Random notes from the HB jungle

Taj Burrow successfully negotiates the media frenzy

Bulldozers are plowing through the silty HB Pier sand, snapping together the last remaining beams and bleachers. The Jumbotrons assume their positions, and guys with tribal tattoos are putting the finishing touches on a self-made tiki village. Final preparations for the next big reality TV hit: Survivor: Southern California?

Close. It's actually this year's installment of the {{{Honda}}} US Open of Surfing, as big, bad and wild as ever. With huge qualifying points at stake, every WCT hopeful – along with more than a dozen of the Big Names (including the Irons bros) – sucks it up and heads to Huntington in late July. It's the Vegas of surfing: you gotta go at least once each year and test your luck. Besides, with more than 500,000 spectators, promos, Walk of Fames and Bruce Movie premieres, this week is bound to keep all comers entertained.

It's so big, promoters have even imported a surfboard to match the hype. Australian Nev Hyman built the 40-foot-long, 10-foot-wide Thruster in an attempt to break the world record for most people surfing one board. In order to qualify for the Guinness Book of Records the board had to be made exactly like a regular surfboard, foam, fiberglass and stringer. The board took four shapers and 60 days to build; it was constructed behind Nev's shop on the Gold Coast of Australia and cost him $35,000. The whole idea to break the world record started as a lark, just a bit of fun, but it has morphed into a serious humanitarian mission. The board is traveling across the country on a "waves of compassion tour," raising money for Surf Aid International, and will eventually in New York where it will travel down the Hudson River.

Too bad the giant equipment didn't quite match the waves. It was about chest high on Tuesday, crumbly and very summer-in-Huntington-esque. Most surfers struggled quite a bit through the dreaded South Side trench, trying to maintain speed until it reformed on the inside. But there were a few exceptions; Rob Machado could glide across Death Valley if he had to. He sat way outside during his heat, almost next to the buoy marking the contest area, then ripped long lefts that stretched from Brookhurst clear to the Pier. But his speed runs weren't quite enough to win his heat, as Rob took second to 17-year-old Florida upstart, Eric Geiselman.

Even with mediocre surf, this event has enough sideshows to keep you interested. A massive swimming pool shaped skate ramp sits just behind the scaffolding. Fourteen feet deep and completely mobile, it just got shipped here from Germany. The skate competition doesn't start until Friday, but already Mike Smith is in there warming up, getting ready for the masters competition. Three years ago he broke his arm in this ramp. His daughter tells me how the bone was hanging out of his skin and he had to be taken out of the ramp on a backboard through a trapdoor built into the ramp back wall. According to Mike, there's always carnage during these events, the jam sessions especially, where there will be up to five skaters in the bowl at any one time, people dropping in all over the place, loud music, the crowd going nuts. Accidents, he says looking a little nervous, are inevitable.

Speaking of inevitable, a pack of glittered bikini girls just handed me four different fliers to four different parties tonight. Looks like I'm gonna have to close my eyes and pick…

South side of the HB pier in all its glory

UPCOMING ROUND OF 96 HEATS:Heat # 1: Andy Irons, Chris Ward, Jock Barnes, Mikala Jones
Heat # 2: Marcelo Trekinho, Greg Emslie, Russell Winter, Luke Munro
Heat # 3: Raoni Monteiro, Travis Logie, Shane Bevan, Patrick Gudauskas
Heat # 4: Tim Curran, Armando Daltro, Dayyan Neve, Dean Randazzo
Heat # 5: Damien Hobgood, Tobby Martin, Mikael Picon, Odirlei Coutinho
Heat # 6: Gabe Kling, Bobby Martinez, Josh Fuller, Josh Kerr
Heat # 7: David Weare, Pancho Sullivan, Dane Reynolds, Bobby Morris
Heat # 8: Taylor Knox, Chris Davidson, Maz Quinn, Royden Bryson
Heat # 9: Paulo Moura, Trent Munro, Corey Ziems, Cheyne Magnusson
Heat #10: Eneko Acero, Jesse Merle-Jones, Dunga Neto, Dustin Cuizon
Heat #11: Shawn Cansdell, Marcelo Nunes, Pedro Henrique, Drew Courtney
Heat #12: Cory Lopez, Renan Rocha, Leonardo Neves, Shea Lopez
Heat #13: Taj Burrow, Brett Simpson, Norimasa Ohno, Gavin Gillette
Heat #14: Bernardo Pigmeu, Ben Bourgeois, Dane Gudauskas, Kieren Perrow
Heat #15: Yuri Sodre, Nathaniel Curran, Heitor Pereira, Ola Eleogram
Heat #16: Sunny Garcia, Alex Gray, Samba Mann, Joel Centeio
Heat #17: Dean Morrison, Tim Reyes, Eric Geiselman, Kekoa Bacalso
Heat #18: Daniel Redman, Roy Powers, Rob Machado, Jay Thompson
Heat #19: Adriano de Souza, Troy Brooks, Warwick Wright, Teppei Tajima
Heat #20: Bruce Irons, Kirk Flintoff, Austin Ware, Jarrad Howse
Heat #21: Kalani Robb, Bede Durbidge, Jay Quinn, Nathan Carroll
Heat #22: Adrian Buchan, Luke Stedman, Yadin Nicol, Jano Belo
Heat #23: Glenn Hall, Adam Robertson, Brian Toth, Marcondes Rocha
Heat #24: {{{CJ}}} Hobgood, Fred Patacchia, Carlos Cabrero, Dylan Graves