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Bob Hurley looks back on the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing

By Tiffany Montgomery
July 28, 2009 9:04 AM

I checked in with Bob Hurley this week to get his thoughts on the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing, which reportedly drew the biggest crowds ever. I also asked Bob if Hurley will sponsor the event next year.

How do you think the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing turned out?

Seemed like a perfect storm. On the 50th anniversary of the event, and the 100th year birthday of the city, we had the good fortune to connect the top athletes in the sport, with art, music and an impressive amount of consumers in Huntington Beach (which is also Surf City USA). It was the biggest crowd ever to witness a surfing competition with over 125,000 people on the final day.

U.S. Open crowd shotEpic weather and epic surf conditions. We were happy. Surfing is a magical sport. These athletes are among the best in the world at any sport. Kelly Slater is nine time World Champion. He is arguably one of the best, if not THE most successful athletic champion of this century.

We had seven ASP World tour champions surfing in the event: Kelly Slater (9), Mick Fanning, Andy Irons (3), CJ Hobgood, Tom Curren (3), Sunny Garcia, Stephanie Gilmore (2) - cumulatively representing 20 World Championships. It had been seven years since the top guys surfed the event.

Our goal was to showcase their skills in a stadium like atmosphere. We also wanted to make it great for local businesses and our retail partners. So far, it seems like folks were happy.

(At right: the crowd on Friday.)

What were some highlights for you?

Some standout moments for me:

Courtney Conlogue, a HB girl at 16 years old, putting everything on the line and attacking gigantic surf, scoring the highest women's heat total ever in the history of the event. Her quarterfinal total was 19.63 out of 20. Nearly perfect.

Local hero and the Register's Orange County Surfer of the year, Brett Simpson, putting on an amazing show for his hometown crowd to win the highest first prize ever in the history of surfing, $100,000. Seemed like a fairy tale. Reigning World Junior Champ, Kai Barger turning up the volume in the Nike 6.0 pro junior to take home the victory. Malia Manuel's beautiful smile and incredible style combined with savage aggression on the waves, to take home the 6.0 junior Women's title.

Also, Kelly Slater's perfect 10-point ride. Nathaniel Curran's amazing barrel. CJ Hobgood on an incredible 8-foot wave got totally closed out on while in the barrel and somehow pulled it. Mick Fanning upside down grabbing both rails of his board 10 feet high in the air.

Hurley umbrellaThe entire Corona nose-riding event was a really exciting thing for the crowd as they were treated to a fantastic exhibition. On top of that you had the Nike 6.0 BMX event and the Converse Coastal Carnage Skate event.

The surfers owned the WPS All Star event. They put on compelling expression sessions for the crowd using Jet Ski assist. It was really exciting for over a hundred thousand people to watch the world's best giving their most creative possible performance.

Lincoln High School outshining the competition in the Walk the Walk grand Championship.

It was indeed an inspiring weekend, and the most fun event ever.

Anything you would do differently?

The only thing to do differently would be to use more sunscreen.

I've been told Hurley did some things differently this year, such as meeting with the city beforehand and having a Hurley representative on site during set up. Is that true? Organizationally, how did Hurley approach the event, including the consistent marketing images throughout HB?

We love the idea of inclusion. From the beginning we reached out to all parties and decided to work together to make this the best event ever for the city. Kyle Lindo and the lifeguards made all things possible, Mayor Keith Bohr and the entire city group were instrumental in making things more fun. The police department was totally supportive. Brodie Carr from the ASP, Mick Fanning from the WPS - they brought the top athletes. IMG used its considerable experience and talent to make this event great. This was a collective effort for which we are thankful to be a part of.

The use of Jet Skis to shuttle the athletes back to the lineup greatly enhanced the surfing performances and the crowd interaction. The athletes were virtually on parade, up close and personal after each ride.

Will you sponsor next year's U.S. Open?

Our current plan is to do the event again next year.

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