always available.The vast open stretch of sand around the Huntington Beach Pier faces due west. That means a lot. It represents the future. Charging ahead. Optimism... Read more