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A Day At Malibu
By Skip Beach

Mr. Webster defines culture as “the ideas, customs, skills, arts of a given people in a given period; civilization.” To define those ideas, customs and skills in the surf culture of Malibu is to define the very essence of the surfing culture itself.

Recently traveling to California the opportunity presented itself to spend a day at Malibu. The weeks prior to travel were spent monitoring the HD cam on surfline.com and various surf reports for Malibu. The Malibu break is one that transcends time teleporting back to the early sixties. It evolves around the surf stories, the legends, the characters and most prominent the waves.

Malibu is a point break at the north end of the Santa Monica bay looking south as far as Rancho Palos Verdes. The perfect location usually offers off shore breezes with a natural ground swell connecting three breaks sometimes all theway south through the Iconic Malibu Pier like earlier this September.

Picking up the rental car and loading the longboard was soon traveling through LA county west on CA 110 through Santa Monica and down the Pacific Coast Highway. Passing Topanga Canyon the teleportation began first stop 1991 at The Greg Noll’s Da Bull 1st annual Surf Legends Classic in Costa Rica. Sitting around a table with Mickey Munoz, Ole, and Randy Rarick, Hevs McClelland started telling a story about the antics during a surf contest. McClelland went to the beach early that morning and buried a watermelon in the sand. Later in the heat of the day Hevs got a bunch of kids together and asked if they wanted some watermelon? Next thing he’s walking all over the beach with a divining rod looking for buried melon. It was like an ant train, he recalled, as the kids serpentine through the crowd following Hevs. “Dig here”, he said and you can imagine the amazement as the kids beheld the dug up treasure of sweet redlicious watermelon. During another event Hevs told how they took a single engine plane flew it out over the contest area and played to the crowd saying how one of the star surfers was going to parachute into the lineup. Meanwhile the plane circled and tossed out a dummy with surf board. Continuing to lead the crowd Hevs described the falling surfer whose parachute failed to open as the dummy tumbled to the water. Can you imagine trying to pull something like that off today?

Looking south at Malibu Pier toward Topanga Canyon

Continuing up PCH the houses along the beach brought memories of Gidget, Annette and Frankie movies and Dick Dale and the Del Tones playing “King of The Surf Guitar”. Then the second transport began as the eye gate caught the Adamson house wall running the west side of the Malibu beach parking lot. It was here the graffiti of infamous Mickey (Miki) Dora, aka “Da Cat” first imprinted itself on the brain. Like a head rush in an elevator ascending 30 floors, the doors opened, we were standing in the post office at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa looking at Da Cats PO Box. Several years earlier Miki had attended a gathering of legends and during the event hosted by Don Larson challenged Sol Aiello to a tennis match. It was a stomp with Sol smoking the match. Miki did not talk about the outcome he was a very secretive and a recluse person; later even traveling sporting a body guard. We filmed the ceremonies at this event with everyone in attendance Nat Young, Steve Pezman, Greg Noll, Mickey Munoz, Tom Morey, Phil Edwards, Leroy Grannis, Paul Straud, Robert August, Mike Doyle, Diff and a cast of more. Miki was a no show that evening, in abstention. When he found out we shot the ceremonies, having won his confidence earlier surfing together or perhaps the missis hospitality, he came to our room that evening bearing a gift of dried dates and asked to view the event. There we sat watching the proceedings on the hotel TV eating dates and engaging in casual discussions of past days with Greg and adventures at Malibu. This is where it all started, this passion for the cultural past and present evolving around Malibu. Miki had given me his PO box address in South Africa with telephone number, I was speechless.

The MSA (Malibu Surfing Association) was hosting its second annual contest for the Kids this very day at Malibu Beach. There were tents, sponsors, contest directors, judges (using digital scoring system) announcers, the kids, surfboards, spectators and of course the King of the contest made a continued appearance without interruption during the entire event “Waves”. Having been involved in similar contests the work and effort that goes into an event is of no small portion. The directors were there for all the right reasons. They contained the passion and dedication it takes to care about others more than one cares for self. It is in this place we begin to embrace the true energy given us. There were the usual heats for boys, girls, juniors, menehune’s both long and short board.

