What is Los Angeles? “The California dream,” whatever that is to you. To me it’s a warm sunshiny day at the beach, a turquoise glassy ocean with perfectly shaped waves to surf on. Palm trees, sand, dolphins, and plenty of time to relax and love life. Southern California has been the light of my life, but as they say, you can only know light if you've known the dark.
My darkness was Northern California, my original hometown. The San Francisco Bay Area, where it rained so much, we had years that skipped Summer all together. The heavy rains beat my spirit down. Sharp winds cut through my skin, biting my flesh to the bone and the overcast loomed like death. The ocean in Northern California had teeth. This is where “Jaws” lived and people risked their lives going to the beach. One year a little boy was attacked by a shark only fifty feet from shore. This was no dream, it was the California nightmare!
The best part of my childhood was the family drive to Los Angeles. As we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, I remember looking out the window of our blue and white striped, 1966 Dodge hippie van. As I watched the surfers, I thought, "One day, I'm going to do that."
One of the best days of my life was a day of "boogie boarding" at Venice Beach. My sisters and I didn't actually have real boogie boards, my parents were both artists, so we didn't have such luxuries. We used blow up mattresses to catch waves. I got the sunburn of my life that day, but it was well worth it!
I remember the last day in LA before the long drive home. Dad stopped at the gas station to fill up and Mom allowed us to pick just one postcard to bring home as our souvenir. I chose an amber sunset over the ocean with a seagull in the foreground gazing out over his domain. The twilight reflecting on the gull’s eyes illustrated the way I felt, as I held onto my vision. I taped my postcard on the wall next to my pillow so I could look at it as I fell asleep.
Many years later, on my birthday, my dream finally came true. My own family moved to Southern California in 2001. My children grew up at “Mondos Beach,” running naked along the shoreline, building sandcastles, and boogie boarding using real boogie boards. My kids were only seven when I taught them to surf and till this day, we go surfing every chance we get.
Having surfed up and down Southern California, we’ve found all the best beaches. People generally think “Malibu Surfrider” is California’s dream beach because of all the old surf movies shot there. This is a great beach if you enjoy pollution, five o’clock traffic, and fist fights breaking out over waves! I prefer calmer waters.
From the expansive views above the Pacific to the curvy coves and caves within it’s inlets. “Leo Carrillo” is the film star of all beaches. It’s the perfect beach for photographers, movie makers and artists but the surf ride is relatively short. A fast, edgy shorebreak is great for short boarders but the classic longboarder’s wave is a long, slow “point break” with a hippie vibe. This is best served up in San Diego or Ventura counties.
“Tourmaline” is a gem I found in San Diego. At certain times of the year, the Encenata current comes up from Mexico warming the water so pleasurably, it’s entirely possible to surf without a wetsuit.
San Onofre is another longboarder’s favorite with beach side parking, a campground up the hill and consistently flawless waves. Eat, sleep and surf till your arms turn into noodles!
“Devaraux” is just North of Santa Barbara but you’ll never find it on a real map because quite often, surfers have their own names for surf spots. It’s a long walk down to the beach and a half mile walk up the beach, but it’s beauty, waves, and solitude are well worth it.
These are all great beaches but rest assured, I’ve saved the best for last. Just one hour Northbound from LA, on the “Ventura highway” is like traveling back in time and seeing what Los Angeles must have looked like a long time ago. The quaint little town of Ventura is a historical treasure and it’s held on to it’s surf culture heyday beautifully.
“Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine
You're gonna go I know
'Cause the free wind is blowin' through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air
Did di di di dit …” (Bunnell, 1972)
In 1963, it was in Ventura, where songwriter Dewey Bunnell saw his clouds that looked like “alligator lizards in the air” and fifty something years later, I doubt too much has changed. (Songfacts.com, 1972)
Ventura is a lot slower than LA, people have time to look each other in the eyes and say, “Hi.”
