Surf City USA - by that, a lot is said already about Huntington Beach, which chose this nickname by itself and defended it judicially against other towns. Huntington Beach is coined by its almost 14 kilometres of beach and the waves, which are increased by a geological effect - at the beach is where everythign happens, where events take place and here, surfers from all over the world meet, which in turn lends the town a good deal of the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere for which it has gained a certain reputation.
The first hint of a non-native resident is from 1784: In this year Manuel Nieto, a Mexican soldier formerly working for the Mexican army, received a lot in what was then Alta California which he was supposed to cultivate. Nieto was successful and the route he used to move his cattle is today Beach Boulevard, which in more than one regard is Huntington Beach’s main artery. However, the town should receive a few other names before it was attempted to become a stop of the national railway system and for this reason was renamed after the railway magnate Henry Huntington. These tactics proved to be a success; Huntington worked hard to make the town grow rapidly and to become chartered as a city in 1909. While the city at first lived primarily from its agricultural products, the location at the Pacific and the climate - which makes temperatures rise to two Celsius digits even in the winter months - made sure the city opened up a new income source from tourism.
In Huntington Beach, and this is noted quickly by visitors, nothing is more important than the beach. It is more accessible and appears more inviting than in many other places of Southern California. This is due to the fact that every construction planned at the beach is subject to a public vote before realization - excessive building developments there thus is not possible. This enables the city to celebrate the Surf City Nights every Tuesday night with guests and residents, a weekly event with the atmosphere of a fair, a few fun rides and Live Entertainment. The meeting point for Surf City Nights is Main Street between Pacific Coast Highway and Orange Avenue. Among the events happening less often is the SoCal Film Festival for independent productions which takes place annually in the fall and consists of competitions in various genres. In March of every year, also mostly taking place along Main Street, a classic cars meeting is being held, while Christmas time forms the framework for the Cruise of Lights Boat Tour, an atmospheric parade of boats decorated with festive lights in Huntington Harbour.
This part of the town is worth visiting alone because it consists of five artificial islands, between which canals are available for boating. Among the other sights is, what else could it be, the International Surfing Museum (411 Olive Avenue, open Monday-Friday 12-5, Tuesdays until 9 pm, weekends 11 am-6 pm). The museum opened in 1987 is dedicated to maintaining the surfing culture and has historic equipment on display as well as artworks featuring surfing motifs. The most important attraction and main draw of the city however is Huntington Beach Pier at the end of Main Street. The pier found there today is 560 metres long which makes it one of the longest at the American Pacific coast. Today’s pier is the successor of the wooden one built in 1903 which already had a length of 300 metres. The current structure was built in 1992 and combines a number of insights gathered over the decades, when the pier repeatedly fell victim to natural disasters. At the end of the pier is a café, just like the predecessors had one. The pier is open daily until midnight and is popular with anglers and people looking for a place to go for a walk. The structure allows for a great scenic view of the beach.
This becomes especially important when the US Open of Surfing take place right next to the pier, a weeklong surfing tournament in each July which is considered the largest event of its kind. Apart from hosting the competitions for championship titles, the US Open of Surfing also are the stage to honor accomplished sportsmen and women and representatives of the surf culture on the Walk of Fame or in the Hall of Fame (300 Pacific Coast Highway) that is right across from the pier. Those honored leave their hand and foot prints in front of the building. By the way: If the view from the pier appears familiar to you although you have never been in Huntington Beach, try to remember your last visit to a Hollister store: The cameras installed at the pier broadcast their pictures onto the screens in the stores.
To take a break from all the surfing going on, an excursion to the natural attractions of the region is a good alternative. One of these attractions is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a protected habitat surrounding a piece of wetlands at the coast (Pacific Coast Highway between Warner Avenue and Seapoint Avenue), which is home to many animal and plant species and which can be explored via a network of hiking trails. A visitors center offers further information. Adjoining the habitat is the rather narrow Bolsa Chica State Beach, which is more accommodating to surfers than to swimmers. More space for sunbathers is available at Huntington State Beach.