Archive for January, 2013

US Open

Santa Cruz may claim to be “Surf City USA” but Huntington Beach has actually registered trademarks on it! It is known for its surf culture and eight mile stretch of sandy beach that gets consistent surf all year long. Alongside the pier is home to the US Open Surf Championships each summer, to which as many as 500,000 spectators come to watch.

Surfer Girls3I get up early to enjoy a feast of waves in the sunshine here and have a great chat on the phone with my brother James whilst I take in the sights. Straight away I knew there was a reason I came to California.


DCIM102GOPROHowever it is all about the waves and I have a ball in the clean waves for more than three hours. I lost count of how many I caught, but my GoPro camera took 3723 pictures which I have worn out my delete key distilling down to just 69. This one of me with the sun in the palm of my hand is probably the picture of the day.


However not every one of the shoulder high waves goes as well as others! You can just see the pier in the background.

The skill level is unbelievably high here. I lost count of how many 360 airs I saw people landing. I’m not US Open standard but I put a great account in of myself and even bagged a few lefts which have been rare on this trip. I chatted with a few locals, even doing a bit of networking with a fund manager about job opportunities, which is a different kind of board meeting I suppose. I have good laugh with a surfer called John who has loads of great advice about the forthcoming journey through Mexico where his work regularly takes him, and he may also be able to put me in touch with a few friendly faces along the way which would be cool.

Walk of Fame4Huntington Beach is also the location of the International Surfing Museum and I check that out after the session. It has a particularly impressive collection of surf wax which I suppose would appeal to some more than others! The town also boasts a surfing walk of fame akin to the stars on the pavement in Hollywood. Miki Dora honoured here is a legendary beatnik surfer who went more than a bit off the rails.

Beach VolleyballI go for a stroll around the town and along the pier, where I watch these California Girls playing beach volleyball as the sun goes down. Having enjoyed a courtside seat at the Olympic tournament I was casting my expert eye over their form and technique for a good hour before retiring to the Longboard Bar for a few beers.

All in all a fantastic day and the sort of time I was hoping to enjoy when I got to the west coast of the USA.


SONY DSCThe Wedge is a famous break at the east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, which can produce huge waves up to 30 feet high. Sadly when I get there to check it out it isn’t breaking mostly because the current swell is coming from the north and it needs a southerly swell to work best.

The waves are a result of a rock jetty on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance built during the 1930s. When a wave approaches the shore at the proper angle it reflects off the jetty creating a second wave. The reflected wave meets up with the following wave of the set and forms a peak. The combined effect of the reflected wave and the incoming wave creates a combined wave much larger than either of the two separate waves and occurs very rapidly and forms waves in a very unpredictable pattern, so that no two waves are alike and the exact breaking point is difficult to predict. Huge air drops, broken boards and broken bones are very common so I’m a little disappointed no to see it crashing in. However this link should give you some idea of what it is like:



Tyre DamageI give the car a once over to try and identify any issues before I head south of the border. Straight away I spot this massive gouge out of one of the tyres which must have been waiting to blow out. I dont remember curbing the car badly so have no idea how I managed that.

I try to change to the spare but find that there are locking nuts on the wheels but no adaptor to fit them. Doh!

Finally I test the oil only to find that the dip stick was dry. Oops! Thankfully I had bought some just in case.

Mexicali TyresSorting these things out, buying some new bolts for the wheels and some locks for the roof rack takes me most of the day, which is a pain but better now than half way down a dusty track in Mexico or further south.


Car FlowerI treat the bug to a new flower while I am sorting car issues, because the vase on the dash has been woefully empty sp far on this trip. It is green daisy with the VW logo in the middle, and the colour should match at least one of the body panels.


Motel Room Door2I have booked into a motel for a few nights because I want to be able to get the little green surf machine prepped for the journey south. I need to completely empty it and then start again from scratch so finding a place that I can park this near my room is awesome.

Motel 6 is a very reasonably priced chain and I may use them again because I need to get into a security focused regime to minimise issues as I cross the border. If I am not sleeping in the car I must bring the board inside every night as well as everything that is not in the boot.



Motel 6 Room2I am staggered at how much stuff I have collected already and somewhow I need to squeeze all this into the bug without anything of value being on display for the next few months. It will be like a giant version of tetris, but I like a challenge.



Redondo PierI head towards the Newport Beach motel I have checked into for the next few days and check out the beaches along the way. This part of LA doesnt is sheltered by the islands and the surf is little more than a drop and a turn everywhere I look. This is actually a picture of Redondo which I had taken a couple of days previously but it is typical of what I see in that the waves are just dumping on the beach and because my foot is quite sore after the knock it took in Manhattan I dont go back in.

Palos Verde CoveI also check out some other great breaks that are much the same including the intrigueingly named ‘Rat Shit’ which is enough to put you off going in on its own. I am very nearly tempted in by the lefts working off the reef at Haggertys at the southern end of Los Angeles Bay but the scramble down and back up the huge cliffs and the rocks I can see everywhere from the top put me off. I forgot to take a picture there but this one is just around the corner at Palos Verde Cove where the issue is much the same. I did meet a surfer called Paul who offers his place in Mexico for me to stay in, so I make a note of his details and will see if that works out.

Point Vincente3I push on around the headland past Donald Trump’s golf resort and am treated to an exquisite sunset at Point Vincente lighthouse, which you can see here. The island in the background is Catalina, off which Hollywood superstar Natalie Wood drowned after a night of partying on a boat with her husband Robert Wagner and Chistopher Walken in 1981.

Point Fermin Sunset3The sunset gets better as I move a bit further south but I dont hang around long because I have to cross south central LA. I immediately get lost, and this is not the sort of area you want to hang around in for too long. I end up doing laps of the massive port area for some time before getting back on the road after resorting to the navigation on my smartphone, which works well until it tells me I have reached my destination in the fast lane of route 55!


