Archive for January, 2013

Universal Studios

I can’t be in LA without doing the whole Hollywood experience and I decide to drive over there through the frankly mental freeway traffic. (I thought London’s was bad.) I have a great day in the sun over at Universal Studios, not least because single people do not have to queue for any of the rides due to them wanting to fill up the spare seats around groups.

Universal Studios War of the Worlds5As a movie fan I loved the studio tour, taking in the sets and stages, spotting the backdrops to so many films. This is the plane wreckage scene from the Tom Cruise & Speilberg version of War of the Worlds, but I also see the Back to the Future town square and the set for far too many westerns to list here.

Boris KarloffAfterwards I take a stroll up and down Hollywood Boulevard checking out all the stars along the walk of fame. I see many famous names but this star has me thinking of home because Boris Karloff was born around the corner from my flat in London.

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Clapper BoardI get out of bed with every intention of going surfing but it is a grey, wet and generally uninspiring day in LA so after failing to be impressed by the surf available at several beaches that I check out I decide not to go surfing and instead drive around town looking for film locations. This is far from a comprehensive list but I see where scenes from the following films were shot:

 

  • The Graduate (1967)
  • Diamonds are Forever (1971)
  • Blazing Saddles (1974)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Earthquake (1974)
  • Grease (1978)
  • Heaven Can Wait (1978)
  • Up in Smoke (1978)
  • Airplane! (1980)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Lethal Weapon (1987)
  • Colors (1988)
  • Die Hard (1988)
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
  • Point Break (1991)
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  • White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
  • Falling Down (1993)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Speed (1994)
  • Heat (1995)
  • L.A. Confidential (1997)
  • American History X (1998)
  • Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
  • The Aviator (2004)
  • Fast & Furious (2009)

Beach Boys Monument5I then spend hours on two grail quests. First trying to find the site of The Beach Boys’ childhood home in the Hawthorne area of town. I eventually find it, but am quite surprised at just how far it is from the sea. The house was actually domolished to make room for a freeway, but a monument including this placque stands as close to the original location as possible without being in the fast lane.

Playboy Mansion2Next it is over to Beverley Hills to see if I can get into the Playboy Mansion. No luck here but I do find it after purchasing a DIY stalker kit/ celebrity homes map from the tourist shop. These are the gates and I certainly didn’t get any nearer despite ringing the bell. The second word was ‘off’. You can figure out the rest.

ATeamAt the end of the day I am tired, but have been all over town and seen so much. However despite asking everywhere including Mr Lee’s laundry in Chinatown I am somewhat disappointed not to be able to make contact with The A-Team through the Los Angeles underworld.

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Dolphins2I have gone down to Venice beach to see if the naff surf is any better there. It is, but not much, so I don’t go in. Instead I watch all the wildlife hanging around the pier as well as a local nutter who is surfing through the pier itself. He is swerving around the pilings as he goes an it is known as shooting the pier. From above you watch him charge in from one side and then race over to the other to see if he comes out intact, like a giant human version of Pooh sticks. As you can see the dolphins were back, but I also saw seals, sea lions and even a couple of grey whales breaching just past the end of the pier.

Underpants Jumper1

Just when I think things cannot get any wilder a bloke wearing only his underpants sprints past me on the pier. He runs to the end of the pier and without pausing launches himself straight over the side belly flopping on to the water. Before I know it there is a full Baywatch style rescue going on but sadly no Pamela Anderson involved. This boat comes flying out of the marina down the coast, three lifeguard trucks tear up the beach from the nearby towers, and one guy starts knee paddling his lifesaver surfboard out.

Underpants Jumper4Seconds later the Police helicopter is overhead but despite that on the pier you can hear the conversation between the lifeguards and the jumper who doesnt appear to be severely harmed. “Hey buddy, you’re in your underwear. Are you allright in the head.” He eventually gets dragged in to the beach where three police cars have now shown up (all of which seems a wee bit overkill) and after turning his back on the officers in a ‘its a fair cop’ stance is handcuffed and carted off.

It brings some excitement into what would otherwise be a very grey day.

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Sunset Boulevard FilmThe break is so called because it is at the end of Sunset Boulevard, which was also the title and location of a 1950 movie. I think it may be the first time I have surfed somewhere which is also a film title, and it seems appropriate for my first wave in Los Angeles.

Whilst getting into my wetsuit I chat to a 65 year old who has returned to the water after a 19 year hiatus. He has got the stoke back and is loving it. He is extremely jealous of my trip. Surfers everywhere I have been just get the concept and think it is a great idea.

Sunset BoulevardAs for the break itself the waves are only about three feet high and I was in two minds about going in at all until I saw dolphins swim through the break, which was the nudge I needed to get me in the water. Not bothering with the camera because of the waves on offer I paddled out over the rocks and quickly catch two beautiful peeling rights off the point.

However I am struggling to compete for the waves with the longboards in the water and I spend most of the time getting dive bombed by Pelicans who are after the fish which are clearly in the area. I surf until the sun goes down and enjoy another sunset at sunset.

Taff BeetleI head back to the hostel and Ye Olde Kings Head British pub and shop which are around the corner. I savour a few celebratory pints of Boddingtons and purchase this sticker to try and Taff up the VW for my journey south, conscious that it’s California plates may attract attention once south of the border.

