23 January 2007

Freeways vs. Surface Streets

This is the analogy I use when thinking about the surf spots around here in L.A. Like many who were born and raised here, I no longer enjoy living here. At this point, the only thing L.A.'s got going for it is its proximity to the ocean. At times, especially during the summer when the fair-weather surfers venture back into the water, surfing in L.A. is a contact sport. 10 million people live in this place. 10 million! I can't even guess how many of them surf, but if you've seen surf videos taken at Malibu on a summer day, you get a good idea of how crowded our breaks can get.

What I've found curious since I started this blog is how many people, both bloggers and commenters, tend to label one break a kook spot and another a genuine surf spot, as if surfing the former is verboten under any and all circumstances if you want to be respected. I don't see the world this way. Like I said before, this place is crowded. There are two ways of navigate your way around this city. You can take the freeway or you can stick to the surface streets. My preference is the latter. My years as a serious and competitive cyclist taught me how to get just about anywhere in this city without using the freeways. (In fact, I've also ridden to San Diego and Santa Barbara without getting on the freeway.) Here's my point, both the freeways and the surface streets will get you where you want to go. The freeways out here are well-known for testing your mettle and your patience. Wanna see some road rage? Get on the Santa Monica Freeway during rush hour. It's not a pretty sight. The surface streets, while seemingly slower than the freeway, have a better vibe. You're still sitting in traffic, but this traffic often makes more progress than the freeway does.

Well, what the hell does this have to do with surfing? Just this: the genuine surf spots versus kook spots debate is no different from the freeways versus surface streets debate. The genuine surf spots, much like the freeways, are filled with people on a mission. They are going to fight the traffic to reach their destination, which, of course, is the wave. They don't care if they take that trip with 20 of their new best friends. The kook spots, much like the surface streets, tend to be frequented by those who often just want to get where they're going without all the anger and waiting that accompanies freeway driving. (I need to digress a little and add that I've noticed that many people stay on the freeways because that's all they know and they refuse to think outside the box; they won't venture off of the freeway to find an alternate, perhaps better way to get where they're going.) Granted, both the kook spots and genuine spots have their dangers. Kook spots are filled with new surfers who can neither steer their boards nor hang onto them once being tossed from the boards. At the genuine surf spots, experienced surfers can handle their boards, but they often can't contain their emotions. Surf rage and road rage look no different when you see it in person.

I, for one, don't care where I go to surf. If the place has a decent wave, I'll surf it. Kook spot, genuine surf spot, makes no difference to me. In fact, if my boards could talk, they would tell you why it makes no sense to make a big distinction between the two types of spots. This is what happened at the genuine surf spot. This is what happened at the kook surf spot. Mind you, both spots have a decent wave. The kook spot is less crowded than the genuine surf spot. I like both places and surf both places. I guess my point is that I don't see why people find it necessary to make such distinctions about surf spots, especially here in this crowded city. I'm just glad when I can get a wave to myself at any of the well-known spots. Freeways or surface streets—they'll both get you there. Genuine surf spots or kook surf spots—they both have waves. I'll usually surf at whichever is least crowded regardless of the spot's reputation. In a city of this size with over-crowded breaks, you have to be thankful for whatever waves you can get wherever you can get them.


At 1/23/07, 10:19 PM, Blogger surferbrat said...

I like your analogy. I try to deal with traffic the same way. My home break is known as both a kook spot and a quality wave spot, which can be twice as bad. Good surfers get mad at beginners, beginners get scared of good surfers, and on the weekend the crowd is insane. During the summer it's like bumper cars. But what can you do? I find that my patience gets tried to surf in crowded spots like that, so often I search for an emptier break or just take advantage of the luxury I have in surfing during the week or early in the morning. I just got back from Australia, where the surf was crowded, yet organized. People followed the rules and there was respect and generousity in the water. Even the best surfers shared waves and people were actually friendly in the overpopulated lieneup. That was on a point break I'll add. I'm headed to LA on Sunday for work. I may have to leave my board at home though. =(

At 1/24/07, 9:53 AM, Anonymous Surfing the goon said...

When I was in my 20's (1980s) I used to spend my summers surfing in San Clemente (Pier, T St or Lowers). It was crowded back then. I had fairly good skills, but I was not a local. If I did not have friends that were locals I would not been allowed to catch any waves. Probably banished to a another peak down the beach.

I moved to LA for work and surfed your local break, Porto & Sunset. Even there localism ruled. I totally sucked the fun out of surfing. Locals would intentionally aim to whap you in the head if you were caught inside paddling out. Not because I was a kook, it was because I was not a local.

I left LA for FL and now the water's 75 the crowds are thinner, the waves are smaller, but its FUN again. Sure places like Sebastian have their own brand of localism, but I'd rather surf a way from the "wave rage" these days anyway.

If I'm really desperate I'll "pay" for a session at the Goon and the future is coming at http://www.ronjonsurfpark.com . I think its the only thing that will bring civility back to the line up.
Besides, I HATE cold water.

At 1/24/07, 10:14 AM, Blogger Whiffleboy said...

What gets me is why anyone would give a rat's ass where someone else surfed - kook or genuine spot. Surf when/where you want. I don't see why people need to make it any more complicated than that.

These people who constantly diss breaks they deem less "genuine" than others are only drawing attention to their beloved "genuine" breaks and adding to their lineup crowd. Real smart there, folks.

At 1/25/07, 6:59 AM, Blogger Surfsister said...

surferbrat, if you're in L.A. proper and you can head out early, we can do a dawn patrol session early and I'll bring a board for you. Email me if you think you have time to do this.


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