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O.C. SURFING

Fans Were Plugged Into the Current of Op Pro

July 08, 1993|Rick Fignetti and David Reyes | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil.

Amped up: Excited; stoked. Usage: "I was so amped up after that ride."

--From Trevor Cralle's "Surfin'ary, a Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak."

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With dozens of surfing's major stars in Huntington Beach competing at the recent Op Pro surfing championships, Rockin' Fig said the city, especially around the pier area, was MEGA-AMPED.

There's a high energy level out here, Figgy said last week. Major juice.

I saw Cheyne Horan (former Op Pro winner). He said hello and recalled that we had talked recently at the Bud Pro Tour in Oceanside. And guess who was walking around Main Street with his son? Vetea (Poto) David (from Tahiti). I also saw Johnny Boy Gomes, the Power Master!

Joey Hawkins of Huntington Beach, the current world long-board champion, said he couldn't believe how his hometown was buzzing.

"Even late at night, people are coming down to the pier area just to cruise around town," Hawkins said. "This town's just going Richter! In the mornings, when competitors practice, there's even spectators starting to arrive at the pier to see their favorite surfing stars."

Those stars included Hawkins. During the contest, grommets--pint-sized surf dudes--were recognizing the friendly world champ and asking for his autograph.

"The little kids are starting to recognize me a little more," he said. "It makes me feel like a million dollars--and if I can give someone an autograph, hey, I'll do it. It's great."

And Fig? Well, while the Op was going off on the south side of the pier, Figgy surfed the pier's north side, the practice zone used by competitors before their heats. Fig said there were so many surf stars that it was like walking down Hollywood Boulevard in the '40s.

Did I tell you I saw Kelly Slater out in the water? He was just blowing doors off of waves out there.

Figgy said that watching Slater, the current Assn. of Professional Surfers world champion, was like being in the same gym with the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan conducting a basketball clinic.

But you gotta hear Figgy describe Slater's wave maneuvers:

On his backside, he was going straight up the lip; I mean, he was doing these verts, and, like, three-quarters of his board was out of the water!

Translation: Slater was killing it.

Figgy is 35 years old--and the highest rated men's senior on the coast--and he still remembers when Slater was just an up-and-coming grommet. The other day as Slater paddled by Fig, Slater recognized him, smiled and said, "Hey, Fig. What's up?"

As a grommet, Kelly used to hang around the pier all the time. Slater is from Florida, but he has spent many summers out here. He calls Huntington Beach his second home.

But let's back up. Was that THE Johnny Boy Gomes walking down Main Street? The guy who crushes Hawaiian waves?

Yuup.

Gomes is sort of a Hawaiian legend in the making. He's this short dude, built along the lines of an NFL fullback. Very powerful. Known for mixing it up--which is kind of a Hawaiian tradition--if you take off on his wave.

He's just like a block of concrete, the guy's in such good shape. When he surfs, Gomes gouges holes out in the water. You follow him on the same wave and you're just going to drop into a hole because he displaces about two feet of water on his turns!

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