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Route 66

Or Los Angeles as it is better known is home to the Engligh speaking world’s movie industry, most surf publications, and is the far end of Route 66 from Chicago, which I visited back at the start of December. I roll into town early because the surf is nothing to write home about and I figure I might as well get settled into my new home. (Well for the next week anyway!)

Getty Center AerialI check into the hostel in Santa Monica, which is a block back from the beach, but head straight for the Getty Centre at the top of a hill on the other side of town.

The location itself is a wonderful spot, and the huge art collection inside is also very impressive but personally I think the real star of the show there is the building which was designed by architect Richard Meier.

Getty Centre7 Getty Centre Getty Centre3Everyway you look there is an intriguing angle or an amazing vista.

The gardens were pretty special too. However I need to get back to the hostel because there is an organisd pub crawl tonight which I dont want to be late for. I am in town for a few days and I need to make some new friends.

 

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MalibuI was really looking forward to surfing here but it is the wrong time of year for this break. During the summer there are probably 10 people on every wave and it is completely crazy.

 

Malibu PointMore islands and its southerly aspect shelter it from the Northern Swells which dominate the North Pacific in Winter. The result being a flat sea to greet me upon arrival.

 

Malibu LifeguardI have to amuse myself by asking this bloke if he has seen David Hasselhoff. He didn’t find it as funny as I did.

I thought it unlikely I would be able to surf here so instead had put on my best Charlie Harper ( a la Two and a Half Men) bowling shirt the previous evening and had gone out on the pull, sadly with as much success as I had catching waves.

Duke's ViewI did however find a bar and restaurant calle Duke’s (after Duke Kahanmoku no less)which overlooks the sea at Malibu and called back in here on the way south. Whilst enjoying a burger and a beer I was watching dolphins playing in the sea from my seat at the bar, which is definitely a first!

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County Line DawnAlso known as Ventura County Line. I had arrived here the night before, but the sun was almost down as I turned up and it was looking quite busy, so I checked into a hotel and waited for the morning. As you can see an early start saw only a couple of people out at high tide when I returned.

DCIM100GOPROI caught loads today and did take the camera with me after regretting yesterday’s omission. This was the shot of the day, and you can see the wave is breaking just above my paunch even though I am half way up the face.

Again I have loads of photos, and too many to choose from so here is wave of the day from start to finish shot at two second intervals, beginning with an amusing comedy shot of my face as I struggle to turn the board around after the lady behind me insisted that I go for it and drop in at the last second before the wave arrived: DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRO

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Carpinteria SunriseI chose a quiet residential area to sleep in the car, but am woken by the morning commuters. As I sit up in the car I am greeted by this sight. Not a bad way to start the day.

 

I drive straight to Rincon Point which is just off the highway and is one of the legendary right hand point breaks I just have to surf on this trip.

Rincon1The first thing I notice there is that I am the youngest in the water by about 15 years, which was swiftly followed by the realisation that I am undergunned. My 7’10” is a great board but all the wily old dudes are paddling past me with ease on 9’6″ or bigger longboards and keep nicking the epics rights I line up. I still catch loads even if I am missing out on the quality rights that the sea offers up every 20 minutes when a set rolls through.

As a consequence there is an awful lot of waiting around and during one of these lulls I get my latest shock from the animal kingdom when a school of bottlenose dolphins suddenly breaks the surface all around me. I could have touched them they were that close, but can admit to being a little bit disturbed by the experience initially because there was a fatal great white attack in Santa Barbara County where I am surfing just before Christmas and I dont really want to see any big fins around me in the water.

However I get much more comfortable as they hang around me for a while, coming up to the surface to have a good look at me, make a big gesture of snorting out of their blowholes, and one even starts splashing me with its tail which was an amazing experience. I didnt take my camera out today and regret it massively.

Now very aware of the marine life as I sit out back I turn around about an hour later after hearing a strange sound to see a…  Golden Retreiver!!!! I later found out this dog is called Lulu and she belongs to the bloke next to me in the water. She has paddled about 100m out to sea to ‘save’ her owner and clambers up on his board to give him a hug and a lick once she has made it through the shoulder high surf with several waves landing on her on the way out. He tells me she does it a few times each session to make sure he is ok, which is very cute but the poor guy has to keep paddling in to the shore to escort her back missing out on limited ocean time.

Credit to Lulu, I think her duck dive may actually be better than mine. Barking mad in every sense of the word!

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Pearsonville LightPearsonville is what I would call a town, but somebody has beat me to it!

I nearly crash the car laughing so much when I see this.

 

Pearsonville TankApparently it is the hub cap capital of the world. Who couldn’t be proud of that honour?

However there is really nothing to the town other than the garage and the Subway sandwich shop inside. I stop there for dinner and then drive the little green surf machine up over the Sierra Nevada. It copes with the 5000 feet increase in elevation without any issues, but it is pitch black and the road is so winding that I feel like I have been doing a marathon night stage on the Ridge Racer computer game after two hours of driving in these conditions without seeing a soul. Thankfully it is very dark and I cant see the drops to the side of the road as I race through the mountains.

I reach the coast and find a place to crash out, after eventually shaking off the Caliornia Highway Patrol who are interested in me and what I am up to as I sit by the side of the road trying to figure out how to avoid them.

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Rather than take the interstate all the way back to the coast I decide to drive a circuitous route through Death Valley. I barely saw another sould for the whole day of driving. I covered nearly 300 miles and nothing I say will do it justice. Epic scenery, so I will just let you see for yourselves what it looked like.

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