Bravada at Lunada: Second Helpings of Hamburger Hill


A classic Leroy Grannis shot was for a Lunada Bay Wetsuit ad. From left to right, Donald Takayama, Collie Ragland, Don Craig, Mike Purpus, and Dewey Weber.

Computer jockeys in early January were called to the battlefield by an across-the-Pacific vendetta to bust Lunada at the seams.

A website marketed to the “thinking surfer’” proclaimed “Lunada Bay for All.” After a decade of dormancy of the media covering the hilltop salty hand of localism, a grassroot movement fueled by social media was planned to protest a surfing tradition.

Lunada Bay localism was first publicized outside the surf world when Mike Purpus and Kevin Cody co-wrote an Easy Reader cover story entitled “Hamburger Hill” (April 27, 1994) calling out the malpractices of the Palos Verdes police , who at the time played more on the local side. The story documented local beatdowns and 12 pack payouts to the locals to keep certain young PVer’s protected. Afterwards, it wasn’t uncommon for Purpus to hear a “Fuck you Purpus,” from a car driving by his apartment or even at the grocery store.

Since the early 1960s, Lunada had been on the surf radar. It’s well known Greg Noll used the bay and the Breakwall as his black diamond practice (in the middle of the winter minus wetsuits, leash, and on the equipment of the time) run before hitting the double black diamond courses of the North Shore. By the mid-60s, Lunada Bay Wetsuits capitalized on the bay’s reputation as a big wave winter spot. Legendary lensman Leroy Grannis captured Dewey Weber, Purpus, Collie Ragland, Don Craig, and Donald Takayama modeling the suits right above the break, sporting short john’s running the competition stripe steeze of the era.


Purpus at the Bay. Photo by Leroy Grannis

Localism throughout the surf world and the Lunada “Bay Boys” particular hereditary claims had their heyday in the ‘70s, though it persisted through the decades. By the mid 90s, Purpus and Cody weren’t the only media reporting the happenings on the bay. Steve Hawk, former editor of Surfer Magazine, told of surfing the bay unscathed in an early ‘90s editorial. In letters published in subsequent issues,  locals (including some well known PV names) and non-locals bickered. On November 5th 1995, the Surfrider Foundation even promoted a  peaceful/nonviolent “Surf Lunada Bay Day.” Leroy Grannis chimed in ‘95 with a letter to the Easy Reader, remembering the Palos Verdes Surf Club back in the ‘30s, and shooting Mark Kerwin, Eddie Underwood, Dru Harrison, Tiger Makim, Purpus, and Ricky Young in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. He ended the letter noting how “in the late 70s, the local hooligans took over”  – which brought him to the point, “Lunada only breaks on a North swell, where do they surf in the summer?”

The pinnacle of the ‘90s coverage happened after an altercation between a lifelong surfer from Torrance who took his son and a friend, the hottest two bodyboarders around, and Hagan Kelley, a young professional surfer from Torrance who would go on to be the editor of Surfing Magazine from 2003 to 2006. Armed with a video camera, footage of  the crew being hassled by the “big name on the hill” — one of the head Bay Boys — resulted in a $15,000 settlement and PV cops to legally required to regulate localism. Mainstream media picked it up, loving another angle to cover surfing. High surf advisories, sharks, the US Open, the occasional surf charity event and localism —  the only time KTLA or the LA Times pays attention.

The heat was off Lunada when a mess of a surf situation erupted at the left just around the corner, at a spot called “Indicator’s.” An altercation between locals aged 19 to 21 who called themselves the “The Dirty Underwear Gang” and a father and his son from Hermosa Beach resulted in broken bones, a court case, and a small settlement. Minus one small incident of a long time Haggerty’s local getting into it with a teenager and then being handcuffed and arrested in his wetsuit, for the last decade the media’s frenzy on the Hill laid low.

Martin Luther King Day, January 20,  5:57 a.m. Fog has engulfed the entire horseshoe bay.  Lined up on Pase Del Mar the standard vehicle of the locals, plain jane trucks, some slightly raised, some not, with no surf signage slapped on windows.

