Beach Disturbance Revives Memories Of Another Huntington Beach Riot

Nathan Francis

A beach disturbance that followed the Vans Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach on Sunday left windows smashed, stores looted, and dredged up memories of a similar riot close to 30 years ago.

The Huntington Beach riot on Sunday was sparked just hours after the end of the surfing tournament. Reports said a group of "rowdy young men" began throwing bottles, looting stores, and destroying anything in their path.

Police were eventually able to force the crowd away and bring an end to the beach disturbance, but as they approached main street many people in the crowd began to target businesses. At the Easyrider bike shop, store manager Ryan Hertzog joined about a dozen employees and friends to defend the shop, arming themselves with wrenches and bike seat posts and fighting off the rioters as they tried to steal bikes from the store.

"We were all huddled inside the building and we had the lights off because all the people were up here mobbing around, and I was inside and I saw them tearing down the stop sign. As soon as that stop sign came down, I knew that stop sign was coming through the window," one of the defenders said said. "And sure enough, two seconds later, it did."

On Monday merchants surveyed the damage, finding smashed windows and signs destroyed.

For many, the beach disturbance was reminiscent of another, larger riot that took place close to 30 years ago. In 1986, a riot broke out during the OP Pro Surf Contest, with a mob burning police cars, assaulting women, and destroying structures on the beach.

Huntington officials enacted many changes after the 1986 beach disturbance, including moving the surf contest away from Labor Day weekend and no longer allowing alcohol sales. Video of the Huntington Beach riot is still used for training lifeguards on how to handle situations like that.

There have still been problems from year to year at surf competitions, though few have raised to the level of violence of this year's beach disturbance.

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