In contrast to the night of violence that marked the end of the U.S. Open of Surfing last summer, the nine-day competition at Huntington Beach drew to a close on a quiet and mellow note.
“It’s a better crowd and a better attitude,” Police Capt. Russell Reinhart said Sunday evening as he stood at the foot of the city pier.
The international competition ended with riotous conditions last year as beachgoers stormed through the city’s downtown, smashing shop windows, pelting police with litter and tipping portable toilets into the street. Police from neighboring cities had to be brought in to help quell the violence.
Organizers of the surf competition, downtown merchants and city leaders pledged that this year would be different. They banned alcohol sales at the surf site, pulled the plug on live music and eliminated a public skateboarding bowl that was a centerpiece the previous year.
Police Chief Robert Handy, who went on foot patrol Sunday as the competition wound down, said the event appeared to come to an orderly end.
"We had a pretty big push of the crowd going up onto Main Street, but it really wasn't overwhelming," Handy said. "It only lasted for about an hour, when it overflowed from the sidewalks into the street, but everyone was well behaved and respectful. We didn't really have any issues other than just a lot of people in a small area."
James Leitz, vice president of IMG Action Sports, the event’s promoter, said he was happy with this year's atmosphere and success.
"I was surprised by how much we could affect people's behavior and send a new message as successfully as we have," he said.
What also contributed to a more casual end to the competition, Leitz said, was the decision to have a soft ending, letting spectators leave at their own pace rather than ordering them to leave.
"We just wanted to turn it into a regular day at the beach and that was the plan," he said. "It kind of seems like it ended that way."
As Huntington Beach Councilman Jim Katapodis walked around the venue Sunday afternoon he commended police and the promoter.
"The chief has come up with a great plan, the police officers seem to be in really strategic positions and everywhere you turn there's a Huntington Beach police officer," he said. "They're giving directions and being nice, but if you're breaking the law, they're writing a citation and sending a clear message that they're not going to have any trouble this year."