The Vans US Open of Surfing is more than a surfing competition. Skateboarding and BMX competition are included in the festival. The first West Coast Surfing Championship was held in 1959 and since then the US Open of Surfing has become the largest action sports festival.
The WSL began working with the US Open of Surfing's owner and operator in 2001, when it was still called the Association of Surfing Pros. Vans was the title sponsor in the last year.
Female executives at each company form the core of the event. Together with Huntington Beach, the home of the US Open for six decades, these stakeholders are Cherie Cohen, global chief revenue officer and advisor at WSL, Jen Lau, vice president of action sports events at IMG, and Carly Gomez, VP of marketing, Americas at Vans. Direct spending by the US Open was $21 million in 2010
Action sports have always been dominated by males. The WSL, X Games and Vans Park Series have all offered equal prize money to men and women in recent years in order to counteract that fact.
Action sports still has a heavy male presence despite the fact that female athletes make more money. It is no small feat that the three pillars supporting the Vans US Open of Surfing are all high level executive women.
Gomez said that he wanted to stop and recognize the fact that there are three incredible female executives bringing this amazing platform to life for all surfers, skaters and BMXers. Each of us has leaned into those virtues to create a strong partnership for us and our teams. I am honored to be a part of this event for everyone.
Gomez is the title sponsor of Vans and Cohen is the chief revenue officer of the WSL.
The governing body of pro surfing is responsible for all aspects of pro surfing at this event, which is part of the qualification process for the World Surf League.
As the title sponsor, Vans designs the scope of the event, including the theme, which is sustainable, which is reflected in everything from operations to marketing activations and even stories through the broadcast.
Gomez cited partnerships with OC Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation as being part of the plan for the event. We want to make sure that we leave the location better than we found it, and that's why we're going to clean the beach on August 11.
The glue that holds the WSL and Vans together is IMG, which makes sure that both partners' visions are executed while also handling legal, finance, budget, city and permitting. The project is a year long one. After this year's event ends, we begin planning for the next one.
There are on-site surfboard shaping, surf clinics, public skate and BMX sessions, and product demos and samples from industry brands at the US Open of Surfing.
The US Open is the world's largest surfing competition.
The WSL restructured its pro system into three tiers. The US Open of Surfing is one of three disciplines in pro surfing, and is composed of shortboarding, the Men's and Women's Championship Tours, and the Qualifying Series.
The Big Wave Tour, the Longboard Championships, and the XXL Big Wave Awards are some of the things on offer.
There are two events at the US Open of Surfing, a Men's and a Women's event. 10,000 points is the number of points needed to make the rankings.
The Men's and Women's Duct TapeInvitational is a longboard competition featuring a field of 20 men and 20 women that is the second stop on the 2022.
The skateboarding contest is more about culture than it is about competition. Skaters, including Team Vans pro riders, are awarded for style and unique approach as opposed to traditional scored contest runs in a jam session and cash for tricks contest
One of the most progressive freestyle BMX competition in the world is hosted by the US Open. Nine athletes from eight nations will compete in the men's and women's fields at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
The Tokyo Games marked a huge step forward for women's freestyle BMX, which has very few pro level competitions for women. Men competing in BMX dirt, BMX park and BMX street, as well as a BMX best trick contest, don't have a medal event at the X Games. The X Games used to have a women's demo, organized by a veteran of the sport, but that has been off the schedule recently.
There is a men's and a women's BMX competition at the US Open. Kevin Peraza won the men's title while Perris Benegas won the women's title.
Benegas finished just off the podium in fourth in freestyle BMX at the Olympics.
Lau said that they have championed equitable competition from the beginning. Working with the WSL has led to equality for the women with the Vans Duct Tape Invitation and the same for skate and BMX. It has been important for us to have an equitable position and opportunity to compete.
The US Open of Surfing is more about exposing spectators to new sports than it is about introducing them to their favorite athletes.
The foundation is being set for a growth trajectory. The US Open of Surfing is important because it gives fans a chance to participate in a sport they love. It can be done through surf camp or in the skate park. We are opening up these venues and giving access to the general public in order to provide that platform for athletes. The new generation picks up skateboards just as quickly as I did when I was a kid.
Spectators who don't go on to compete in the Olympics may end up in an executive role like Cohen or Lau.
When Lau got her start in action sports, she was the only woman in the space, and now she sees how many women occupy the brand space.
The US Open of Surfing and my other two partners that are women, it's about those opportunities and setting the tone. Lau wants the younger generation of females to know there is a place for them. That is something action sports was able to give me, an opportunity which is mostly male dominated with the other sports we represent. The US Open of Surfing was developed and grown by me. It's a great story for me to tell about my peers and other females. I like to expose people to what they do and let the females of our industry know there is a place for them.
With surfing, skateboarding and freestyle BMX all on the program for the Paris 2024 Olympics, the Vans US Open of Surfing will continue to grow.
Cohen said they are excited to be a qualification body for the Olympics in France. The Tokyo Olympics were a great success, both in terms of publicity and awareness. After the Games, our athletes gained a lot of publicity and came back to the Connecticut to raise the profile of their sport.
The first Olympic gold medals in surfing were won in July of 2011. Moore won her fifth WSLCT title. Moore was the only surfer who competed in the Games of Native Hawaiian ancestry and he shined a light on how surfing can still make waves when it comes to diversity and opportunity.
At the US Open of Surfing, there will be a few initiatives on the ground that will help us invite new young, diverse athletes to the sport. The program aims to inspire young competitors. We're happy to support the initiatives that Van's has.
The US Open of Surfing is where the future of surfing will be found. There is a person who grew up at this event. Last year, he represented Japan at the Olympics.
Cohen, who was previously senior vice president, portfolio sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, said she was excited to work for the WSL because of three reasons. She liked that the WSL operates a men's and a women's professional tour so she could work on both men's and women's sports.
Cohen is an example of how women are paid equally in the office and in the jersey. Women are on the C level. The lack of media coverage has held back women's sports. A model where all our events are integrated allows us to provide equal coverage and be very fluid between men and women's coverage of the sport.
Equal pay, equal coverage and an investment in the next generation of athletes are what Cohen calls the "bedrocks" to building a long-term career.
She believes that if we can get those things right, we will see an increase in the number of people watching the sport.
The Vans US Open of Surfing is free to attend and runs through August 7, with the Women's and Men's finals. The complete schedule can be found on the website.