Cutting through the fog and predawn darkness are the lights of the PVPD, parked or occasionally creeping up and down the street. The first inclination is to park away from the stretch and leave the car somewhere a few blocks in between the mansions that feed the not 100 percent accurate stereotype of all “Bay Boys” living off mommy and daddy’s trust fund. First circle around the block, one husky local/nonlocal (not sure) gave out a hilarious stink eye with a beat-to-shit longboard hanging out of his truck bed. The decision was to park on the strip along the cliff.

The KTLA van lit up the south side of the bay. The news team waited for the morning light and the fog to burn off. In between reporting on what really matters in LA — traffic segments —  the reporter described “The surfers who call themselves the bad boys of Lunada Bay,” and located the bay at “Rancho Palos Verdes.”  Lunada Bay is in Palos Verdes Estates.

As for the first round of attendees, it was the “Bay Boys,” scaling down the cliff, locked and loaded with thrusters.

Around 7a.m., it seemed that the many civil rights surfers who passionately added hits to various websites couldn’t get MLK off.

A few hours later, 30 surfers were out in the line-up. On any normal day at the bay, this never happens. As much negative press the locals get, they know how to wait their turns on the beach and share amongst themselves. Had the potential of opening “Lunada Bay for All” been met?

Out in the line-up, instead of sneers and hassles, cheers erupted from the rocks at the Bay Boys’ patio every time a set wave poured in or when a surfer got tubed dangerously on the inside. It appeared no one was burning each other and the line-up was friendly. Had the locals made truce with the world? On closer inspection, no. The “Lunada Bay for All” had one unexpected outcome. It created a Bay Boy reunion.

With boards lined up at the top of the point, the locals basked in CL Smoothie glory and enjoyed the beautiful day like a picnic at the park (shoot, some say Phish live at Madison Square Garden 1994 could be faintly heard from the patio). Had there ever been as many Lunada Bay surfers posted up? Hanging out on the top of the trailway a flashback appeared,  a circa ‘90s old boy enforcer with a slight curly mullet, sporting high top white athletic shoes, a construction tan, draped in surf gear from the Bush presidency. A suitcase of coolies and a plain white surfboard was the pass.

Bay Boy Gathering 2014. Photo by Kevin COdy

Bay Boy Gathering 2014. Photo

The cliff was occupied by casual observers, non-surfers, surfers who didn’t really care and were stopping by on their way to other breaks, surfers waiting to see the cracking of the entrenched privilege, and the PVPD on foot, in car, and on a dirtbike.

About 30 feet away and sporting the sweetest Hawaiian mohawk ever, Chris “Wonton” Taolo, a world class bodyboarder known for his stand-up abilities on the equipment, prowess in waves of consequence, and his roots on the North Shore, gladly stepped into the role as figurehead of the peaceful protest. Taolo, who ironically played one of the locals in 2002’s “Blue Crush,” made opening Lunada Bay for everybody his quest. His passion was very apparent while talking to all media, no matter if it was KTLA or Palos Verdes High School’s news team. Articulate with just the right amount of pidgin, he was prepared to give fiery stories: how his uncles back in Hawaii were backing him up, how his brother was escorted out and harassed by six Bay Boys. Taolo pulled out the family card, and family in Hawaiian culture is a real big deal.

Around him, Taolo was surrounded by a group of like minded surfers. The crew came from all walks of life, different cities cultural backgrounds, all eager to listen to Taolo’s gospel. Some of Taolo’s disciples even took to the water, but the boys stood their ground. No rocks were thrown (that hasn’t gone down since pre-9/11 and really isn’t a relevant quirp) just the classic surf stink eye, hassling and a few drop ins, things a police force really can’t regulate. Taolo himself went to bat, but when you’re in the midst of Bay Bay Fest 2014 you’re not going to get the pick of the litter or even a turd. Overall, Taolo wasn’t discouraged as he expressed that this wasn’t the first of peaceful protests planned. He vowed to make Lunada like “Waikiki,” with public excess for everybody.

As in every year, the summertime doldrums will close the season until next winter. More than a half a year will go by before even a little ripple tugs at the point. The south swell blockage from the hill itself and that magical island 26 miles to sea tend to play mind eraser. Will another five to ten years go by before Lunada Bay is mentioned in the press? But then again, it’s not the heyday of Limp Bizkit. People simply have to click “like” to keep their neurons tingling. ER

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