After Huntington Beach riot, music and alcohol out for surfing contest

An annual surfing contest in Huntington Beach will do away with live music and limit alcohol sales after rioting broke out in the city’s downtown after the event last summer.

The melee along Main Street resulted in a night of violence in which shop windows were smashed, police were pelted with debris and portable toilets were tipped into the roadway.

More than 20 people were arrested on changes ranging from vandalism to arson.

Now organizers of the U.S. Open of Surfing say they will make numerous changes to the event to help limit the ingredients that authorities said fueled last year's violence.

This summer’s contest will do away with its live music stage, numerous vendor tents and will enforce an alcohol ban in the VIP areas, said James Leitz, vice president of IMG Action Sports, which is staging the event.

Vans, the shoe and apparel retailer, will be the event’s main sponsor and will have a retail center on the beach as well as several kiosks in the area. Pacifico beer will returned as a sponsor but will no longer serve alcohol to guests in VIP sections.

In addition to the physical changes in the event, organizers are looking to take a different approach at how they market it.

Leitz said he would cut back on the social media marketing and was mindful of what kind of message is being sent.

“We think that we can help start a change in behavior with how we message them,” he said. “You live by the sword and you die by the sword when it comes to social media, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this experiment goes.”


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