Bay Boys’ perch deconstructed
by Ed Solt
Situated for over thirty years at the tip of Lunada Bay’s point, the patio of the so-called Bay Boys has been the gateway for an exclusive stoke — one of the most exclusive in the world. The city of Palos Verdes Estates razed last Monday what some called a “fort,” the hangout for a group of individuals alleged to be a “gang” in a federal class-action lawsuit.
Often criticized for neglecting complaints and turning a blind eye toward the matter, the city of Palos Verdes Estates seized the opportunity to make a statement. Mayor Jennifer King proclaimed the site an “encroachment” to assembled press while in the background a helicopter flew overhead, a single man dangling by a rope down to the ruins of affluent surf culture.
But before issuing a call to arms on social media to invade Lunada Bay and “really stick it to the Bay Boys,” let’s take a couple strokes back.
In my three decades growing up and surfing the South Bay, I’ve been vibed and have given vibes.
One instance I’m not proud of: scolding an older lady who was burning people all morning (although the lineup gave a collective sigh of relief when she paddled in). My vibing consists of reinforcing surf etiquette in a manner not intended to discourage the surfer but to correct his or her action, whether it be cutting someone off or paddling through a wave in the wrong spot and disrupting a ridden wave.
Last winter, I was on the receiving end one morning when I was chased out of the water, soiling my wetsuit, by a person with whom I purposely will keep anonymous other than to say he is synonymous with this spot. A rumor floated around that I had called a few locals at this spot “kooks”— surfers this head local revered for having guided him through tough times and setting his path to recovery. Thanks to a mutual friend, we met and discussed the confrontation that ended with us leaving as two buds laughing about the entire situation. All apologies were accepted, as I humbly admitted that I was catching too many waves, an action seen as disrespectful by the locals. I needed to cool it and put my beavertail between my legs.
The next swell, when I noticed an elder local’s loose board getting bombarded in the shorepound, I rescued his stick and placed it on the berm. Taking advantage of our close encounter, I thanked him for two waves he gave me from the last swell and complimented his surfing style. It was a matter of respect.
I don’t condone any violence, especially over something as simple as a First World problem of protecting a wave. While the legacy of the Bay Boys is an extreme version of localism, their preservation tactics are not entirely a product of entitlement. The overflow of new surfers in recent years, many not privileged to have someone show them the way, has created a surfing dystopia at certain spots. Besides proper etiquette (which should be ingrained in a surfer’s DNA), there are a few common sense cultural things lacking in today’s surf scene.
Stop blasting your surfing at a surf spot on social media as a personal accolade. Surfing a semi-secret surf spot and telling the world doesn’t legitimize a surfer. The one thing to admire about Bay Boys is their ability to keep the lid shut. Their culture is more like a secret society than a gang. And I’ve got news. The Bay Boys walk among us. Big names in the surfing world “have the pass” yet keep anonymous.
Crowds. Filling up your SUV to the brim with over-eager surfers, wetsuits dangling from the side view mirrors and Merricks on the top isn’t going to stoke anyone out. Just stop.
Invest time at a local spot and pay your dues. Respect those who surfed before you. Learn the surf history. Learn who the underground heroes are. If you see a bench or log, know that there’s an established hierarchy who’ve put their time in to earn that spot. Don’t just sit there. The same goes with the lineup. Don’t just paddle to the outside, interrupt a conversation, and sit nonchalantly. Grovel on the inside. Grovel changing in the sand. Ditch the Chinese pop-out fun shape with the GoPro mount or the Costco softboard special and support a local surf shop and a local shaper who are connected to a local surf spot in some shape or form. Riding anything else is a red flag. When you keep your equipment choices local, you’re supporting local surf culture.
Localism is built on one thing: respect. To gain respect you must earn it. To earn it, well, that’s a complicated matter. It doesn’t happen overnight. For some, it might never happen. Among committed surfers, there are no participation trophies. ER