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SURFING / Rockin' Fig & Dave

A Champs Meeting Will Rekindle Huntington's Fame

July 07, 1994|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. and

Can we chat? Good. Rockin' Fig was so excited he was sputtering.

Big. I'm talkin' big. It's gonna be big.

Whoa, Figgy. We talking concept here for a major film?

Noooo way, man. I'm talking about a world championship event on the West Coast. Here. Huntington Beach. Your back yard. Right in the U.S. of A. Love it or leave it.

Ahhh. Fig is talking about two back-to-back contests. The first is the 13th annual Op Pro Surfing Championship from July 26 through July 31. The second is the U.S. Open of Surfing, a World Championship Tour (WCT) event from Aug. 2 through Aug. 7.

What caliber of surfers are we talking about?

Anybody who's anybody will be here, Americans, Australians, Hawaiians. World champ Derek Ho for sure and Gary Elkerton, the world tour runner-up, and a bunch of former Op winners, such as Barton Lynch. The U.S. Open will bring the Top 48 surfers in the world to Huntington Beach for the first time in two years.

Two years? Why so long?

Well, the surfing industry has been plagued by the recession, and the ASP (Assn. of Surfing Professionals) couldn't get a sponsor. But things are coming back for 1994. It's going to bust loose on the West Coast for those two weeks.

Let's talk recession.

Well, it has cut a lot of things, such as sponsorships--the people who will pay for wet suits, surfboards, related gear, travel expenses and contest fees -- for pro surfers for one. And earnings have dropped, too.

Having a WCT event here is pretty rare. Though there are 40 to 50 other contests run during the year, there are only 11 world tour events. This year, WCT events are being run in Australia, Japan, France, Brazil, Hawaii and Huntington Beach.

While sponsorship for some professional contests starts around $20,000, a world tour event runs more than $100,000, and that's just to guarantee the purse. It could cost another $100,000 for site preparation, travel, staffing, advertising, judges and other expenses.

For example, the Op Pro used to be on the world tour, but clothing company Ocean Pacific hit rough times and couldn't afford a WCT event, so Ocean Pacific opted for a scaled-down contest.

For the U.S. Open, Prime Ticket Network signed on early as the initial sponsor and has since brought in other companies to help put on the big bash--and, presumably, to lessen expenses. Those other companies include 1-800-Collect and Sebastian Hair Care. Coca-Cola will be visible at the contest because the soft-drink company is the 1994 world tour's umbrella sponsor.

It was just kind of funny that Southern California, which has the most surfing-related businesses per capita, couldn't get a world tour event on its coastline.

Of course, Huntington Beach, traditionally a site of major contests in the state, will be the center of attention again. Fig also says to get your wallets ready because they're going to charge for admission for both events.

While the Fig and I were talking, a young surfer overheard us and said, "Whattaya mean, they're gonna charge? It's not free?"

Well, yes and no. According to Mike Kingsbury, a spokesman for both the Op Pro and the U.S. Open, an admission will be charged to sit in the stands on weekends. The good news is that standing on the sand is free.

"Seating is free during the week for both the Op Pro and U.S. Open," Kingsbury said. "However, at the Op Pro we will be charging for premium stadium seating on Saturday and Sunday. For the U.S. Open, reserve seating packages are for Friday through Sunday."

Cost for reserve seats at the Op Pro are $5 per day, $6 for both days and $20 for a package that includes seating at the U.S. Open.

Cost for seats at the U.S. Open are $7 a day and $15 for all three days. Tickets are available at Huntington Surf & Sport, Jack's Surfboards and TicketMaster.

Figgy isn't too concerned about the prospect of forking over a few quid.

Don't fret. You pay a few bucks to see someone slam a homer at Anaheim Stadium. Wouldn't you pay a few bucks to go see (Rob) Machado do some lip slices?

Kingsbury also said there will be a free beach expo during the U.S Open, inside a futuristic surf stadium to be built on the sand. The expo will feature more than 40 exhibits offering glimpses of the newest surfing equipment, other beach-oriented products and mountain bikes usually restricted to trade insiders.

Local surf shops such as Jack's Surfboards and Huntington Surf & Sport and ocean apparel manufacturers such as Rusty, Billabong will have booths.

Kingsbury said some top shapers such as Rusty Preisendorfer and Bob Hurley will demonstrate shaping techniques during the expo.

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