MORE THAN 400,000 people are expected to flock to the beaches near Huntington Beach Pier for the U.S. Open of Surfing. When you're ready for a break from the sun, there's always shopping. For surfers and those who just want to look the part, the O.C. coast is the place to find board shorts, beach totes, tie-dye coverups, shell picture frames and more flip-flops than you can shake a sandy towel at. From Main Street in Huntington Beach to Forest Avenue in Laguna, here's a guide to some of the hot spots:
Just steps from the pier, Huntington Surf & Sport (300 Pacific Coast Highway) is a one-stop shop not only for wetsuits and boards, but also for more fashiony items such as O'Neill's Firecracker tote made of rainbow yarn and sequins ($49.50); Vans' take on the Top-Sider, the nautical Abby slip-on ($44.99); and Roxy's "HB Pride" T-shirts ($19.99). Merillee's (124 Main St.) has mix 'n' match swimwear, tie-dye jersey coverups and Havaianas in every color and print, while Jack's (101 Main St.) has all the official U.S. Open hats and T-shirts. American Vintage (201 Main St.) is a trove of Hawaiian floral muumuus, 1970s-era jumpsuits, embroidered tunics and Katy Perry rompers. Complete the look with a pukka shell necklace or a neon string bracelet from Andes (300 Pacific Coast Highway) jewelry stand, where most items are less than $5.
Sure, there's Fashion Island. But if you want a more charming and low-key shopping experience, head across Newport Harbor to Balboa Island. Marine Avenue is lined with shops full of clothes for après-surf, including Sydney Michelle (307 Marine Ave.), which stocks Mike & Chris, Phillip Lim, Ya-Ya and Rebecca Taylor, along with chic "bee" cocktail rings from Lily Posh ($45). Etc. Etc. Etc. (312 Marine Ave.) has lots of summery coverups, tunic tops and hoodies from Joie and Juicy, alongside woven rainbow clutches by Brazilian designer Ira Salles ($62), while 5 Seas (224 Marine Ave.), specializes in dresses from Trina Turk, Diane von Furstenberg and T-Bags. Zschoche (219 Marine Ave.) has stylish housewares, books and gifts, including recycled sailcloth totes ($140) and 88 Orange's citrus fragrance, a kind of eau de O.C. ($55). Don't forget to try a frozen chocolate banana from one of the dueling banana shops, Dad's Donuts (318 Marine Ave.) or Sugar 'n Spice (310 Marine Ave.).
Back on the mainland, those who need a Balenciaga for the beach head to A'maree's (1649 Westcliff Drive), the coolest multi-designer boutique in Newport with Comme des Garçons, Lucien Pellat Finet, Lanvin and more. On a recent visit, we stumbled on a mother lode -- Dries Van Noten's Gauguin-inspired print tops and dresses from the spring collection at 50% off. Molly Brown's (2116 Newport Blvd.) is also worth a detour for some of the sexiest swimwear around, by Le Tarte, Vix, Melissa Odabash and more.
Forest Avenue is packed with chic spots including the best surf shop for non-surfers, Hobie (294 Forest Ave.). In addition to all the usual shorts, sandals and bikinis, you'll find bamboo pens ($4.99), surfboard-shaped rugs ($49), crab-print tote bags by Bungalow 360 ($36) and mesh Mary Janes by Blowfish Malibu ($46). Muse (300 Forest Ave.) has a unique selection of Ella Moss, Plenty and T-Bags dresses, Bettye Muller flats, Orla Kiely bags and lobster print hoodies by Primp ($164). There's cheaper fare too, including the deliciously '70s, rainbow plastic studded belt we nabbed for $20. Laguna Colony Co. (384 Forest Ave.) is the place to outfit your beach house with shell picture frames, starfish-shaped platters and lifestyle books. Around the corner, Laguna Supply (210 Beach St.) can't keep Sunshine and Shadow's silk tie-dye scarves in beach bright colors ($108) in stock. There are also breezy dresses and tops by Calypso and Paul & Joe, plus jelly gladiators in neon colors for just $38. And Zinc Cafe & Market (350 Ocean Ave.) makes a great stop for a salad and a lemonade.
Hop back in the car toward the historic Hotel Laguna and you'll find Bubbles of Laguna (445 S. Coast Highway). In addition to beachy scented goodies from brands such as Terra Nova, Pure Fiji and Island Soap Co., they make their own products including a box of single-use, shell-shaped soaps ($11.50), the perfect summer hostess gift when paired with a whimsical Beadworx beaded fish ($20 to $48).