Surf City USA — Huntington Beach, to the layperson — never saw one of its own win the U.S. Open of Surfing, the world's largest surfing competition, until last year.
It took 50 years (the event began in 1959) for Brett Simpson to come along and break the streak.
His win, which came against a daunting field of world champions and resulted in a record $100,000 first-place check, vaulted him to the World Tour, the major leagues of professional surfing.
But the World Tour isn't kind to rookies — and, not surprisingly, Simpson, 25, has struggled. He's back at this year's U.S. Open, which continues its nine-day run that ends Sunday, not just for a repeat but for a win that would go a long way toward keeping him on the tour.
"I have to take advantage of this opportunity," he said.
This opportunity, a rare one for Simpson, is a timely one. He and other young surfers struggle on the World Tour because they have never done anything like it before.
But here, Simpson knows these waves, these beaches, and for him, that familiarity is huge.
"It wasn't by chance he won his first big event at home," said Pat O'Connell, a 10-year World Tour surfing veteran who is now the vice president of sports marketing for Hurley, Simpson's sponsor.
Simpson's challengers didn't grow up here. They can't drive 10 minutes and stay in a condo with their fiancee, or 15 minutes another way, to Garden Grove, and see mom, dad, brother, two sisters and other family.
And at the Open, friends and family won't be beachside, cheering them on, as they were for Simpson last year, when he won despite an ankle injury and was carried off by those friends and family after beating world champion Mick Fanning.
"Pretty surreal," Simpson said.
Looking back now, as he has toiled through four World Tour events, finishing 17th twice, 33rd and ninth, he realizes how big a role familiarity plays.
"If you look at a lot of the events of late, it seems as if local guys are winning," he said.
It's wave knowledge, being comfortable, sleeping in your own bed, friends, family, et al.
Those little edges add up, as do the points, which Simpson needs to stay on tour after the midyear cut, when the field of 45 surfers gets whittled down to 32 after the next event in Tahiti.
That change, along with others, such as increased prize money, is new this year.
Currently, Simpson is tied for 24th place, and if he's sweating, it isn't showing, probably because the Open is in his backyard.
"I feel even less pressure," he said.
That's not how he feels at the World Tour events, where he and other young surfers are adjusting to the learning curve.
"These guys are capable of surfing on that level," said Ian Cairns, Simpson's former coach and current USA Surf Team coach, "but the demands are so high that you have to be 100% of your level every wave, every maneuver, in everything you do in every location."
Said O'Connell: "I would probably say it's like going from college football to professional football."
Simpson recalled an instance in Australia, when he made a simple mistake by choosing a poor wave that led to a poor score, whereas an opponent, on his next wave, scored in the nine-point range.
"When you're surfing against a caliber guy, you can't afford mistakes," Simpson said.
Cairns coached Simpson for a year and a half, including when he won the U.S. Open last year, and said his style of surfing is well-suited for the World Tour, and that he could someday make the top 10.
"He's a big guy with a good, powerful, pounding style and he has some of the new-school tricks," Cairns said.
But to stay on, a win here is important. Simpson knows that.
"Most of the best guys are competing in this event, so it's no slouch event by any means, but I feel if I had the best chance to win an event this year, this would be it," Simpson said.
And how does he do that?
"He just needs to find that rhythm and re-create that home environment," O'Connell said.
That shouldn't be a problem here.