Nike U.S. Open of Surfing 2011Welcome to the “Stadium of Surf.”

To describe the U.S. Open of Surfing properly, I’d have to misquote LL Cool J’s, 1991 hit single, Mama Said Knock You Out…  “They call it a comeback, but it’s been here for years…”

Surfing–Much like the surf which the sport rides upon, its popularity ebbs and flows with the times. The U.S. Open of Surfing knows this more than any other Southern California surfing event. It was caught in a rip tide for years. Since 1959, the U.S. open of Surfing, formerly the West Coast Surfing Championship, has been a beacon for surf culture in So.Cal. Not only is the event itself an important marker for the sport, its been held for over half a century, but the location itself is just as notable. Home to the Surfers’ Hall of Fame as well as the Surfing Walk of Fame, Huntington Beach is one of the early West Coast surfing haunts. Iconic event in an Iconic venue. But even with all that heritage and history, the U.S. Open of Surfing was still on the verge of a collapse.

In comes Nike and its subsidiaries Converse and Hurley in 2009, and in less than three years, the event has seen a complete 180. The event went from being described as  “dire” and “retired” to “hot like fire”.  It’s burning hot. I recommend slathering on the SPF 100++ little Asian lady style.

The Nike U.S. Open of Surfing is now arguably one of the best sporting events in Southern California. With FREE BMX, Skate, Surf, Music and Fashion, and with an attendance of over 500,000 half naked individuals of the toned and untoned persuasion, this week-long surf competition held annually during the summer, it also boasts North America’s only combined six-star World Qualifying Series (WQS), is a summer winner.  Did I mention it was FREE?

World class athletes at the top of their games going head to head for your viewing pleasure, how do you say no?

As a member of the media, attending these events often remind me of summer camp. Spending a few nights away from home and going on little tours and adventures and learning new things. Everyone piling on a bus to get from point A to point B adds to the whole camp feel. And let’s not forget about the “classes” aka presentations where we learned about all the cool new Nike innovations in surf, skate, and snow. Throw in hanging out with cool kids from around the world: Susie Bubble, Kevin Braddock (The Manzine), Max Bergius (Art Wednesday), Yale Breslin, Phil Oh (StreetPeeper), etc. and our camp counselors, mine was the lovely Jacie Prieto, it’s a recipe for fun.

I attended my first U.S. Open of Surfing last year and had a great time. Round Two was even better…  with a minor exception.

Susie Bubble Trouble

You can take the girl out of London, but you can’t take London out of the girl. Here’s fashion writer/blogger and my new eating partner in crime, Susie Bubble, or Bubble Trouble. She brought a lot of sunshine to the U.S. Open of Surfing with her colorful outfits and lovely smile. Just don’t ask if she’s a Harajuku girl or Susie Bubble will give you a karate chop to the head. Lesson learned. Ouch!

Max Bergius (Art Wednesday) + Simon Wainwright (Nike UK)

Max Bergius, Founder and Editor of London publication Art Wednesday and Simon Wainwright from Nike UK, are ready to go. Max gives us the thumbs up as we gear up for our rounds of product presentations.

Max Bergius (Art Wednesday) + Simon Wainwright (Nike UK)

Simon moves in for his close up and Max sits back and relaxes during our trip to the Nike+Hurley+Converse space 255 where we’ll meet skateboarder Paul (PRod) Rodriguez and learn about the new PRod 5 shoe. Max looks refreshed, relaxed, and ready to touch some professional athletes. Lots of them.  I must find out how he keeps his skin so radiant.

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Surfer Carissa Moore

Last year’s U.S. Open of Surfing Women’s Champion, Carissa Moore. With her amazing attitude and sunny disposition she should change her name to Sunshine. Be sure to pick up a Nike 6.0 bikini that Carissa had a hand in helping with. Nike designer Kristin Reiter took loads of Carissa’s feedback to make the bikini even more surf ready. By the way… Have you seen Carissa and the girls of the Nike 6.0 Surf Team do their thing in Leave a Message? Click on the link and take a look.

