For Sage Erickson, there's something about Huntington Beach that brings out the best in her surfing, and she hopes she can equal last year's championship in the U.S. Open of Surfing.
The 27-year-old Ventura resident has had an up-and-down professional career since 2012, but it was a breakthrough performance in Huntington Beach in 2013 that lifted her out of a doldrums. And then last year she won her first victory on the championship tour of the World Surf League.
"Huntington Beach has been really special to me,'' Erickson said. "It's somewhere I've competed for the last 15 years. Growing up as a junior, I spent a lot of time at the pier and it really has been foundational. I feel very comfortable there, and even though Huntington is two hours away from where I live I feel a sense of home there."
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Erickson said 2017 "was my best year, and to win my first world championship event in California, it was the perfect scenario."
This year, however, "I haven't had the best run the first half of the year," she said. "I've put a lot of expectations on myself and a new standard and I've found in a way it's hindered my performance. Just mentally, it's a lot heavier as a weight."
Erickson acknowledged the knock on her has been she's "too happy" or carefree and she has lacked an edge to win, but she has found that just relaxing and "having fun" inspires better performances.
Also, hitting the gym, she said.
"Especially over the last two years, being physically fit and being strong has made me feel mentally strong," she said. "I kind of slacked off in the last week and a half, but I've started training again and it's crazy how much better it makes you feel better in the water."
Mentoring younger surfer, Macy Callaghan, has also helped, Erickson said.
"It's been really refreshing to me," she said. "It's refreshing to be around with someone who was where I once was. It keeps me young and makes me feel old at the same time. But I just feel really motivated again."
Erickson enjoys the entire U.S. Open of Surfing panorama.
"The U.S. Open is kind of like a beach circus," Erickson said. "There's so many people, so much energy, so many different types of people because of the music and vendors and surfing, and it being in the middle of summer and bringing all walks of life to the beach is really fun."
Even for the uninitiated in surf culture, the U.S. Open is "one of the most exciting events," Erickson said.
Unlike many other tournaments, the view from the pier is much better, Erickson said.
"It's not like any other event that we have," she said.
The open will continue through Aug. 5 and will also feature skateboarding and BMX competitions.