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Surf City USA - Huntingdon Beach, California: Surf, Sand and So Much More for Sports

29 Aug, 2013

By: Linda Driscoll-Dobel

It’s impossible to mention the name of the area and not hear the Jan and Dean song, “Surf City.” In fact, that’s what the Surf City USA - Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau hopes.

It’s a surf Mecca, that’s for sure,” says Briton Saxton, film and sports commissioner for the bureau. “We host dozens upon dozens of surf competitions during the year and the surf culture and lifestyle are everywhere.”

Yet the area that hosts the U.S. Open of Surfing (an event that draws competitors from around the world) is making big waves in multiple sports circles, all thanks to its natural terrain.

“Our biggest asset is our 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline,” notes Saxton, “and that beach is really our arena. It’s not just a long beach; it’s a wide beach, so there’s plenty of room to host a lot of sporting events, even ones you wouldn’t normally expect to take place on the sand. The weather is another one of our advantages, with average yearly temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees, so it’s really unlikely that an event will be cancelled because of bad weather.”

Sports on the Sand

Beach volleyball, once the domain of pro and Olympic athletes, has been gaining a foothold on the high school and college levels. It continues to thrive and flourish and Huntington Beach is one of its most popular hot spots.

“Volleyball has always been a staple and we’ve continued to see it grow. It’s very rare to go out on the beach and not see people playing,” says Saxton.

Beach volleyball has been labeled an NCAA emerging sport for women, so continued growth is a given. Pick-up games, high school and rec-level play are also growing exponentially, meaning Huntington Beach can expect to see even more courts filled.

Another area of growth is sand soccer. A beach sport that lends itself to quick action and strong spectator interest, sand soccer continues to increase in Surf City USA - Huntington Beach.

“Sand soccer is growing fastest of all,” says Saxton. “We used to have one event per year. Last year, we had two competitions and so far, we have three competitions scheduled for the next calendar year.”

Paintball is also packing in the athletes and families. The National Professional Paintball League held its April 2013 NPPL USA Open on Huntington Beach, with tickets available in both grandstand and festival-style seating.

Catch a Wave

Despite all the attractions the sand can hold, it’s the Pacific Ocean that has long beckoned athletes and it continues to do so. The U.S. Open of Surfing is held in late July of each year and attracts not only competitors but spectators as well. The event also includes BMX and skateboarding competitions.

Saxton says organizers work to make sure everyone has a good view of the goings-on. Temporary grandstands are built on the beach each year and announcers provide running commentary. For smaller surf events, there are opportunities for spectators to set up chairs and blankets on the sand. In addition, the Huntington Beach Pier, a municipal pier, provides a view from above. The pier is located at the end of Main Street, where the street continues past Pacific Coast Highway onto the beach and becomes the pier. At 1,850 feet in length, it is one of the longest public piers on the West Coast. Off-license fishing is allowed off the end of the pier, says Saxton.

Surfing isn’t the only water sport that draws crowds during the year, she adds.

“I would say after surfing, we’ve seen a major increase in stand up paddleboarding and paddlesurfing. There’s also a lot of kitesurfing.”

The surf culture permeates the area; in fact, there is even a dog surfing contest on the aptly-named Dog Beach, where canines are allowed to run off-leash.

Smooth Sailing

Huntington Harbour, separated from the beach itself by the Pacific Coast Highway, offers those interested in water sports a flat surface upon which to practice. The harbor is popular for stand up paddleboarding, dragon boat racing and kayaking. Fishing tours (corbina and perch are frequent catches) leave from the harbor, as do excursions by Sunset Gondola Cruises.

Beyond the Beach

In an area known both as Surf City USA and Huntington Beach, the prospect of leaving the ocean behind might sound daunting, but again, the area is full of surprises for sports enthusiasts, says Saxton. The Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center is a 25-acre facility with the ability to host horse shows in various disciplines including hunting/jumping, reining, dressage and more. It also has a therapeutic riding program and offers trail rides and instruction.

Another surprise: the Huntington Beach Disc Golf Course. The 18-hole facility features a pro shop, concessions and bathroom facilities. The course consists of 5,400 feet of space that can expand to 6,100 feet for tournament play.

Those who want to get even further off the beaten path can explore Shipley Nature Center, an 18-acre preserve in Huntington Central Park. The nature center is a sanctuary for the local wildlife as well as a haven for the residents of Orange County. Another getaway is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which offers walking trails and an interpretive center, as well as ample opportunities for hiking, photography and birdwatching.

Golf courses in the Huntington Beach area include Seacliff Course and Meadowlark Golf Club. There is an annual car show in March and next year, Huntingdon Beach will add a permanent skate park as well.

“I think this area surprises people,” says Saxton. “There’s a lot to do once you get off the beach.”

Connectivity Plus

Surf City USA - Huntington Beach is served by three airports: John Wayne in Orange County (10 miles away), Long Beach Airport (16 miles) and Los Angeles International/LAX (35 miles). It offers a wealth of hotels and accommodations in a variety of price points, depending upon whether visitors want to stay beachfront or inland.

According to its website, the City of Huntington Beach has 1,121 lane miles of public streets and offers bus service and rail freight service.  The major highways are Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) on the coast connecting the beach cities, the San Diego Freeway (I-405) connecting with all other major freeways in Southern California and Beach Boulevard (Highway 39) running directly through the heart of Huntington Beach. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are located less than 20 miles away from the city and provide shipping and travel services. Amtrak stations are located in Santa Ana and Anaheim, each approximately 20 minutes away.

“A lot of times, when people come here for sports, they want to make it a vacation, too,” says Saxton, “so they’ll visit Disneyland or Los Angeles and of course they have the amazing beach here, so it’s the quintessential California experience.”

After Hours

The downtown area of Huntington Beach, including Main Street, Fifth Street and The Strand, offers shopping, dining and entertainment options as well, many tying in with the beach culture. The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum traces the history of the sport and includes photos and other exhibits. The Surfers Walk of Fame is another draw, as is the Surfers Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is patterned after Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, with HOF inductees’ handprints in the cement. Induction ceremonies take place during the U.S. Open of Surfing.

Services for Sports

Those who bring their events to the beaches, the park, the equestrian center or anywhere else in Surf City USA-Huntington Beach can work with the Marketing and Visitors Bureau.

“We can make sure their event is on our calendars here and we can help them market it through social media,” says Saxton. “Because we work closely with the city, we can also help them get the services they need if they want to hang banners or do anything else promotional.”

The bureau can also help event organizers obtain SCORE cards for participants; these punch cards offer discounts at local businesses.

“This is a great place for sports,” says Saxton. “We have a lot to offer everyone.”

For more information, visit www.surfcityusa.com or call 800-729-6232.

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