Surfer Laura Enever

Laura Enever is a fashionista surfer girl. The melon hued cover-up and big sunglasses speak for themselves. Be sure to check Laura out on the Nike Women’s “Make Yourself” Campaign.

Skateboarder Paul Rodriguez

Paul Rodriguez aka PRod: New dad and a gentleman skateboarder offered some insight into his ideal skating locations. When he’s looking for a good staircase he looks for a smooth runway. When it comes to handrails and ledges, PRod likes perfect 90 degree angled corners. “They also need to be 1-1/2 feet high and 10 feet long.”  He enjoys smooth concrete and loves good marble.

Paul likes to skate the DWP building in Downtown L.A. because “the marble benches are the perfect angle and height.” Unfortunately, security has been beefed up, but it all depends. “Sometimes we can skate there for hours, sometimes we get chased off in 2 minutes. You never know with that place but its great.”

“The ARCO now the Wells Fargo Building in Downtown L.A. has great railing.”

If he could skate anywhere in the world… “I saw some amazing black marble ledges in China somewhere. I want to skate that. I love marble. And the Macba in Barcelona is a great place. The stone is so smooth, the ledges are great. You can skate all day. Just skate and enjoy.”

Thanks Paul. By the way, your hair looks amazing.

Be sure to pick up the new PRod 5. It’s an amazingly comfortable shoe. And if I was a real skateboarder instead of one of those wimpy non-trick flipping skaters, (I bruise easy), I’d wear them all the time. In fact… for those of you who don’t know… Skateboarding shoes are ideal for everyday wear due to the cushioning. Skaters deal with so much shock and impact from the tricks they do, they need to combat that with shock absorption and cushioning which is key. And let’s not forget board feel… Every shoe that bears Paul’s name is something that he works on personally with the Nike SB design team. “I’m there, I’m in it. I work hard on each shoe as it represents me.”  Already in the works.. the PRod 6 and 7… To be continued.

Phil Oh (StreetPeeper)+Yale Breslin+Colleen Nika

Bloggers conversing on the streets of Newport. Phil Oh (Mr. Street Peeper), Yale Breslin and Colleen Nika. I’d like to think these three are taking about Action Sports or about the 255 space we just visited and our new purchases. (I picked up a new pair of Stefan Janoski SB shoes and some socks.) But they’re probably avoiding eye contact with Phil, who looks likes he might be allergic to the sun. Yale: “Colleen don’t look.. don’t look.” Colleen: “Oh no! I totally looked!” Phil: “Where’s the bus? I need to keep this Asian blossom skin white as rice.”

Converse Skateboarder Kenny Anderson

I love Kenny. I met Kenny Anderson last year during the U.S. Open of Surfing and we’ve managed to keep in touch with sporadic hit and run hellos throughout the year. Not only a great skater but just an all around rad dude. But as I take Kenny’s photo I get he sense he’s still nervous I’ll steal his board as he clutches it defensively to his chest even after a year later. I guess its true… They forgive but they don’t forget.

Skateboarder David Loy

David Loy isn’t the biggest fan of signing autographs though he’s more than happy to. But given the option to skate or sign, he’d rather be in the bowl, ripping up some Coastal Carnage and making friends with the bowl shark which I’ve dubbed “Toothless.”

“I’d rather be skating more than anything else…”

Skateboarder Tom Remillard went on to Win the Coastal Carnage event where Tony Hawk came  out of retirement to go head to head against Christian Hosoi and Lance Mountain. I wonder what Tom will spend his $15,000 on? Hopefully an IRA. I’d recommend staying away from the stock market and possibly investing in some gold.

Surf God Kelly Slater

My Baywatch dreams have finally come true. I’ve met, photographed, and touched Kelly Slater… ever so gently. This man is a surf god. But apparently his magical surf powers don’t rub off on you. (See bottom of this post.) Kelly went on to win this year’s Men’s Nike U.S. Open of Surfing. After a decade, this man still kills it.

