It wasn't long ago that long-time Laguna Beach resident Pat O'Connell would have been a must-watch at the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Between 1998 and 2005, O'Connell — who turns 40 in late-September — was a force in the Men's competition, regularly making a run at the title with a couple of third-place finishes to his credit. With the Nike U.S. Open of Surfing heading into its stretch run this weekend at the Huntington Beach Pier, O'Connell is still in the thick of things, but it's in a different capacity: contest director.
"My job is to make sure everything is going smoothly, that everyone is having fun," he said after completing the fifth day of the competition Wednesday. "It's interesting to see things from a different perspective."
The nine-day U.S. Open of Surfing extravaganza — which in addition to surfing includes skate and BMX competitions — features the world's top surfers annually in what is the world's largest surfing event. The Open runs through the weekend, culminating with the Men's ($310,000 total purse) and Women's ($110,000 prize purse) semifinals and finals heats Sunday.