World’s largest action sports festival concludes in surf city U.S.A.

HUNTUNGTON BEACH — The 2022 Vans U.S. Open of Surfing ended in Huntington Beach last week after nine days of world-class surfing, skateboarding and BMX competitions. Celebrating the quintessential Southern California beach culture, the world’s largest action sports festival welcomed large crowds who flocked to the pier to cheer on their favorite surfers and filled the Vans Skatepark across the sand. Anchoring the nine-day festival were the World Surf League’s Challenger Series, Vans Duct Tape Invitational and the Vans Showdown. The event footprint spanned across 13 acres on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier from July 30 through Aug. 7.

The theme of this year’s Vans U.S. Open of Surfing focused on the importance of environmental responsibility with eco-consciousness integrated into the activities, showcasing the connection of sustainability with surf culture and surf products.

Hawaiians Bettylou Sakura Johnson and Ezekiel Lau were crowned the winners of the World Surf League’s Challenger Series at the Vans US Open of Surfing Sunday, Aug. 7, in Huntington Beach. Valley News/Kenny Morris, WSL photo

Following their massive final days of competition, Hawaiians Bettylou Sakura Johnson and ABC’s “Ultimate Surfer” champion Ezekiel Lau, were crowned victors of the World Surf League Challenger Series. Sakura Johnson and Lau took critical wins at the halfway mark of the Challenger Series season in their mission to rejoin the Championship Tour. Australia’s Macy Callaghan and Brazil’s Joao Chianca came in second.

“I’m so stoked, I’ve always wanted to win the U.S. Open, it’s been an event I’ve watched since I was a young kid,” Lau said. “Andy Irons won a few years back, he was my role model, and this is for him and Sunny and all the Hawaiians. When Bettylou won her (final heat) I was like, it is up to me now, I gotta put this away.”

“It’s been a long week here at Huntington, but I have all the support and everything I need; I’m healthy, I’ve been training for this, I’m super fortunate to take the win,” Sakura Johnson said. “It gives me a ton of confidence (winning the event). This is one of the biggest events we have on the Challenger Series, everyone is here watching. I have always wanted to win a comp out here and I’m super stoked I was able to do it today.”

For the second time at Huntington Beach, the local skate community witnessed the Vans Showdown, a unique “pointless” street skating contest, far removed from traditional skate formats. Aiming to promote the fun and cultural side of skateboarding, while displaying the best skaters in the world, it was Hayley Wilson and Jhancarlos Gonzalez who came out on top.

Two-time WSL Longboard Tour champion and reigning Vans Duct Tape Invitational winner Kelis Kaleopa’a (HAW) and three-time World Champion Taylor Jensen (USA) topped the podium at the second of three stops for WSL Longboard Tour. Kaleopa’a defeated three-time WSL Longboard Champion Honolua Blomfield in a head-to-head Hawaiian Final. Kaniela Stewart, also representing Hawaii, was runner-up to Jensen in the men’s competition.

Finally, the first-ever Vans BMX Waffle Cup street competition held on American soil concluded its final rounds, awarding decorated riders Kevin Peraza and Perris Benegas as the event’s overall winners. The course featured obstacles designed by BMX partners and associated nonprofit organizations, The Bloom, Radshare and Cult BMX. Highlighting over 50 of the world’s best BMX riders, the Vans BMX Waffle Cup also celebrates originality, style and innovation.

Recognized as the largest professional sports competition and action sports festival in the world, the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing is currently sanctioned by the World Surf League and operated in conjunction with IMG, the event owner. Official partners of this year’s event included Vans, Visit Huntington Beach, Red Bull, Flying Embers, Hydro Flask, Shiseido, 805, Pacifico, Sambazon, StillHouse, Youtheory, BF Goodrich, Fu Wax, Boxed Water and Just Egg.

For full results and additional information, please visit: Article contributions provided by Vans U.S. Open of Surfing.

 JP Raineri can be reached by email at

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.