Kevin Braddock (The Manzine), Simon, Max and Susie

This is the only photo I have of the reclusive and exclusive Kevin Braddock aka The Manzine aka Jean Claude Van Damme’s stunt double aka Jack of All Trades. If you see this man and he talks to you… consider yourself lucky. If you see this man and he saves your life, you’d best consider him a friend for life. Kevin + Joy = Friends Forever.

Beauty Queens

We discovered that the Miss Orange County pageant was being held on the grounds of our hotel and had to go and take a peek. Lots of bronzer, glitter, boobs and hooker heels. But among the beauty beasts I found these girls sitting on a bench hanging out.  (*Note: On a whim I entered the pageant and was crowned Miss Orange County and have been enjoying my reign. I’ve visited the elderly at an old folks home and have taken part in the opening of a local In-n-Out Burgers. I helped make the fries and yes, I wore a hair net.)

Camp Counselors aka Tim Yu (Nike) + Jacie Prieto (Nike)

They’re what you’d wish your parents were like… or at least I do. On a media trip, you’re only as good as your press manager and Jacie is a gem. Last year, Tim took care of me during my stay and this year, Jacie was back in action after giving birth to her gorgeous baby girl.

Whatever you need, Tim and Jacie are there. They make sure you don’t get lost. They make sure you stay hydrated. And if you need that special one-on-one athlete time, they’re there to make it happen.

Russ Bengtson from Complex Magazine aka The Bengtson

Russ Bengtson was out with Converse and to watch some skateboarding action in the bowl for some Coastal Carnage. You can see a glimpse of his shoes in this polaroid… they’re Nike. Russ has to wear white AF1′s every day for a month. Apparently he and Nick Schonberger (Selectism) have some sort of weird pact. I hope it doesn’t end with aliens and drinking grape kool-aid, but knowing Russ…

Beach Madness

This was the day before the surf final. On Sunday its absolute mayhem. You can easily spot the shore and plenty of sand but come Sunday, you’ll be fighting with the ocean and hundreds of thousands of other attendees to even get a few grains of sand uncomfortably wedged into your swimsuit bottom. It’s that packed. Not recommended for people suffering from claustrophobia. Seriously.

Tween Beach Life--- Totally

I caught these little Tweens on a beach outing on Friday. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”  Little girls: ” Yuck. NO WAY. It’s summer vacation!”

Being an overachieving Asian, I spent my summers taking extra classes. Clearly I missed out. Totally. Bummer.

Skateboarder Eric Koston

I ran into Eric Koston outside of the Converse Coastal Carnage area. We were both denied access. His snub was obviously more significant than mine but we made the most of it. I.e., we were texting and calling on our iPhones trying to get in. In the meantime, I took Eric’s photo.

Eric Koston likes Hello Kitty. Or at least he pretended he did when he signed my polaroid. Just a few months ago Nike launched the Eric Koston shoe in Los Angeles. I had to excuse myself last minute from the press event due to a business trip out of town. Apparently there was an Eric Koston bobble head on display somewhere during that event. Dang. I love a good bobble head. And the Eric Koston shoe looks amazing.

Lars, Simon, Turid = The Berlin Crew

Lars, Simon, and Turid aka the Berlin Crew. They like their sun hot, they like the beaches beachy, and they like their beers cold.

Surfer Julian Wilson

Here’s Julian Wilson striking his best, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll go surfing today” pose. In our mens’ surf presentation we learned about boardshorts and the new Nike Legacy surf boardshorts are amazing. Made from poly recycled material, 11 plastic bottles make up one pair of shorts and with 4-way stretch and practically stitch free and the bonus coating on the fabric that makes water beads right off of it all I want to know is where’s my pair?? Plus, Julian’s mom’s artwork featured on the shorts makes them extra special, especially to a guy who believes that “Family is everything.”

