"I swear on my mother's grave, that's what I saw, why would I make that up? I couldn't even begin to make that up."
“I think, he’s illustrating, that here, this week, anything, and everything, might be possible. For this is no ordinary surf competition. This is some type of super structure of American dreams.” CLICK FOR EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS.
I'm in the passenger seat being driven down from LAX to Huntington by Red Bull Rising coach Andy King. And I'm incredulous. Kingy had just told me that only an hour ago, in a mall, he had watched slack-jawed, widemouthed and freaked out, as a dog came walking through carrying a cat. Now that, possibly, is weird enough, but not only was the dog carrying a cat, but the cat was carrying a rat. He was too stupefied to even take a photo. The dog, the cat, and the rat just walked by, no owner (or owners) in sight, off into the fluro lit distance.
With that story he welcomes me to California, Surf City, and the Honda US Open. I think, he's illustrating, that here, this week, anything, and everything, might be possible. For this is no ordinary surf competition. This is some type of super structure of American dreams. Looking out over the mini-city, framed by billowing smoke stacks and four to five feet of Hurricane induced south swell, I turned to WQS competitor Gav Gillette, who was getting ready for his heat and commented that it was pretty weird that the last time we were together at a surfing comp, we were living on a boat, in the Maldives.
"Yeah, a little different, huh," said the Kauaian. "That was like Gilligan's Island, just all secluded with warm water, good waves, tropical living and not a lick of p*ssy. But over here, well yeah, it's pretty different, there's more media, there's more people, there's more hype – you know it's like a surfing mecca, a holy grail, despite the shitty waves."
I had to agree – for all its faults, this place is some type of surfing shrine, where previous events infuse current events with more meaning. In fact I almost had some type of Marty McFly back-to-the-future moment when I saw Richie Collins dissolve out from under the pier, yellow rash shirt and 20 year old Mohawk intact. But it was no mirage, just a man holding onto a dream. His surfing hasn't changed, which is fine when you surfed that good to begin with, the only problem now was that his competition is kids like Julian Wilson, whose surfing seemingly progresses every five minutes.
Still, the holy grail draws them in from all quarters, all wanting the rusty gold, shiny points and mass crowd adulation that this place offers. "You know if you do good here, its such a big bonus," French competitor Tim Boal told me. "All the industry and sponsors are here, its more of a show than anywhere else, it's just, well so American and so huge."
With that, well it was time to go surfing. The south swell was throwing up four foot fattish, close-out walls that streamed down the beach, propelled by a sweep that could outrun the cars fuming down the adjacent and inventively titled Pacific Highway. There were waves, points, fame and fortune to be chased, and we were on the hunt. In a place where a rat, a cat and a dog can co-exist in some type of cosmic unity, there was hope for all of us.