Huntington Beach City Council voted unanimously at a public meeting earlier this week to extend an invitation to the City of Biarritz, France to become its Sister City Association.
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Huntington Beach wanted to form a relationship with Biarritz because it has a similarly prominent surfing culture and because France will host the 2024 Olympics. Huntington Beach wants to host surfing events on their beaches in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“They’re the Surfing capital of Europe and I like to think surf city U.S.A. Huntington Beach is the surf capital of the United States,” said Sister City Association Vice President Don McCallister at public comment.
The Sister City Association is a non-profit community run organization that organizes exchanges of art, music and culture as well as facilitates exchange programs for high school students and adults. The Biarritz program won’t be officially incorporated until April 2020, after the Biarritz city elections, said MacAllister.
The Biarritz City Council still has to vote to authorize the sister city relationship, which is expected next Spring.
The relationship with Biarritz and Huntington Beach began a year ago when council members visited their sister city Anjo and attended the International Olympic Committee meeting in Tokyo, said Huntington Beach City Councilman Erik Peterson, who was serving as Mayor when the agreement was approved earlier this week. When council members learned that France will host the 2024 Olympics, they were encouraged to reach out to Biarritz which is a major surf town in Europe, Peterson said.
Peterson and others visited Biarritz, using their own expenses, to establish a relationship and found the culture similar to Huntington Beach. Biarritz is cited as the first place surfing was practiced in Europe in 1957. Now, surfing plays a major role in the community and town, said Peterson. Mayor Michel Veunac of Biarritz and other council members were enthusiastic about partnering with Huntington Beach, said Peterson.
Biarritz surf team came to Huntington Beach for the VISSA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Oct. 26 and some Biarritz have visited as well, said Peterson.
“The Sister City Association really hit their mark on this one, along with Visit HB and really found a good fit for Huntington Beach,” said Peterson.
The Sister City Association looks to implement an exchange program along with junior lifeguard exchange and culinary school exchange, said Erber.
Biarritz will join as a sister city alongside Huntington Beach’s other sister city in Anjo, Japan that they incorporated in 1992. The Sister City Association has sent over 300 students to Japan, said MacAllister
Huntington Beach also had a program with Manly, Australia and Waitakere, New Zealand but their relationships were dissolved when the cities and governments were absorbed by other larger cities, said Erber.