Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1986 OP Pro Riot at Huntington...Dude, I was there!

As a kid, the Op Pro Surf Contest in Huntington Beach (my hometown) was always a WILD event to attend for all of us. But, in 1986 it went from an event to a full blown RIOT! In the seventies, young beach kids from my neighborhood would flock to the Op Pro! It was an awesome chance to see our favorite surfers up close and watch them rip it up. We only saw snapshots of them in magazines otherwise! I was luckier than most kids when it came to seeing all the action. Most people had to hang out and watch from the bleacher on the sand, or be at the beginning of the pier looking out or at the end of the pier looking back. The prime location was near the lifeguard tower at the middle of the pier, but that place was saved for VIP's only. Or, for a young grommet like me and a couple of friends who were tight with the head of Parks and Rec - who gave us passes every year to go wherever we wanted. Dude, we were hooked up! We would stand for hours, hanging over the rail just below the tower and cheer for pros right in the waves below us. David Nuuhiwa, was my idol at the time. I even had Dyno David Nuuhiva Surfboard that I couldn't surf because it was too short and too fast for me. Everyone wanted to buy it off me. No way, dudes!
I watched as the Op Pro swelled with people every year, and the numbers did tend to get out of control. Then there were sponser changes, I grew older, I went off to college, got married and didn't make the scene for years. I even lived "inland" because of my job location. I should have stayed at the beach and commutted for sure. Once you have that salt air in your system, it's hard to get rid of. I'm back in Huntington Beach now...Amen!

In 1986, my newlywed wife and I decided to brave the Op Pro once again. It had been a long absence. Too long! My wife's family had a friend who owned a home on PCH right next to the Wind and Sea surf shop and he was hosting an open house if we'd like to come down....Yes!

We watched some great surfing. Watched the crowd grow. Felt the heat rise. Then headed back to get some food. My wife wasn't interested in staying for the Miss Op Pro Contest, and for the first time ever, either was I. Marriage will do that to you!

The rest of the event, and that whole day, is still kind of a blur.  From inside the house we could hear people shouting, then screaming, then running by the house in panic. Someone ran upand yelled, "It's all kinds of crazy at the pier! It's a riot and it's out of control!"

Though the stories differ from one person to another, the best analogy we gathered was that some girls on the pier decided to show the crowd that their racks were just as hot as the Miss Op chicks, who were getting all the attention, so they flashed everyone. The crowd called for more and the girls responded until the police decided to put a stop to it, and when they did, the crowd decided to put a stop to the police for putiing a stop to the show and "Boom" it all went crazy!

I watched in horror as people fought police and lifeguards, police cars and ATVs were turned upside down and lit on fire. Bottles flew over the house I was in, breaking on the asphault and on cars in the parking lot. People pushed one way, then riot police with shields push the other way. I've only been scared a few times like this in my life! Thank God the crowd didn't decide to trash our house and our cars. Some dude walked up to me and said, "Do you have a band-aid, man. I cut my foot on broken glass." His foot had a 3 inch slice that almost went to the bone!

"Dude, you need more than a band-aid! Get to the hospital!"

Believe it or not, while all this was going on, there was still a surf contest happening! Here's a trivia question? Who won? I think it was Occy, but I'm not sure! Not many people cared! "Live now, surf later!"

Arrests were made. The contest was cancelled for awhile. New rules were put in effect. I believe the Miss Op Contest went away, and I was left with an incredible surfing memory that is still talked about today, and still makes me say...dude!

Where were you Labor Day, 1986? Were you there? What do you remember?....Dude, we'd all like to know!

Keith Poletiek is the creator of the Dude and Dude comic strip. A daily cartoon distributed by United Feature Syndicate and seen on the web at www.Comics.com/dude_and_dude Sign up and receive your "daily dose of dude" each day along other great comic strips on your own personal comic page email.

Contact Keith: keith@keithpoletiek.com
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  1. So funny that you were there and that you have such detailed memories of this! I vaguely remember hearing about it--and I was living just 30 miles away. Had you not posted this...surely over time, it would have left my brain completely. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Definitely in the top 10 memories of my life in HB. It was bigger than life and there was nowhere to run from it at the time!...dude!