Local Vantage

“I was born in Newport and have been surfing here for over 50 years,” says Sid Abruzzi, owner of Rhode Island’s Waterbrothers surf/skate shop. “Rhode Island is unique compared to any other state on the East Coast because it faces south and we have a good combination of pointbreaks and beachbreaks. From Ruggles to Rincon to Little Compton’s mysto points, we’ve got great waves. We’ve got a good surf/skate scene, too. When I built Skater Island, it was like the North Shore of skateboarding. A bunch of good bands—Verbal Assault, Throwing Muses, and Belly—have come out of here too.”

Matt Lopez

“You can move to San Francisco and be whatever you want, but 20 years ago, if you said, ‘I’m moving to San Francisco to be a surfer,’ people would’ve thought you were crazy,” says longtime Ocean Beach charger Matt Lopez. “Ocean Beach is rough and cold. Surfing here is about being a waterman and challenging yourself. I started surfing out here when I was 8, and half of my sessions ended with me crying because the waves here are that difficult. There’s always swell, it’s bumpy, the wind is weird, the tide is weird, and the backwash is weird. We’re right by the bay, so there’s always a lot of water rushing in and out. But during a good winter, we’ll have a month or two of steady offshores and we’re able to surf back-to-back swells that can fluctuate from overhead to triple overhead. Those are the times I realize why I live here. Because most of the time, Ocean Beach can be a pain in the ass.”

Joe Roper

“In this area, from Point Loma to La Jolla, we’ve been blessed to watch and learn from a lot of legends throughout the decades—guys like Woody Brown, who was one of the first to surf Windansea, Don Okey, who built the Windansea shack, Skip Frye, Carl Ekstrom, Mike Diffenderfer, Chris O’Rourke, and Richard Kenvin,” says Joe Roper, owner of Joe Roper’s Surfboard Repair. “I’ve been so lucky to surf with these guys and hear their stories; it’s pretty neat being a part of San Diego history. The surf community has completely changed, though. When I grew up, you had to earn respect at localized places like Big Rock and Windansea. Nowadays, it’s a free ocean. The localism is still there, but it’s G-rated compared to how violent it used to be. I’m not in the best shape anymore, but I’ll paddle out at Big Rock with my son. I have to pick and choose my waves, but I still get my fair share out there and I’m proud of that. My roots are here. It’d be hard to leave a spot where you’re able to drive down the road in any direction and still enjoy good waves and good weather. I think we’re living in paradise.”

Baron Knowlton

“It's the people who make this place unique,” says hard-charging Lake Worth goofyfoot Baron Knowlton. “You can be anything and fit in. Nobody is judged here, and I love that. We don’t get much for waves in southern Florida, but Lake Worth Pier is a really good, peeling left, and the most consistent spot in our area for any direction of swell. In the past, the pier had a super-gnarly reputation. It was full of bikers and rednecks who would put you in garbage cans or tie you naked to parking meters. But it’s not like that anymore. Me and my brother and other local guys have tried to make it a friendlier and more family-oriented spot. I choose to stay here because my family and friends are here. I can go away for a couple days, chase some waves and get that fix, but I always come back. Family comes before everything.”

Kim Mearig

“Surfers from this area tend to have a smooth, drawn-out style, like Tom Curren and Conner Coffin, because they’re used to pointbreaks,” says 1983 world champion Kim Mearig, “I’ve seen surfers accustomed to beachbreaks come here, and they’ll do one big maneuver, kick out, and then a beautiful wave keeps peeling off without them. Santa Barbara isn’t the most consistent place on the West Coast, that’s for sure, but it does get really good. North of us the surf is very rugged, but by the time the swell gets around Point Conception, the waves are groomed and perfect. I don’t surf Rincon as much as I used to, because it’s definitely more crowded than it was in the ’80s. I try to surf other places that are a little more remote. I’ve traveled all around the world and have seen so many different places, but as soon as I return and I see Rincon and the surrounding foothills and mountains, I think, ‘Yes, I’m home!’ Sometimes it requires getting away to realize just how great it is here. I have no reason to ever move away.”

Allen Sarlo

“Malibu is a great place to live and surf,” says Allen Sarlo, one of the original Z-boys and a perennial Malibu standout. “We have the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains and the Malibu Canyon, classic beachbreaks like Zuma, several secret spots, and, of course, the pointbreak. Each time I kick out of a long wave and walk back up the beach, I can’t help but smile. I love seeing all the groms surfing the inside section, while the older guys and ladies score waves on the outside. It’s amazing how iconic Malibu is; surfing legends like Dale Velzy, Miki Dora, Johnny Fain, Lance Carson, and J. Riddle all walked on the same beach that I do. But when the Z-Boys came along, we evolved past the old hot-dogging approach at Malibu with our more vertical lines, connecting multiple radical maneuvers with style and grace. We helped set the stage for the high-performance surfing of Malibu today.”

Mike Morrissey

“I’ve lived my entire life in Laguna Beach and I love it,” says Mike Morrissey, filmmaker and ex-pro surfer. “We’re between Los Angeles and San Diego, so the opportunity to drive to some of Southern California’s best spots is quick and easy. The waves here can be fickle and inconsistent, but there’s variety: beachbreaks, a couple wedges, and a few reefbreaks. Our swell window is small during the winter, but in the summer it gets really good around here on south swells. The surf scene is pretty cool too. We have one of the longest-running surf contests, the Brooks Street Classic, and other events that really bring the surf community together. Laguna Beach is a fairly small town, so everybody knows everybody. I always know I’m going to see one of my friends out in the water. When I was young, there was a much tighter, smaller group of locals, but the culture still feels the same.”

Dave Juan

“The most special thing about Long Island is that you can get a perfect hurricane swell in late September with only a few guys in the lineup,” says Dave Juan, co-owner of UnsOund surf shop in Long Island. “The surf community here is small, so we see a lot of familiar faces when we’re out in the water. The weather that time of year is perfect and usually results in dreamy offshore barrels. The jetties create good sandbars and make choppy onshore waves super fun. The water can get really cold, but that makes the crowds disappear. Overall, Long Beach has the best surf in New York. We bounced back after Hurricane Sandy, but it took a long time. I’m still in the process of fixing my house after it was destroyed by the storm three years ago. I’m glad to see that people have decided to stay and rebuild.”

Richard Schmidt

“I grew up in Santa Cruz and discovered at an early age what a beautiful spot it is to be a surfer,” says longtime big-wave charger Richard Schmidt. “Southern California doesn’t get the North Pacific swells during the winter like we do, and there’s usually a lot of surf to the north of us, too, but it can be raw and unpredictable. Santa Cruz is protected because of the geography of Monterey Bay, so we get both consistency and good conditions. We call Steamer Lane ‘Hoover Point’ because it’s like a vacuum that sucks up swell from all directions. And it’s always so clean. It’s consistently the best wave on the coast. When I was younger, surfers were more territorial, but now most people are welcoming and we act like one town. A lot of the Westside guys are good friends with the Eastside guys, and the Eastside guys surf the Westside breaks and vice versa. There’s no bitterness between the two—just a friendly rivalry. There’s a good sense of camaraderie now.”