When they have your ear, the old timers will tell you all about the good old days, before the crowds came. “I was one of only three or four guys in the county who surfed,” says Ned Bartels. “Then the movie “Gidget” came out in 1960. It screwed up everything. It went bonkers after that. There were 900 people on the beach. It popularized the whole thing and made it a way of life.” Jack Cantrell said that the first balsa boards were 11 feet long and weighed 44 pounds. “Then they came out with foam boards and by 1962, the beaches got too crowded.” (Fowler, 1992)
In 1960 the Ventura freeway had just reached completion, so the increasing crowds were more likely to be the result from a combination of Gidget fans, lightweight board lovers and easier access. (Greif, 2014) The sleepy little agricultural town suddenly became a weekend destination and so did the waves.
“We had interlopers and there were fights,” said surf historian, Betty Elder. So, to keep the peace, Nat Young had two metal signs made in Australia. The signs were made to illustrate surf etiquette. Originally, Malibu wanted one of the signs too but they couldn’t agree on where to put it. Currently one of the signs is prominently displayed on the promenade at Surfer’s Point. (CAPSmedia.org, 2017) Whatever the reason is for Ventura’s friendly vibe, it seems to be working. “Surfing Ventura is like a big family,” says Bill Hubina. “We know everybody out there. We don’t always know their names but we know them.” (CAPSmedia.org, 2017)
Since 1986, Betty Elder and “The Ventura Surf Club” has put on “The California Street Classic.” The first officially organized longboard contest in the United States. In the beginning, they only allowed locals but then they decided that everyone, even complete novices, should be allowed to participate. Recently, they added a shortboard division to increase the younger crowds. The event creates a feeling of unity and gives back to the community by supporting local beach environmental charities. (Venturasurfclub.org, 1990)
“I think when a surfer becomes a surfer, it’s almost like an obligation to be an environmentalist at the same time,” says world champion, Kelly Slater. (surfertoday.com, 2019) Evidently, many surfers agree, there are many surfer-based ocean conservation non profits where people can save the ocean for their children. “Take3,” is one of those nonprofits with a great message, “Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach… and you’ve made a difference.” (Drughi, 2018)
The surf haven of Ventura is also home to many surfboard “shapers” who’ve put their own creative spin on how to improve the surfboard and the surfing experience. Accomplished surfer and “Father of the modern longboard, Steve Walden has been putting love into making boards since 1965. Today, he’s one of the largest producers of surfboards in the U.S. Walden also shapes boards for women’s proportions. The sparkly flowered “wahine” boards can be seen at his surf shop down on East Front Street or his website. (waldensurfboards.com, 1965)
Another creative genius and surf legend, Tom Morey, made surfboards in Ventura in the 1960’s. He revolutionized surfing in the early 70’s with the invention of the Morey Boogie Board, bringing the joy of surfing to all skill levels world wide. (Fowler, 1992)
Besides the romantic visions of surfing in the sunshine, the friendly tribe vibe, and the beautiful natural environment, filled with seals and friendly dolphins; what else could be contributing to this giddy dream? Well, this is almost too good to be true, but surfing is also an excellent exercise! We all know the massive well researched benefits of exercise upon our physical bodies, but what about our minds? Researchers from Duke University Medical Center performed an interventional study in which they used randomized depressed men and women from young to old. This was the largest exercise trial ever done on patients with major depression. There were three groups; one group was for home exercisers to show that the social interaction of exercise had no bearing on the results. The second group took the antidepressant “Zoloft” and the last group was a social exercise group. After four months the Zoloft group improved, only to show that the drug worked. The surprise was that the drug free groups showed just as much improvement! The researchers concluded that, exercise may be used as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for the treatment of major depression. (Greger, 2017)
It was the mysterious magic of the ocean that changed professional surfer, Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz’ and his autistic son’s life forever. Isaiah was having a “melt down” and no one, not even his mother, was able to soothe him. “Not knowing what else to do, I picked Isaiah up and heaved him into the ocean. When his head popped up, a transformation had taken place; here was a happy, smiling, peaceful child. What else could I do but jump in with him? A friend grabbed a longboard, and Isaiah and I rode the waves for the first time. He loved it. He loved the ocean; he loved being out on the board.” This was the beginning of “Surfer’s Healing,” a non-profit organization that helps autistic children to experience the miraculous joy of surfing. (surfershealing.org, 1996)
