Brett Simpson peered out at the waves on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday morning, just like the Surf City native has been doing for decades now.

Simpson was a two-time U.S. Open of Surfing champion in that spot, winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and ’10. Now he is giving back to the sport as a USA Surfing coach.

Simpson, 36, was named the U.S. elite national junior team coach in 2019, and the head U.S. surfing coach for the Olympics last July. The 2021 Games in Tokyo will mark surfing’s first time as an Olympic sport.

The next generation, though, is who Simpson was coaching on Friday during a USA Surfing junior team practice.

“We really have some potential future Olympians, if not in 2024 then certainly in 2028 when the Olympics come to L.A.,” USA Surfing Chief Operating Officer Andrea Swayne said.

The sport returns to Huntington Beach Saturday, when a two-day USA Surfing West Coast Prime event hits the waters south of the pier.

A member of the boys’ USA Surfing junior team goes off the top of a wave during a practice session on Friday morning for upcoming two-day USA Surfing prime event this weekend in Huntington Beach.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It is the first surf contest on the West Coast since the coronavirus pandemic began last March. Some of the top junior surfers in the state will compete in boys’ and girls’ Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 age groups.

They are clearly glad to resume where they left off.

“I’m really excited to get back into the water and surf in another contest,” said Lilie Kulber, 16, of Laguna Beach. “I really enjoyed the time off, though, to be able to focus on myself and work on myself in different aspects and parts of my life. It was definitely a nice break, but I’m excited to be back.”

Kulber said this weekend’s contest will be the first she surfs in the Under-18 age group. Regardless of how she does, she said she will enjoy the camaraderie that the sport provides.

“Contests allow for everyone to come together and create a community,” said Kulber, a junior at Laguna Beach High. “Especially in a time when there’s so much adversity and hate and division in our country, I feel like contests really bring everyone from every part of California together. We have one surf community, with one purpose and one love. I think it’s really inspiring that we can all put our differences behind [us] and enjoy surfing.”

Members of the girls' USA Surfing junior team sprint up the beach.

Members of the girls’ USA Surfing junior team sprint up the beach during a practice session on Friday morning for upcoming USA Surfing prime event this weekend in Huntington Beach.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

JuJu Romaniuk of Huntington Beach, 15, said she surfed in a Western Surfing Assn. event in Oceanside last weekend to get back into the swing of things. She also appreciates the opportunity to compete again at her home break.

“I don’t think it’ll be any different,” said Romaniuk, who is home-schooled. “I think everyone will be excited just to get back into a jersey.”

Safety protocols including social distancing and wearing masks while not competing will be in place.

Other prominent young shredders set to surf in this weekend’s event include Jojo Whelan and Niyah Rosen of Newport Beach, Gavin Lusby of Huntington Beach and Quaid Fahrion of Costa Mesa.

Simpson fully understands the benefits of bringing back competition.

“A lot of them are going to see friends that maybe they haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “Those competitive juices will be flowing again. This is the best of the best of these age divisions, so it’s exciting for them to keep striving for those goals. I think our kids need this more than anything. With schools being shut and all of these things piling up, I think they need it and deserve it.”


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