The Concrete Perception of Surfing in Los Angeles

And How to Stay Enticed

Two surfers face off on a crowded wave and pristine California aesthetic looms. Photo by J.D. Stroud

Through the obscureness of battling for waves and escaping airborne Wavestorm surfboards bought for $100 at Costco, I have achieved my own personal sort of paradise whilst surfing in Los Angeles County. Within the deluge of dilettante crowds, set on riding one wave simply to tell their friends back in Oklahoma that they are now a surfer, I have found the anonymity enlightening. Inside the depths of America’s inner cities, pseudo-individuality is brought upon by the commotion of everyday life. Another city light illuminates, a siren clangs on the ears, and a cheerless tenant’s scream echoes from their windowsill through the interurban boulevards; and as this happens, strangers' faces shift past one’s vision anonymously. No one knows who you are except for your shadow inside the vastness of concrete essence. Whatever the emotion is that translates into this feeling of ambiguity is how I have managed to keep surfing somewhat metaphysical for myself. Eavesdropping on the conversations in the lineup as sets of waves pass them by, sounds of the cars honking at one another on the freeway above, and the twinkle of the city lights that begin to touch the horizon at dusk, all highlight the existence of city dwelling in the water. It is a beautiful thing, really, shifting past out-of-stater’s faces while paddling out, weaving through a crowded intersection of traffic on a rising tide, all while knowing that the best guy out and the worst guy out are equals in the flocks and herds of “surfers."

Perhaps localism is dead here, except to the few who believe Miki Dora will rise from the dead as their Great Messiah; or I suppose there are those who envy themselves for having the gate key to Little Dume, but who wants to surf next to those yuppie assholes anyway? I know I don’t. Either way, as in any city that has experienced the dullness of gentrification, the lineups of Los Angeles have long since been esoteric. No true surfer in L.A. will want to talk to you about how Topanga was six to eight foot and kegging with no one out last Sunday morning, but the lawyer from Chicago who paddle boards would love to tell you all about it inside Urth Cafe on Main St. in Santa Monica. In fact, Topanga probably never was that good, but to the guy from Dallas who took a few surf lessons at Rose Ave. in Venice, that waist high wave at First Point Malibu the other day must have been “good to epic.” I try not to talk about surfing to my peers, incase a fellow surfer overhears me and thinks I’m just another guy from a different state who “surfs” in order to have something to talk about during yoga on Abbot Kinney every Saturday morning.

For me, it is instead about dissolving into the masses, and trying so hard to become alone with water as a legion of nameless faces teem with naiveté in a polluted part of the Pacific shoreline. Like the crowded subway terminals of New York City, or the graffiti topped alleyways of Chicago, or like the swinging fire escape ladders of San Francisco, the waves in Los Angeles have become part of my city circuit. Each spot where surfers frequent themselves is another urban street corner where I paddle through unnoticed under the veil of overpopulation. It is this perception of surfing in Los Angeles that has preserved the exoticness of riding waves in my head for myself. Only under this veil has surfing here remained a land, or a feeling of great pleasure; absence of evil. Paradise. 

Chart House Point in Los Angeles, CA

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The Concrete Perception of Surfing in Los Angeles