In 2020, the south side of the iconic Huntington Beach Pier was missing something: The U.S. Open of Surfing. Since 1994 -- when the event took on the "Open" title -- it has run continuously, crowning some of the sport's biggest names on the sands of Surf City U.S.A.

The last woman to hoist the trophy was none other than California's own Sage Erickson. And now the 30-year-old is back to defend that 2019 title.

A lot has happened in the 25 months since the previous Open, so we caught up with the reigning event champ and Shiseido Ambassador as she gets ready for the US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido:

WSL: Looking back two years ago now, what emotions do you feel when thinking about your win?

Erickson: Gosh it feels like so long ago, but also just like yesterday. The last year and half has flipped upside down. I love that surfing has stayed the same in the sense that I still have the opportunity to get out there and do my job right now!

That win was massive. It pretty much qualified me again, my family was there, (and) it was for my grandma as she just passed weeks before. It was such a highlight for all of us! All the feels -- nervous, excited, doubting (and) then triumphant over those emotions. It's why I do this so I'm excited to feel all of it again at home.

Sage Erickson Battles for Her Second Victory at Vans US Open
1:21
Sage Erickson brings down defending event champ Courtney Conlogue and takes women's QS 10,000 trophy in Huntington.
How exciting is it to come into an event the defending event winner and the ambition to go back-to-back?

That's probably my favorite part (laughs). This year I feel like I've been surfing the best I ever have. I just feel like I've had weird moments. To come into the event with the reminder that I'm good enough to be a champ sounds and feels so refreshing! I'm fire up but also so thankful to be doing what i love at home on front of all my friends and family!

Taking a step back and seeing the broader picture once more, what does 2021 have in store for you competitively and personally?

Loaded question! Who knows! I'm feeling tugs at my heart in some new directions and that's really exciting. Results may influence that direction a little bit but all and all I'm excited about the future!

ROTTNEST ISLAND, AUS - MAY 20: Sage Erickson (USA) surfing in Heat 4 of Round of 16 of the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona on MAY 20, 2021 in Rottnest Island, WA, Australia.(Photo by Cait Miers/World Surf League via Getty Images) No matter what life has thrown at Erickson, the smile and determination have always been present. - WSL / Cait Miers

Following my heart has got me this far and the best version of myself comes when I listen to it. A win would be really nice, every year ive had one either on the QS or CT the last eight years so there is a void to fill. I won't be competing in the European Challenger events so I can't wait to create some great content!

The US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach presented by Shiseido runs between September 20 - 26, and will be streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.
Download
Download