I-I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air
I'm pickin' up good vibrations
She's giving me the excitations (oom bop bop) (Wilson, 1966)
When Brian Wilson wrote this song for “The Beach Boys” he was reflecting upon unexplained positive energy bursts. Why do dogs bark in defense at some people but not others? His mother explained that it was “good vibrations.” (songfacts.com, 1966)
Deeper than our physical or mental sources of happiness, we may experience “good energy,” blissful tingles, or a spiritual elation. Where does this come from? Well, we know that our bodies contain electricity because that’s how a heart defibrillator works to reset the heart. There are likely energies at work that we cannot necessarily see with our eyes or prove using the knowledge that we now have, but we can detect negative energy from the negative effects upon our bodies. Negative stress, such as an emotional shock, can cause cardiomyopathy, a less studied type of heart attack, also called “broken-heart syndrome,” which appears to have a mind-heart connection. (Bhatt, 2015)
After my own forty years of yoga, meditation, and psychic work, I believe those good vibrations happen when we are experiencing resonance with our truth, which is Love energy! Unfortunately, I can’t prove this but I’ve literally witnessed many of my clients display the same positive physical reaction when they overcome a mental block. Suddenly they inhale as if they were suffocating previously, almost gasping for air, then they immediately become intoxicated with euphoria. Some add yawning and rubbing their eyes as if they just woke up. I believe our body’s chemicals reflect positive changes when we are being true to our feelings, alternatively known as being conscious or waking up. On the other hand, when we’re lying to ourselves or listening to negative beliefs, our physical chemicals express stress.
Surfing legend, Laird Hamilton said, “Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” (surfertoday.com, 2019)
A surfer must have unsinkable faith when facing waves. We don’t cower from fear, we listen to our intuition instead. When we catch waves we learn to trust our intuition and flow with it. If we listen to our head, we get pounded hard! Waves are great spiritual teachers.
The search for the California dream is really just that, a dream, but it drives us to feel deeply through the fog, to feel our very best and trust our spiritual flow.
Bhatt M.D. MPH, D. (2015, September 03). “Stress” cardiomyopathy: A different kind of heart attack, The Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/stress-cardiomyopathy-a-different-kind-of-heart-attack-201509038239
Bunnell, Dewey. (1972, September 19). Ventura Highway, America, Homecoming, Warner Bros. Records, U.S.A. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RbvGllJGxw
CAPSMedia.org (2017).Ventura Legacies featuring Surf History in Ventura Part 2. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/210843975
Drughi, O. (2018, July 19). 8 Surfer-based ocean conservation organizations you can join today to make a difference tomorrow. Retrieved from
Fowler, J. (1992, March 2). Reliving the wild surf. The Los Angeles Times, Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/1992-03-02/local/me-2297_1_surfing-museum
Greger M.D. FACLM, M. (2017, January 24). Exercise as a treatment for depression. Retrieved from https://nutritionfacts.org/2017/01/24/exercise-as-a-treatment-for-depression/
Greif, B. (2014). Pier Rats: Ventura, California, 1973. BookBaby Retrieved from
Perks, R. (2012, November 21). Local surf history with veteran Ventura surfer, Bill “Blinky” Hubina. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qRha9W51yg
Songfacts.com (1966). Good Vibrations, Brian Wilson. Retrieved from https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-beach-boys/good-vibrations
Songfacts.com (1972). Ventura Highway, Dewey Bunnell. Retrieved from https://www.songfacts.com/facts/america/ventura-highway
Surfershealing.org (1996). Retrieved from https://www.surfershealing.org/history
Surfertoday.com (2019). Retrieved from https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/8376-the-most-famous-quotes-by-kelly-slater
Surfertoday.com (2019). Retrieved from https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/10663-the-best-quotes-by-laird-hamilton
Venturasurfclub.org (1990). Retrieved from https://www.venturasurfclub.org/calif-st-classic
Waldensurfboards.com (1965). Retrieved from https://www.waldensurfboards.com/pages/our-history
Wilson, B. (1966, October 10). Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys, Capitol Records, U.S.A. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eab_beh07HU