The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido is the first stop of the 2021 Challenger Series and the latest iteration of one of the most iconic events in professional surfing.
The stakes couldn't be higher in Huntington as qualification for the 2022 Championship Tour hangs in the balance. Featuring stars from the CT and the rising talent of the Qualifying Series all going toe to toe in Surf City U.S.A., before the action gets underway, here's what you need to know:
The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido runs between September 20 - 26, and will be streamed live on Worldsurfleague.com.
The first of four Challenger Series events this year, there are 10,000 qualification points on table for whoever can top the podium. The 96-man and 64-woman fields are made up of Championship Tour surfers, as well as competitors drawn from the seven WSL Regional Qualifying Series around the world.
On the men's side of the draw, some of this year's top seeds from the CT include Conner Coffin, who just finished fourth in the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals, along with Griffin Colapinto and Huntington local and two-time U.S. Open winner Kanoa Igarashi.
On the women's side, CT surfers Caroline Marks, Isabella Nichols, Keely Andrew, Brisa Hennessy, hometown favorite and former Open winner Courtney Conlogue and defending 2019 event winner Sage Erickson are all set to attend.
On the Challenger Series, surfers compete for a chance to advance to the elite Championship Tour in 2022. For the men, that means finishing in the top 12. For the women, a top 6 finish in this year's condensed four-event season earns a spot to the big leagues.
Championship Tour surfers can compete on the Challenger Series regardless of where they sit on the CT rankings, which means the draw for both men and women is absolutely stacked with talent.
Known for its consistency and the amphitheater-like atmosphere thanks to its iconic pier, Huntington Beach is considered Surf City U.S.A. for good reason. The south side of the pier offers a rippable left and right "pier bowl," while further down the beach good lefts can run on a solid south swell -- sometimes referred to as "Rob's peak" because former Open winner Rob Machado made a killing on the sandbar during his tenure on Tour.
Exposed to swells from the north and south, Huntington is best on a combo swell from the northwest and southwest. When it gets too big the waves can get walled and the current can be a bear, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's pretty much always some type of wave to ride here, even when other spots in Orange County are essentially flat.
Huntington can get hollow when it's offshore and peaky, but most days the waves are more of a high-performance skatepark. Ideal for big carving maneuvers out the back and airs on the inside reform, one of the keys to success here is to be able to link the two section via the classic "Huntington hop."
First held in 1959, the tradition of crowning winners in the shadow of the Huntington pier goes back to the earliest days of competitive surfing. Originally called the The West Coast Surfing Championship, it became the OP Pro in 1982 and was updated to the U.S. Open in 1994.
Other past champions include World Champions Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Lisa Andersen, Layne Beachley and Sunny Garcia. Given its long history, a win at Huntington is a must on the resume for anyone trying to reach the highest echelon of the sport.
In more recent years, it has been won by some of the current stars of the Championship Tour, such as five-time World Champion Carissa Moore, local Kanoa Igarashi, Filipe Toledo and most-recently, in 2019, by Yago Dora.