Orange County has been put on the map as a sports hub for the 2028 Olympics, with Anaheim’s Honda Center tapped to play host to the volleyball games.
Another OC city is looking to get in on the action.
Huntington Beach, already a prominent coastal destination famed for its beaches and events, is throwing its hat in the ring to host surfing as part of the Summer Olympics being held in Los Angeles in 2028.
When it comes to hosting a large amount of people and vendors on a grand scale, Surf City USA has had its practice.
“Annual, signature events help paint the picture that we are able to customize our beach to whatever is coming,” officials from Visit Huntington Beach (VHB) tell the Business Journal.
The city is gearing up to host one such signature event in September, the 2022 ISA World Surfing Games, which serves as the first event for Olympic surfing qualification.
It’s the first time in OC since 2006 for the International Surfing Association (ISA).
The city will host over 40 international surfing teams across several hotels in the region and hopes the event will showcase Surf City’s viability as a host for the 2028 Olympics.
“Huntington Beach becomes the first step in our exciting paddle towards the 2024 Olympic Games. Excellent waves and the strong Southern California surf culture made Huntington Beach a natural choice for this iconic event,” ISA President Fernando Aguerre said in a statement.
“Being awarded the 2022 surfing games is a testimony to the power of Surf City USA as a brand to deliver a world class athletic event,” VHB Chief Executive Kelly Miller told the Business Journal.
Other potential regional venues for the ’28 surf competition that Huntington Beach is vying with are San Clemente and Malibu.
Surf City USA
Surfing made its Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and is set to join Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028 after being officially inducted in February by the International Olympic Committee.
Huntington Beach officials believe the city is already prepared for the surfing competition.
The Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, put on by the World Surfing League, has been held in Huntington Beach since 1959 and now brings more than 375,000 people to the area each year.
In a study conducted by market research firm Destination Analysts Inc., the event in 2018 brought in $55 million in direct spending; total economic impact was estimated to be $96 million.
This year’s U.S. Open will take place from July 30 to August 7 after a two-year hiatus.
The city of Huntington Beach counts 22 hotels and resorts with 2,403 rooms and counts 10 miles of coastline. It hosts more than 200 events each year at various beach venues, according to Visit Huntington Beach. In 2018, the city reported 3.7 million non-OC visitors.
Kevin Elliott, Code Four CEO and director of the city’s Pacific Airshow, said the Olympics would generate international exposure for the city and serve as a new, notable notch in its belt.
Elliott’s entertainment company bought the Pacific Airshow in 2016 when it first premiered in Huntington Beach. Now, the international event, thanks to a recent expansion to Australia, brings in around $100 million to the city’s local economy.
“I’m delivering value for my city,” Elliott, who serves on the board of Visit Huntington Beach, told the Business Journal last month.
The Honda Center in Anaheim has already been tapped to host the volleyball games for LA28 with help from the OC Sports Commission.
Irvine has been touted as a potential venue for water polo matches during the games, and, if it becomes an Olympic event in 2028, cricket could potentially take place at a proposed venue in the city.
The Surf Industry Members Association (SIMA) is heading efforts to establish Huntington Beach as part of the Olympics.
Vipe Desai took the helm of the organization at the end of 2021 after working in the community for more than three decades.
One of his first steps was to change the brand’s name from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association to reflect the broader goals of the city and industry.
“SIMA is going to be more outward facing in the future,” Desai told the Business Journal.
SIMA’s executive committee includes Rip Curl President Dylan Slater, Vissla CEO Paul Naudé—a longtime apparel industry/action sports exec in the area—and Roxy General Manager Cathey Curtis.
Representatives from Irvine-based La Jolla Group’s O’Neill brand and Vans are represented on the board as well.
Top of mind for the association is making Huntington Beach more visible on the global scale.
“The Olympic Scale,” according to Desai.
“We have to foster good opportunities to make sure this community can reap the benefits of surfing becoming more visible,” Desai said.
“If and when the green light is given, we will be there to support any way we are asked.”
With lifestyle and sports apparel companies such as Boardriders Inc. and TravisMathew LLC based in the city, the local retail industry will help play a role in securing the city’s spot.
“Huntington Beach is poised to host outdoor sporting events like these due to our infrastructure, extensive history of events, and action sports-oriented culture,” Visit Huntington Beach said.
“It’s the consistency of our waves, the city’s logistics, the walkability of downtown, the pier, city staff and more that speak to the California beach experience. It’s a proven formula,” Miller added.