Think of it like motocross, but on the water – and instead of a dirt track, the course is the wild, wet ocean.
The Huntington Beach Moto-Surf & Freeride event roared into Huntington Beach over the weekend for two days of competition that wrapped up Sunday, May 8, in wild waves, with spectators marveling at the speed and high-flying acrobatics showcased by the racers.
Ross Wallach, president of RPM Racing Enterprises, said personal watercraft racing was once a popular sport in the ’80s and ’90s up and down the coast, including in Huntington Beach, but cities became stricter and stopped allowing the events.
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence. Wallach met with Surf City city officials in 2017 with plans to again create an event and held the first Huntington Beach Moto-Surf & Freeride event in 2018. They were gaining traction and held another in 2019, but the following two years like most other crowd -drawing events, they had to cancel.
This year had more competitors than ever before, up from 120 in 2019 to 150 signing up for the weekend. Spectators flocked to see the action from the sand and the pier.
The event is part of the “Best of the West” series; Huntington Beach is the only ocean race on the schedule. Other stops include Lake Havasu and Lake Elsinore.
Racers navigate a series of buoys set out in the water, needing to weave around waves and swell as they try to speed through the course. The freeriders were the anticipated big crowd pleaser, an exhibition showcasing acrobatic skills by flying and flipping their machines above the ocean.
“For the racers and the fans, racing in the ocean is unlike anything else,” Wallach said.
When racing in rivers or lakes, the winds can whip, but for the most part, it’s not a changing, challenging course like in the ocean.
“It’s so unique, even the most skilled racer is subject to the ever-changing ocean conditions,” Wallach said. “We say it’s the great equalizers … between the winds and the tides, it throws another added variable into the mix. It provides a challenge that races love and the fans seem to enjoy watching.”