Thursday, July 29, 2004

Crowd City

Huntington Beach is a HUGE town. We're talking almost 200,000 people. That's a shitload.

The next time you forgo the 405 (sorry, Norcal buddies...it's THE 405) for PCH, notice just how long it takes to get from the River Jetties (cutoff between Newport and Huntington on the south side) to Seal Beach.

That's one LONG ASS stretch of beach.

Which is kind of funny since HB is known primarily for this one tiny little area - the pier and Main St - arguably the most crowded stretch of beach in Orange County (downtown Laguna could easily vie for that title, but I think Laguna's crowds are misleading - two lane road, tiny side streets, hills - I don't think the numbers of people support how chaotic it FEELS).

Anyhow, my point is that Huntington is just one of those places that gets really crowded in one certain spot, and yet is known, as a town, for that spot. In short, Huntington is known as a congested, chaotic, hectic surf spot.

And it is...right by the pier anyway.

So today, my buddy and I decided to steer clear of the pier (and the US Open) and paddle out further north, around 12th St. Just 12 blocks north of the action.

Totally empty.

Well, not totally empty. There were 3 girls about 14, dressed like they were about 21. There were a couple of families with a bunch of kids. Let's see, what else...oh, there was the lifeguard, sealed up in his little tower, watching his colleagues screwing around on their boats, ATVs, and brand new trucks (anyone ever seen a genuine drowning victim actually saved? I haven't. But I have seen the lifeguards racing up and down the beach like Hell's Angels in red trunks every day. Looks like fun.)

Oh yeah, and there was the bodysurfing guy who just graduated from some religious college and is now the proud possessor of a degree in "Christian Education". Suh-weet! I can't believe this guy still can't find a job. You'd think the offers would be pouring in. They must not know that he also scored a Minor in Theology. Microsoft, what, you guys need a written invitation? Scoop this guy up before IBM lands him!

I'm teasing. Really. Totally nice guy. We chatted for like 20 minutes out in the water, which, despite what Surfline said, was definitely warmer than 65 degrees. Was easily pushing 70, and this was on top of fairly heavy (and typical) cold, onshore wind.

My point is, the beach was pretty much empty. The waves kinda sucked - waist high and fairly blown out, but definitely rideable, especially on a longboard.

So there we were, smack dab in the middle of "Surf City, USA", 12 blocks from the most famous pro surf contest in America, at the end of July, with a small but rideable swell rolling in, with beautiful sunshine and warm water, and we had the run of the place.

Think about that for a minute. Not some random spot in Marin, or some hidden reef in Point Loma (oh fuck, who am I, Sam George? I'm making a subtle reference to RALPH'S, and it's an overrated spot near Sunset Cliffs in San Diego that you need a boat to get to...secret spot, my ass), but Huntington.

We got a parking spot right in front of the stairs, threw two bucks in quarters in the meter, paddled out on logs, in trunks, with no leashes, and surfed for a solid hour with only our unemployed Christian friend to keep us company (well, him and the hardworking lifeguards doing donuts in their boat).

Driving back to my house, I noticed the route I usually take - bypassing the pier and Main St. altogether - and realized that when you skip that area altogether, HB can actually feel a bit like a sleepy little beach town.

Try it yourself...

Swing down Frankfurt St. on some lazy Thursday afternoon. Grab a Coca-Cola at Steve's Liquors. Take a left on Huntington St., check out the cool plantation style house on the right, admire some of the neat old bungalows from the 20's that HAVEN'T been ripped down yet and replaced with 3 story stucco marvels, and just feel the small town.

It's there. I felt it today. It felt, uh...mellow.

Am I even allowed to say that in Huntington without getting tackled, my truck raised two feet, and a tattoo inked onto my arm? Seriously, it was totally mellow. Granted, I'll probably get woken up tonight by 3 skinheads on cruiser bikes suffering from Elephantitus of the Chrome, yelling, and throwing leftover M80s (in HB, the 4th of July actually starts in late June and lasts well into September).

But for now...right now...I live in HB, "Surf City". Home of empty beaches, uncrowded waves, warm water, friendly people, where no one ever drowns, and where even the unemployed are highly educated (and highly spiritual).

What a town.

The Colonel says, "At ease."