The iconic Malibu-second point during a recent swell.
Words and Photos By: David “Crappy” Campbell
The City of Trashy Angels…The Big Smoke that can’t hide it’s big city lights or the fake tits bolted on to even more fake plastic people who’s inflated egos hide smashed dreams. Los Angeles is a one-of-a-kind gem. Not for everyone, to say the least. You have to possess a certain mindset in this city to deal with some of the bull.
The sometimes amazing surf helps, tho.
The Los Angeles surf scene is very different from Ventura County to it’s north and Orange County to it’s south. It’s rich surf history only rivals Hawaii and Australia’s Gold Coast expelling much of the early surf stardom icons that brought forth a rash of Gidget and Moondoggie wannabe’s.
Love it, hate it, either way, surely you have some kind of opinion to share, whether asked or not–regardless of your local surf scene knowledge. You probably have something to say about it. This city isn’t exactly known for being hush-hush.
I CONFESS: I’ve been around a few parts of our small circuit of surf towns across the globe–I’m not gloating, but feel it necessary to lay out a statement: L.A. is actually a nice place for a surfer to live.
If you defend your town, which happens to be Los Angeles, you better be prepared to have your credentials looked over. A dark cloud hovers over the Los Angeles County surf scene when viewed from the eyes’ of strangers. Sure, everyone knows about the famous spots, but it feels like whenever other Californians talk about Los Angeles, they always have some kind of ignorant look on their face. All they know is that it can get good, but it’s crowded as hell and it’s not that consistent.
If you had to use one word that separates L.A. from neighboring Orange County and Ventura, it would be “diversity.” From the Palos Verdes cliffs and north to County Line–wait, is that a Beach Boys line? It almost is, actually– you can find your hollow A-frame beach breaks, mushy longboard waves, even some select slabs and a very secretive big wave spot. The Big Smoke has something for everyone.
Glassy, clean and not empty at Manhattan Beach.
That’s right: As in everyone and their red-headed step-cousin from Oklahoma.
Diversity brings some pretty kooky shit to the lineup and it might have something to do with that giant white sign that use to say “Hollywoodland.” This particular surf culture crosses paths with the affluent Hollywood scene and sometimes that path gets blurred, which has propelled this sport into the mainstream media–some say for better, others say for worse.
Stories of Daniel Tosh regulating line ups…the local crew smashing paparazzi’s cameras while they attempt to troll for Matthew McConaughey…apparently, Rob Lowe sharing his gear from his fully stocked shed.
The L.A. surf scene is more than often a ZOO, especially in the summer. A giant zoo fuckfest, actually. But you gotta do your homework here, put in your time, have the right mindset, right amount of free time and a good set of wheels. Doesn’t hurt to have some friends, the right friends. Not A-list or D-list friends, but the kind that follow sand and are willing to share their personal surf reports with you as opposed to five thousand of their closest friends on Instagram.
You like right points and boardshorts? Summer time in North L.A. has that for you. You like big hollow kegs? Look up some YouTube videos of Alex Gray surfing the South Bay last fall. The obvious variables (weather, tide, swell angle) offer all types of waves which is the key to this abundant and vibrant surf scene.
Ever hung around L.A. on Christmas Day? Looks like the set of a zombie apocalypse film minus our flesh-craving buddies. Empty parking lots, no one around, no traffic…it’s fantastically amazing! A ghost town of grand proportions!
Traffic is the real big mother of L.A. and can be the deciding factor for your sunset session. Everyone knows traffic is the work of the devil and represents everything that is soulless. Everyone loves to complain about it, too. My advice? Get over it, shut up and figure it out. Get your routes down. Plan accordingly. You wanna go east on the ten after 7 a.m.–Are you out of your freakin’ mind? Even when I get caught up in gridlock, I always like to take Dillion Perrilo’s advice on traffic, as said in a recent interview:
“Just realize that you are the traffic.”
Whoa, pretty deep there Dillion, but spot on.
So minus the traffic shit show, you got swells from both directions at different times of the year.
During the winter, head towards South Bay and find your sandbar, or go north. Oxnard and Ventura are easy drives and you can find empty peaks, if you know where to look. In the Summertime, you have the sweet points of Malibu and 27 miles of coastline options. The obvious ones are Topanga, the ‘Bu and County Line, (not gonna offer anything more than that). With well-known spots comes a fun crowd, which is why Angelenos hold their cards so closely to their chest. And the crowds here can get real interesting.
A great spot called ‘None of your business.’
Seen some heavy shit here. Someone got the barrel of a lifetime and was about to make a clean exit into glory, but upon a lovely exit, someone else thought that wave was actually THEIR wave of the day. The drop-in game was strong with this barney as homeboy deep in tube gets crushed by said barney directly on top of the head. It was disgusting enough for everyone to wanna exit the water in shame. Or how about the stories of people getting cut off at Topanga? When they raise their voice against this injustice, instead of getting an apology, they get a good slapping. As your surfing ability progresses, crowd navigation becomes a major part of your routine. L.A. kicks it up a notch by constantly testing your patience.
If you don’t follow @kook_of_the_day on Instagram, stop reading this right now and make that follow. Most of those posts come from somewhere in Los Angeles as well as Main Street in Huntington Beach. Kooky people are plentiful and L.A. county has about 10 million options among it’s dudes and dudettes hanging around. It seems they all wanna surf right where you wanna surf, or at least get in your way while you surf.
The surf world is expanding and crowds are just another factor you have to deal with. Do your homework, follow swell directions, follow the sand and you can score L.A.’s fun waves with minimal folk. It’s not as simple as parking your car and walking out to T-street. Surfing and city life is a hassle at times and you will get frustrated. But nothing worthwhile in life comes easy, just ask any intern on a Hollywood film set.
Crappy Campbell confesses…
David Campbell lives in Los Angeles, is a surfer, world traveler and an old pal. Also known as “Crappy Campbell,” he is regular contributor for Australia’s Surfing Life Magazine.