STOKED at the US Open of Surf

Words by Kyle Samuelson Photos by Dustin Valdez

On Monday July 25th, STOKED was lucky enough to be invited to the Vans US Open of Surf at Huntington Beach, CA. We were guests of Jenny Lamott from Vans and we had a day that I’m sure was the highlight of the summer for most of our stokers.

We started the day with an amazing surf session down the beach from where the contest was taking place. We were under the care of Corky Carroll’s Surf School and they made sure we were all outfitted, stretched, safety prepped, and stoked to hit the waves. The stokers (and myself) had a successful session; I saw students getting up on bigger waves than normal and even some students getting some turns in. After our morning session we were in the mood to see some professionals rip!

We headed down the beach to Huntington Beach Pier and Jenny got us all checked in and decked out with VIP bands and bags of swag. We were able to tour the grounds and check out some of the cool pop up exhibitions and tents that were apart of the US Open. As is customary at Vans events we swung by the hot dog stand and got some hot dogs from the man himself, Steve Van Doren whose father co-founded Vans 50 years ago. Something as simple as being served a hot dog from the founder’s son speaks to the ethos of Vans. We met with so many important people that treated us with such friendliness and respect, and if you ask around everyone says the same thing about Vans. People dropped what they were doing to chat with the kids about their goals and aspirations and give them some great advice.

After touring the grounds some more, we headed up to the VIP section where to one side we had amazing panoramic views of the surfing going on next to the pier and to the other a birdseye view of the bowl skate competition. There was more food to be had and more people stopped by to chat with the kids. We talked with Jim Watson, the Director of Apparel Sales, about how he got his current position when he was a surf kid just like out stokers. We talked with Kristy Van Doren, the Director of Events, about her joy of throwing events like the US Open and being able to share it with groups like us. We also had Kaitlyn Black and Jennifer Schultz with us all day to answer questions and share their stories of hard work and perseverance. We were so lucky to be able to get such great advice from so many people, all while enjoying the best seats in the house (and unlimited BBQ)!

As we were headed out to take one last tour of the grounds, Jenny had one last surprise for us. We turned around and saw Mr. Vans, Paul Van Doren! After some high fives and photos we headed out for a swing through the store to oogle all the sick shoes and apparel that Vans puts out. The day was so much fun and on the van ride back to downtown LA everyone was ecstatic with how cool the experience was.

These kinds of opportunities are what make our students so special. We are incredibly fortunate to have people like Jenny and everyone at Vans that are committed to providing days like these for our kids.