Hoping to avoid a repeat of the public violence that erupted at the end of last year's U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, officials say the event will be significantly scaled down and more tightly controlled when it kicks off on Friday.
There will be no live music stage or a public skate bowl, and alcohol sales and consumption will be barred, organizers said. There will also be fewer vendors, and police have taken "a lot of different steps" to bolster security, Chief Robert Handy said.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post reported that there would not be a skate bowl at the U.S. Open of Surfing this year. There will not be a public skate bowl but there will still be competitive skate bowl events.
"You can never really predict human behavior, especially when you have 100,000 people coming down in one event venue, but we certainly think that all the steps have been taken to make a safe and family friendly event," he told the Huntington Beach Independent.
Last year, officers fired pepper balls and nonlethal projectiles at rioters as they broke through glass storefronts and overturned portable toilets. Several officers sustained minor injuries, and one person was treated and released from a hospital after being hit by a rubber projectile.
Of those arrested in connection with the riot, only one was from Huntington Beach.
For the past several months, IMG Action Sports -- which organizes the event -- has been working with city officials and police to scale down the surfing competition. In addition to curtailing alcohol sales and other side attractions, the footprint of the event will be reduced, said IMG Vice President James Leitz said.
Businesses that want to host activities on the sidewalks will have to apply for a temporary activity permit, and police will patrol the area for unpermitted vending.
Handy said the police department would deploy four mounted officers downtown on the weekends and increase police presence toward the end of the competition, which ends Aug. 3. Officers from Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster will assist in the patrols.
The city's new ambassadors — yellow-shirted security officers — will also act as extra eyes for police while also providing directions and assistance to visitors.
"I think we'll be fine. I really do," Handy said. "I think we're in good shape, but like I said, you can't predict human behavior."
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