Magazine article Sunset

Huntington Beach

Magazine article Sunset

Huntington Beach

Article excerpt

The heartbeat of surfing culture has gone upscale. But it's still home to the Sugar Shack and the occasional surf freak daddy

Surf City. Legend has it that Jan and Dean's '63 anthem was inspired by Huntington Beach. Think of '60s surf mania as a tactical nuclear strike aimed at buttoned-down Middle America, and Huntington Beach as ground zero. "Everybody thought we were nuts," says Raul Duarteace surfer then and now surfing coach at Golden West College. "No wet suits, out in the cold. All of a sudden it changed. We went from being crazy to being cool." Or as another local icon, Corky Carroll, puts it: "Huntington Beach is the heartbeat of surfing culture."

It was, in some ways, a funny place for that heart to beat. Other Southern California beach towns were more beautiful (La Jolla) or more amenable to Hollywood glamorization (Malibu). Huntington Beach was a gritty, blue-collar burg. But the surf was industrial-strengthhuge waves guaranteed most of the year.

"We have two good windows," explains Steve Seim, who directs Huntington Beach's lifeguards. "In summer we get great south swells-from hurricanes in Mexico, from storms all the way in Australia. In winter we get great western swells from the North Pacific, coming through the window between Palos Verdes and Catalina."

Such choice surf means that in summer Huntington Beach has the bona fides to hold some of the biggest surf competitions in the country. The waves also help power Orange County's economy, thanks to brand-name surfwear manufacturers that inhabit industrial parks inland.

These days Huntington Beach has acquired airs-pastel palazzi done in a red-tile style Corky Carroll dubs "nuevo viejo." The Huntington Beach Pier's splintery wood pilings have been replaced by concrete. Yet, head down to that pier any morning. The surf is still churning. The legend still grows. Only a few years ago a high school girl ran away from her Florida home because her parents didn't understand her passion for waves. …

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