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He was tall and lanky with a dark whiff of a beard. If not for the logo emblazoned on his shirt, it would’ve been hard to know he was a beef jerky salesman at all.
The woman next to him was upset, and understandably so. Her arms were crossed, brows knit, curly-haired head bowed disapprovingly my way.
“You can’t be here.”
Why not? I wanted to say but instead turned toward the exit. She didn’t have to tell me I was a trespasser in a foreign land, a media-pass holder attempting to forge her own path into the upstairs VIP tent.

“What if she had one of these?”

It was Beef Jerky Salesman who asked the question and the knitted-brow woman who answered it. “Yeah that’ll work. Nice break, our good samaritan here just made this your lucky day.”
In all fairness my day was already lucky, with or without access to VIP. I was reporting on the 2017 Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif., under a cloudless, tourmaline sky. I was beside the sunlit-sparking water of the Pacific, whose peaks currently swelled three-to-five feet from the faraway fury of a Mexican storm. There were several croissants in the media section of the tent—downstairs from VIP—and chips, coffee, pastries, too.
Life was sweet as a midsummer morning on my perch overlooking the beach, camera slung around my neck, surrounded by photographers with far larger and more expensive machines than mine. (“It’s a Nikon. I’m a blogger,” I explained to one of them.) Taken together we were a media tribe on land, clicking, panning, zooming in and out of focus, lenses fixed on the world’s best competitive surfers, who carved up wave-churned waters like expert butchers of the sea.
Yes, I’d soon have access to the flat screen TVs and parsley water served upstairs in VIP but the truth was, I didn’t need any of those things to get stoked on the day’s events. The media tent—Pringles chips, affable camera operators, telephoto lenses and all—suited me just fine.
With a waning laugh, Beef Jerky Salesman handed me the white slip of paper to wrap around my wrist—’17 VIP Day 5. I was thankful for his kind gesture, even if I wasn’t sure VIP was really my style.
“Write about beef jerky!” Beef Jerky Salesman said, uttering the words with due veneration, as if I should pen an ode to carnivorous gold.
“Definitely,” I replied, knowing I never would, although here I am doing it, so I guess it’s a promise fulfilled.
Check here for a full rundown of Vans US Open of Surfing Day 7 events.
Check here for a recap of today’s competition, which saw Hawaiians Cody Young and Brisa Hennessy both crowned Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Junior champions.

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