However, the one event that stood out was not an event at all, it was an experience. It was a giving back, true stewardship of who we are not just as a people but a culture. With waves of 3 to 4 feet (Gulf Coast 5 to 6), swell conditions and a water temperature of 64 degrees several waterman paddled out with tandem surfboards. Each vehicle with its two passengers navigated the line up searching out the best peak. As the first rider took off the crowd began to cheer and clap, hooting and celebrating. It was then that something wonderful developed in each spectator as they watched these watermen stand, bend down, grab their passenger by the back of the wet suit and bring them to their feet. Folding their arm across the riders chest like a safety bar on a carnival ride these men began cutting back on the waves maneuvering off the bottom and back from the lip fully aware of the passengers newness to the experience. These young men and women experiencing surfing for the first time are given an insight that many of us may take for granted. We may not have the challenge of down syndrome or crippled in such a way that not all our limbs move when we want them to, or minds that may work differently than what some consider normal. These young men and women and the pilots who transported them were one. There were no differences, no weaknesses and no inabilities. There was only surfing. As they surfed literally up to the beach the joy and smile in these kids’ hearts and faces was only compared to the enthusiasm of the beach crowd. If a culture is to advance it must first care for its people.

The day filled with waves, saw excellent surfing all participants’ winners for being part of this event. The spectators saw great surfing long lines as the break connected from first peak to second peak and often ended on the beach connecting through third peak. The long boarders had great rides showing their prowess with cheater fives and walking the nose turning with delicate balance walking back from the nose and turning again to face the wave.

The judge’s tent was calm and taking all in stride with announcers calling contestants names and describing the maneuvers to the delight of friends and parents. The local vibe was expanded to all comers accepted and greeted with a welcome attitude and a true since of appreciation for coming out to the contest.

The beach attitude was no less present in the parking lot a natural hub of activity. Local vendor served coconuts, hotdogs, soft drinks and water in high heels and jeans no less. The parking lot has a natural slope running downhill from north to south. There is no shortage of skate boarders sitting in pickup beds and car trunks cheering each other on whether an older dude on a long board walking the nose with lackadaisical laid back style or young guns stacking boards to formulate the best jump on two wheels. Navigating the vehicles pulling in and out as if they where pitching lips with no lack of energy. Sliding up alongside an unsuspecting young female driver popping up peaking in the window, surprising her with a spirit of good nature as your buddy’s howl in laughter.

As the event continued the first peak would get these sets about every thirty minutes cleaning out the wonderers into the shallows and offer sliders over shoulder high. The faces would ripple then become smooth as silk as they passed through a garden of kelp, amber yellow in color growing up as if they were purposed on your patio next to a lounger offering picture comfort and reaching out to embrace your call for tasty beverage. If you stalled just a bit in the drop at first peak you would miss the connecting train to second peak. The waves kept ebb and flow with slight wind changes and a decreasing tide seemed to say come, enjoy, we will be here all day.

The day’s event was not the first visit to this cultural paradise which has offered its open arms yielding positive vibe and surf history. Traveling back from Tahiti or Hawaii it is the best place to let time catch up with the sleepless night of traveling beckoning your energy as to render a restful sleep before venturing yet into another time zone. Thinking of the great history and culture surrounding this surf haven one can only look back seeing many legends and expand to the current time admiring the rhythms of Collin, Joel and Wingnut. Watching Duane Desoto toss his board full vertical off the lip of 8 Foot face and coordinate a reentry with the orchestration of Beethoven’s 9th. The antics of Izzy and a Fred Flintstone fish skeleton comb, all this set in a frame work an extraordinary culture of surfing. We are the future of surfing and we are a compass for those who are trying to correct the deviation of a crazy world unsure of its course thinking there is control. Thank you Malibu for your culture your endless giving to a life provided. Reality is what you see it is who you are and what you do and how you act. As the day closed packed up ready to depart Malibu the inspiration of today, the very moment caught the lens as a young girl full of the present reached out to hug a dog in the back of a pickup in the beach parking lot, calling out “look he’s got a Mohawk”.

Story and Photo’s by Skip Beach
Surf Your Brains Out photo courtesy of MSA contest site
For more information on MSA visit msasurfing.org






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