Go There: Huntington Beach, California aka Surf City, USA
By Alex Ryden
The sandy shores, seedy bars, and iconic pier of historic Surf City, a.k.a. Huntington Beach, Orange County, California.
Decent beachbreaks and world-class people-watching. It’s the heart of the action sports industry, with headquarters of brands like Volcom, Quiksilver, and many others just down the road, as well as world-famous shops such as Jack’s and Huntington Surf and Sport right there on Main street. The HB pier is the nexus of it all, with crowds that range from local heroes like Brett Simpson, super groms like Kanoa Igarashi, to the most clueless tourists, plenty of weirdos, and horrible tattoos. The place is a social experiment in and out of the water. It’s all in a summer’s day in Huntington.
The summer is the time for surf, when south swells march up the coast. Unfortunately, it’s also high season for tourists, and the whole region is packed to the gills. There’s also the US Open of Surfing at the end of July, where you can watch some of the best in the world decimate the south side of the pier, along with hundreds of thousands of your closest friends. It’s a pretty intense, surreal scene on the main days, but it’s worth checking out. Outside of summer, HB also gets good throughout fall and early winter. Calm winds, evening glass-offs, plenty of swell, and no headaches.
“Waves and babes,” you’re probably thinking. Well lem’me tell you why you’re not only shallow but inexcusably wrong: Huntington Beach is iconic, damnit! The place is called Surf City for a reason. Some of the best competitive moments in history have gone down on the south side of that magical pier leading to Ruby’s Diner. The West Coast Surfing Champions. United States Surfing Championships. The Op Pro. Beach riots! Corky Carroll, Tom Curren, Richie Collins, Occy, Machado, Slater. Hell, there’s even a Duke’s right on the sand, so you know these grounds are sacred.
Book a flight to John Wayne Airport (SNA) or LAX if you’re out of state. You’ll need to rent a car to get around, especially if you want to take a 15-minute drive to sample surf in nearby Newport or San Clemente. If you’re in the state already, hop on Interstate 5 and follow the signs.
Heavy in the summer, relatively light outside of there. The crowd definitely thickens over the weekend no matter what month it is. But with miles and miles of pretty much the same quick peaks and weak inside semi-puntable end sections, you can find a wave to yourself and maybe just 10 other dudes. In summation, it’s California. So you know what to expect.
Places To Stay
Ritzy or rugged? If you want to sleep like the stars of the tour, then book a room at Shorebreak Hotel, which is at ground zero of all the action. Beautiful rooms, prime location, and there’s a sprawling outdoor deck and bar where you can look down at masses and tell them how loaded you are (pun definitely intended). If you’re staying for a while, rent a house, check out vrbo.com. Pile the boys in and it won’t be too costly. Just think of all the party power with your very own beach pad.
Places To Eat
Go to Sugar Shack Cafe. The plates will give you more egg than your stomach can handle, and the bikini-boasting ladies walking down Main Street will give you more thoughts than your mind can handle. There’s also of course your typical collection of chain restaurants and seedy Mexican food joints. If you’re a big fan of fresh seafood, Sushi On Fire is really on fire—some of the best rolls you’ve ever tasted and the two-for-one sake bottle special is a point of pride.
Stuff To Bring
Wetsuit, sunscreen, and surfboards. Plenty of places off Main Street will rent to you if you need it. Definitely a skateboard to get around, check the sand bars, and look cool carrying.
If The Surf Is Flat
Sunbathe and talk to girls. Hit up Disneyland. You can drive up to LA and get weird in Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Venice. Go buy a new stick at HSS or Jack’s, or even go to the surfboard-shaping ghetto of HB and get a custom board from some of the best foam mowers on the planet. Get educated at the Huntington Beach International Surf Museum. There’s no shortage of stuff to do in Orange County.