Olympic Snowboarder Danny Kass

When Olympic Snowboarder Danny Kass isn’t busy showing off his perfect chompers, he’s busy avoiding sharks by opting to stay out of the water and sticks to carving his way down the sides of some big mountains. Fresh powder is his best and only friend.

We learned about the Zoom Force 1 for snow and the amazing amount of Nike technology that goes into making the perfect snow boot as well as the sneaker influence and Nike heritage that went into Danny Kass’s signature shoe. It all comes down to board feel, which is a key for success. “If you can’t feel the board, you’re deadmeat.”

If you’re interested in learning how to snowboard like Mr. Kass here, here’s a few pointers from the man himself. To start is a 2-3 day process where you’ll need to stock up on the proper gear. “Try all your gear on the day before and walk around to work out the stiffness or at least get use to it.” There’s a small learning scale and the ultimate goal is to ride down the side of a mountain. Danny recommends getting a snow boot that’s softer and go up in sizing by 1/2 a size. “Make sure it feels right.” He’s also a big fan of “velcro anything.” Velcro straps make things tighter, which I like.”  Danny also likes different detailing touches when it comes to his own snow boots. “Two tongues, keeps your pants up, colorways, strapping systems, lacing systems, everything. I’m into it.”

Keep your eyes out for a special quickstrike release coming out soon featuring artwork by Danny Kass who worked with the graphics and design team. “I’m not really good at art or the best at it but I have a feel for it and the fact that Nike let me do this says a lot.”

Snowboarder Annie Boulanger

Annie Boulanger. A snow bunny with an eye for fashion. Annie helps the Nike Team when it comes to the design of the Womens Snowboarding Collection.  She’s smart, opinionated, and if her last name was a tad different I’d be calling her “The Baker.” Boulanger is so close to Boulangerie, French for Bakery. I could just imagine her making up tricks with awesome bakery themed names like “The Baker’s Dozen”, “Hot Cross Buns”, “Pain au Chocolat”, or the “Apple Turnover.” And when she’s on it… she’ll layer on the “Royal Icing”  and totally bake her competition.  (Baking puns are awesome.)

A trip to the emergency room

The weekend was capped off with a trip to the emergency room. I was struck in the back of the head with my surfboard during a lesson with my instructor. A wave hit us, and according to an eyewitness account on shore, we looked like an explosion of arms and legs. I saw stars and my legs turned to spaghetti.

I sat in the emergency room for almost seven hours being treated, and while I went in and out of consciousness what I thought about were the athletes that I met and saw over the course of the weekend.

Athletes. The people that reside in this category are seriously in a league of their own. I might be in pain and vomiting and moaning and groaning, but they put themselves in these kind of situations all the time. This is what Action Sports is all about. Granted, I’m not an athlete. And though the idea that if you have a body, you are an athlete is something that is completely lost on me, I do believe that what these people do, the skill they possess and their unwavering dedication to their craft is something that is beyond admirable.

Skateboarders, surfers, BMX bikers….  these are athletes in real sports that conquer amazing feats and put themselves on the line every time they step out on their boards and bikes. I’m just that more in awe of them.

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When I called my family about my visit about my trip to the emergency room after my surfing accident there was little sympathy. In fact, this exchange that I had with my sisters (Bo and Grace) has me slightly convinced that I may have been adopted.

Me: “Hey guys. Just wanted to let you know that I had to go to the emergency room after being hit in the head with a surfboard. I suffered a minor concussion but I’m okay. Letting you know so you don’t worry.”

Bo to Grace: “What makes Joy think she can surf?”

Grace to me and Bo: “Joy, just because you own ‘Blue Crush’ on VHS and saw it three times doesn’t mean you know how to surf.”

Joy to Grace and Bo: “Listen. For your information I own ‘Blue Crush’ on DVD and I’ve seen in at least ten times… you bitches.”

*thanks foreverything.