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Malibu pier

Written in



Great photo by Morgan.

That pier has seen a lot ..

“Nowhere in surfing’s history will you find one break that has had more effect on surfing’s popular image than Malibu. Certainly, had there not been such a perfect wave so close to Hollywood, the cameras could have set up in Hermosa or Redondo, but think about it: a flawless right pointbreak that breaks close to the beach and is best in summer is a gold mine for Tinseltown. And, without Malibu, we can be certain that Annette Funicello might’ve gone on to be…well, just a well-stacked Mouseketeer.

Malibu’s original inhabitants were the Chumash Indians, who were eradicated by early Spanish explorers. By the early 1900s, the entire Malibu area was owned by the wealthy Rindge family of New England, who fought fiercely to keep the state, the Southern Pacific Railroad and neighboring homesteaders from encroaching.

By 1929, the state had won. The Roosevelt Highway — now the Pacific Coast Highway — finally went through, and the public had coastal access from Santa Monica to Oxnard.

This occurred about the same time that Tom Blake and Sam Reed pulled up with their paddleboards and became the first people to surf the area. During World War II, Malibu was fenced in and kept off-limits by the Coast Guard. Stories abounded, however, of those who saved enough gasoline rations to make the journey up the coast to sample this new gem. Some say they had to sneak through a hole in the fence, only to find it patched up on the return trip.

Others tell of chumming up to the guards, and then leaving their boards leaning against the fence, untouched for weeks until their return. (Then again, we’re talking 100-pound boards here.)

In the post-war years, innovators such as Bob Simmons and Joe Quigg began borrowing new materials from the defense industry, and experimented with balsa and foam. It was this new, more user-friendly surfboard construction that set the stage for the surf explosion of the late ’50s, and Malibu soon became the sport’s epicenter.

In 1956, the Malibu tribe grew to include a spunky young girl named Kathy Kohner. Her father wrote a book about her beach adventures, and later sold the rights to Columbia Pictures. Kohner then became known to the world as Gidget. That movie, and the string of campy beach movies it inspired, has left an indelible image, for better or worse, on surfing worldwide. The now-familiar names of the original Malibu crew have since been recycled into surfwear and barefoot bars: Kahuna, Tubesteak, Moondoggie.

Among the more familiar faces of that period was Miki Dora, who came to Malibu around 1952 and went on to become one of surfing’s most legendary figures. It was Dora’s bad-boy demeanor that added so much to the surfing mystique. Probably his most notorious pranks happened in front of the large crowds that gathered at Malibu for contests. In 1965, during the famous duel with Johnny Fain, Dora repeatedly pushed off any shoulder-hoppers, and launched his board at Fain. Then, in 1967 — fed up with the crowds and the “blatant commercialism” of surfing (of which he, too, made profit) — he finished his last wave by dropping his shorts and mooning the judges and crowd of 4,000 onlookers. Scam artist, prophet, intellect, outcast and prima ballerina, Dora ruled the roost at Malibu through the late ’50s and ’60s, carrying surfing’s rebel torch as no other. He considered Malibu his perfect wave, but as the crud surrounding it became too much to handle, he fled to more barren locales.

Following the shortboard revolution of the late ’60s, Malibu continued to carry such a longboard reputation that the surf media soon replaced it with new ideals of perfection — spots such as Pipeline and Grajagan. But the crowds were no less tenacious through the ’70s, when the new pack came to include names such as Angie Reno, Jay Riddle, Nathan Pratt, Skip Englom, Jeff Ho, Mike Marceleno, Kirk Murray, Davey Hilton, Reggie Thorpe and Allen Sarlo. While the organic early ’70s suffered from droughts of interest in competition, the larger swells were now being ridden faster and farther on the sleek new equipment — a fast pointbreak was not the worst place to be on the single-fin pintails of the era.

By the time the ’80s kicked in, the surf contests were back and bigger than ever, and so were the longboards. With the improved materials, the new boards had gotten much lighter, and their familiar owners…heavier. The younger, fervent Third Point crowds now sported Day-Glo wetsuits, “Team” stickers and webbed gloves to better the paddling odds against longboarders. Allen Sarlo had hit his full stride during this period, gouging out big chunks of water on his way through the madness.

Into the ’90s, the El Nino phenomenon had become a regular visitor, occasionally rearranging the cobblestone bottom with heavy waves or rain. The fistfights of past years had practically vanished now, due to the abundance of camcorders and lawsuits. One incident had the father of a surf contestant in legal trouble for beating up a non-contest surfer who wouldn’t leave the lineup.

Nowadays, the perfection is still there, but it’s plagued by some of the worst crowding and pollution problems in Los Angeles County. Malibu continues to be featured in plenty of surf movies and videos, but most often as comic relief — the segment with the jam-packed demolition derby and crash sounds thrown in for effect. That’s kind of an odd coincidence, when you consider that, these days, the only time you get a break in the crowd is when the Coast Highway gets tied up with an auto accident.” — Jaz Kaner, October 2000 http://www.surfline.com/surfaz/surfaz.cfm?id=857