Huntington Beach beefs up security for U.S. Open of Surfing

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Huntington Beach is taking no chances at this year's U.S. Open of Surfing, as police beef up security to avoid last year's riots. (KABC)

Huntington Beach is taking no chances at this year's U.S. Open of Surfing, which begins Saturday, as police beef up security to avoid a repeat of last year's riots.

Last year, a fight near Pacific Coast Highway turned into a riot. Vandals made their way to Main Street after the competition ended, broke windows and tried to loot a bike shop.

"We had some guests inside and it was too close for comfort so we rolled down the doors," said Dean Simon, co-founder of restaurant Bruxie. "A few people ruined what was just a fabulous week for us."

This year, organizers say the world's largest surf event is more family friendly, with Van's movie night replacing music concerts. Only 12 vendors were at the event, compared to 100 vendors last year.

"We're bringing the attention back to surf, skate and BMX," said James Leitz, executive producer of the U.S. Open of Surfing.

There's also more security. Police on horseback are a new addition.

"Horses can move right through a crowd very easily, a good tool for us to get into a crowd and stop a problem before it becomes a big problem," Huntington Police Chief Robert Handy said.

Officials say about 500,000 people attend the nine day event. This year, visitors will also be watched by about 25 surveillance cameras.

"If you're drinking on the beach, you might be on camera... an officer will eventually get down there and issue citations and confiscate the alcohol," Handy said.

Another change this year? Main Street will stay open to traffic to avoid allowing people to gather.

Officials hope the changes will bring the focus back to the sport, as the city celebrates the 100th anniversary of surfing.

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sportssurfingsecurityHuntington Beach
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