Kevin Cody

Hermosa Beach’s Tim Banas: a life at the beach

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Tim Banas was remembered during a paddleout at Second Street in Hermosa Beach on Saturday. The King Harbor fishing boat Navagante, skippered by Banas’s longtime friend Nick “Flinch” Padilla, served as the family boat. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

Tim Banas and his oldest son Tommy were painting on the roof of a Hermosa Beach home when Tim stepped backwards into the air. Mid flight he did a backflip and landed on his feet. 

“Dad, congrats, you stuck the landing,” his son yelled down to him.

Throughout most of his life Tim Banas’s pro level athleticism, male model looks, harmonica playing and hail fellow well met manner made him an admired and welcomed fixture in the surf lineup and at neighborhood volleyball tournaments. In October, with the start of lobster season, his interest turned to free diving off the Redondo Breakwall. One night in the late ‘90s, he chased a monster lobster into a small cave. After he grabbed it, the lobster kicked up so much sand Banas couldn’t see the cave’s exit. Holding tight to the lobster, he felt his way along the uneven cave wall until he found the opening. That evening he and his family dined on lobster thermidor at the Bottle Inn. 

Longtime Hermosa Beach surfer, free diver and tradesman Tim Banas surfing at Indicator in Palos Verdes. Easy Reader file photo

When the dinner was finished, owner Silvio Petoletta came over to their table, and asked Banas if his family enjoyed the way his kitchen had prepared the lobster. Banas answered with a sly aside to his family, explaining why, if the lobster was as big as he bragged it was, the servings were so small. “My family enjoyed it very much, as I hope your kitchen did, as well,” Banas said.

Banas’s  three, equally athletic sons Tommy, Ryan and Danny kept him involved in youth sports. He volunteered for Hermosa Beach Little League throughout the 1990s and served as league president in 1997. 

His sons’ friends knew they were always welcome at Tim’s and wife Linda’s 2nd Street home, for extended stays when necessary.  

Prior to Saturday’s memorial paddleout for Banas, at 2nd Street, where he taught his sons to surf, the Hermosa Beach Little League issued a statement that said, in part, “Tim was like a second father to many growing up in Hermosa.”

Linda and Tim Banas. Photo courtesy of the Banas family.

Throughout this period, TT Banas Painting prospered. Builders claimed to be able to recognize a Banas house by the dedication to detail in his work. A home owner who hired Banas to tile his kitchen counter was puzzled when Banas added a new tile backsplash. “The counter wouldn’t have looked right without the backsplash,” Banas explained, while declining to accept additional payment. 

Then, in 2002, he got in a fight, which wasn’t entirely out of character. An earlier fight over a disputed call in a 16th Street Labor Day Weekend Volleyball tournament had led to high stakes betting on its outcome and became part of the tournament’s lore. “Tim belonged in the Wild West. He would have been the small town sheriff,” a longtime friend observed.

That winter, during a big north swell Banas and Tommy climbed down the steep, 300 cliff at Indicator in Palos Verdes, a big wave surf spot known for localism. They were showered with rocks thrown from the top of the cliff.

Banas, then 42, had surfed the secluded spot perhaps 100 times in his nearly three decades of surfing around the world. He was familiar with Indicator’s reputation for localism. To reduce the likelihood of his familiar red pick-up from being vandalized, he  parked several blocks from the trailhead, in the multimillion dollar home neighborhood.

When Banas rounded the final turn at the bottom of the trail, he was greeted by a half-dozen locals drinking at a stone and log platform they had built called The Hut. A stolen city sign had been graffitied to warn, “No Surfing. Private Property.”

Indicator is one of the best, left breaking waves in Southern California, which makes it particularly attractive to goofy footers like Banas. The lava finger reefs that jut out from the bottom of the cliff into the ocean also make it one of the most beautiful surf spots in Southern California.

“Killer waves,” Banas said to the locals, hoping to break any tension. His son was still working his way down the cliff.

The locals screamed he couldn’t surf there and ordered him back up the cliff.

“I told them I had a right to surf there, and wasn’t leaving. I told them I had probably surfed with their parents,” Banas said several days after the incident.

One of the locals punched him in the head.

Banas spun the guy around, causing both of them to fall off the hut.

When he landed on the rocky beach below, Banas felt a white, searing pain in his newly reconstructed knee. He was unable to get to his feet. Two of the locals jumped on top of him and started beating him. 

When Tommy Banas reached the bottom of the trail, he would recall, “I yelled, ‘Get off my dad.’ One of them came at me. I grabbed a rock and threw it at him and hit him in the head. He went down…. They were afraid. They said they’d call the cops on me.”

The incident led to a lawsuit and a small cash settlement for the Banases. It also left Tim Banas with chronic back and knee pain. He was unable to work and lost his home. His work truck was impounded. A misdiagnosis led doctors to believe he was feigning pain to score pain pills. His dependency on the pills led to a downward spiral that could only end in prison, insanity or death.

Banas died three weeks ago while driving alone, when his car hit a tree. ER

Photos by Kevin Cody

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