Huntington Beach, CA. photo: Sean Evans
Ryland Roberts, Blacks Beach, CA. photo: Sean Evans
Kani Tsunami, Malibu, CA
Ian Saway, Imperial Beach CA
The Wedge, Newport Beach, CA
Johnny The Ripper, Malibu, CA photo: Will Walling
Johnny The Ripper, Malibu, CA photo: Will Walling

Destinations / California

By Ben Marcus   Photos Sean Evans

Southern California is like a box of chocolates: sweet, salty, and full of surprises. Stop and smell the ice plant. There are a thousand wonders between Point Conception and Mexico.

THE COUNTY OF ORANGE
So where to begin on the expansive Pacific coastline? How about in the middle of the beating heart of SoCal and the surf industry, Orange County and all that implies. Trestles is the south boundary (kinda, see below), and to the north, Ray Bay/Seal Beach is on the LA border (wear booties, stingrays suck). In between, you have everything from Seal Beach, Huntington Cliffs, Huntington Beach, River Jetties, Newport Jetties, the Wedge, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Salt Creek, Doheny, Capo Beach, T-Street, Cottons, and of course, Trestles.

The surf-stoked heart of SoCal is where the surf industry ebbs and bros and recombinates and corporatizes, and where the surf media used to be centered. Change is a constant and the surf industry is ever evolving in this business hub, especially in the digital age. Now, everyone seems to be working remotely or from the nearest Starbucks.

Is there surf in the summer? Of course. And it’s a little bit country, like walking down the paths to Trestles with one eye on the surf and one eye out for rattlesnakes. It’s also a little bit rock’n’roll, especially the bit between Huntington Pier and the Wedge from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s as intensively surfed dawn to dusk as Rio de Janeiro or Waikiki.

Get lucky, and you’ll see the Wedge doing its thing: south swell energy bouncing off the jetty, doubly redoubling itself, and exploding on the sand in a way that would make Ke Iki shorebreak slap its head and say, “Oi vey!”

If you are unlucky due to lack of swell, good news is there are still a zillion things to do: Vans Skatepark, Disneyland, poker palaces, industry parties, sunrises, and sunsets.

Get lucky, and you’ll score Trestles hot and glassy, the classic California surf with warm offshores carrying the smell of cactus from the mountains. Surf yourself stupid and then go on the hunt for the perfect breakfast burrito or nacho plate. Californians like their Mexican food, and there are plenty of affordable options on nearly every block. There are endless places to grind from Pedros Tacos to poki bars.

Get really lucky and you could pull into a barrel at Salt Creek in Laguna Beach. There are any number of off-beat spots for barrels and ramps: if you’ve seen Seal Beach Pier, Brooks Street, Doheny or Cottons on a big south swell, you’ll understand why the surf industry is centered in Orange County. There are waves here.

NORTH OR SOUTH
It’s hard to sum up Orange County in less than documentary length, but the OC is only 36 miles out of 300. There’s a lot packed in there, but even more going either way north or south.

MALIBU

Summer begins again at Malibu where the waves crash loudly along the sandy shore. Malibu is the classic summer surf break: a long wave with a deep history dating back to the 1940s. Back then, Malibu was a proving ground for surfboard innovation from big, heavy hardwood planks to balsa Malibu chips, and eventually early experiments with fiberglass and resin. The modern surfboard—and modern surfing—evolved on the waves of Malibu from the 1940s through the 70s. Now it’s a wave on which anything goes: Wavestorms, alaias, hulls, longboards, shortboards, SUPs – even the occasional kiteboard when the wind blows.

All the typical Southern California stereotypes can be seen in The ‘Bu: beachgoers and movie stars, hot chicks and hot cars, money in the hills and bums under bridges. Malibu is the beach fire of the vanities. It gets insanely crowded when there’s a solid south swell, but it’s possible to get waves in the early mornings and after dark, of course. Sure, Malibu might be the most crowded of all SoCal waves, but for good reason…

All the likely stereotypes of Southern California come true in the ‘Bu: beach goers and movie stars, hot chicks and hot cars, money in the hills and bums under bridges. Malibu is the beach fire of the vanities. It gets insanely crowded when there’s a solid south swell, but it’s possible to get waves in the early mornings, and after dark, of course. Sure, Malibu might be the most crowded of all SoCal waves, but for good reason…

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