Manhattan ArrivalManhattan Beach is where Dale Velzy first walked down his board to stand on the front ‘Hanging Ten’ toes over the nose of his board in 1950. It is a beach I have to surf. After checking out of the hostel and sorting more dull phone problems I drive down there pleased to note the wind has dropped off massively since the day before. The sun is out and I am back in shorts although I may be the only one.

As you can see waves are breaking on both sides of the pier but I opt for the left hand side, and the waves which should be peeling right there. It is my forehand side i.e I am facing the wave rather than looking over my shoulder at it going the other way. However despite there being no wind it is really lumpy on the water and I am upended by the choppy water several times including one where the board flies out from under me with a fin slamming rather painfully into my foot. It almost feels like there are several swells arriving at once and they cant decide who is boss.

DCIM101GOPROI still catch enough waves to keep me happy and they are actually quite big when they roll through as this picture of the day should demonstrate. You can just see the pier in the background where groups of people would stop to see if I got mangled by the sea or eaten by any of the angry fish. I even got a few whoops and a round of applause after one wave so I’m doing my best to put on a show for them. I cant manage a nose ride because my board is the wrong shape for that and the fins are too small, but I bag a some lovel rides and get out with a big grin on my face.




Since I have arrived in LA I am indeed drinking like a fish. I think that is because apart from the staff who are fantastic and a couple of great people I have met at the hostel, generlly it isn’t very friendly at all. Good mornings, etc are meet with a blank stare or a quickly averted gaze so I keep heading out looking for fun. Everybody is face down into their tech of choice.

The down side of this is that I am in the rich part of town (also the USA) so that isn’t cheap. I paid $11 for a beer the other day! Rather than go Down and Out in Beverley Hills like the frankly staggering amount of homeless people with mental health issues that are all over the place I think it is time to move on.

British Grub2I have to start thinking about crosing the border which has been looming large on the horizon for some time. My learn to speak Spanish CD isn’t going terribly well. I can say ‘Mi coche es viejo’, but one look at it will tell people I have an old car so I’m not sure how much help that will be. I have the genius of my ‘Point it’ picture book with me, which is hundreds of pictures so I can point to the Jack Daniels bottle and the coke bottle for example, or to the chicken, the rice and to vegetables. However I think it prudent to stock up on more British grub from the shop around the corner from the Hostel to make sure I dont go hungry for the lack of speaking Spanish.

BurlesqueIt is my last night in the Holywood end of town and I go out wanting a quiet beer. I sit down at the bar and am having a drink when all of a sudden a burlesque show was going on around me. It turns out the stunning compare, who was spilling out of her basque and lingerie came from Newcastle. I spent the evening chatting to her trying hard to look up the whole time. I am not aurę I was entirely successful! No pictures I’m afraid gents because it was forbidden, but lots of wonderful mental images for me. This is a shot from the Burlesque film which should give you the right idea.


Venice Beach DayI head back to Venice Beach keen to get a wave at this famous beach, however the surf is naff. Knee high short period waves with a strong onshore wind, making the water very choppy and the time in the water quite miserable because the wind will cut through my wetsuit.

I procrastinate for ages and enjoy wandering along the promenade and having a bite to eat in one of the seafront cafes. Sitting there I am watching the hawkers, performers, and vendors going about their day with skateboarders slaloming through them all. There was nobody working out at muscle beach, which was a tad disappointing, but is the reason for this post missing that obligatory short of the area.

Venice SurfersI eventually went in for about half an hour just to bag the break but this picture which was taken after I had gotten out shows how uninspiring the surf was even if the sunset behind it was epic.


Venice HandballOn the plus side I am already a quarter of the way to my target of 80 waves and am only two months into my trip, which gave me a happy feeling while I was watching these guys playing handball and others shooting hoops on the basketball courts made famous in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’


The Toledo Show3I went to a great club last night at the end of a fun drinking session with an Australian helicopter pilot I met called Brett. The club is called Harvelles and the arist is known as The Toledo Show who was absoultely brilliant. Check it out:

Had a great time and wandered back to the hostel on my own looking for a late night burger. I was walking down the pedestrian high street at about 1am and it was largely deserted. I was somewhat surprised however to stumble across a couple both with their trousers around their ankles, and the lady’s top up around her neck going at it like animals in a recessed shop doorway.  I cheered them on but also pointed out that there are better places for it. Sadly it would appear the bloke doesn’t perform well in front of crowds and he got stagefright at this point rather killing the moment for them. She then made a right mess of scrambling back into her clothes falling into the street, rolling about on the floor. All of which amuses me immensely.

Late night action in more ways than one.


Griffith Observatory2

Named after the Welsh newspaper tycoon Griffith J Griffith who donated the land to Los Angeles, upon which Griffith park and it’s Obervatory now stand. He wanted to inspire people through astronomy. It has been used in many movies as a location but most famously in James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause.

Griffith Observatory6As you can see it was foggy while I was there, and it gives it a more eerie quality than I had expected. However from what the astronomer inside tells me it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t have been able to see much anyway. Due to all the light pollution 98% of the visible night sky has been lost since the observatory was built in 1935. This lovely telescope, which is far more powerful than anything I used in Hawaii, can’t even see the Milky Way.

The other exhibits and the planetarium at the observatory are exceptionally good though and is one of the better $7 I have spent so far on this trip.

My thoughts are very much with my good mate and keen astronomer Pete Griffith at this point who has just been told he cannot go surfing indefinitely. I know how much that would break my own heart, so my thoughts are with you fella. It is a massive reminder for me about why I came on this trip, and I think it is time to hit the waves again. (After a Saturday night of sharking in LA of course!)