The walls of Malibu. Photo: Parr

Few surf towns have the backstory Malibu does. This quiet beach town a dozen miles west of West Los Angeles, which was inaccessible ranch land until the '20s, has played a huge hand in the relationship between surfers and mainstream society—from Dora to Gidget, the Chevy Malibu to the Surfrider Foundation, Big Wednesday to Point Break, Malibu's proximity to Hollywood has had tectonic ramifications for surfers around the globe and throughout history. But it's not just a Hollywood set. "The 'Bu," as locals lovingly call it, may be iconic, but it's small-town appeal is still largely in tact and its summertime surf scene is one of the timeless treasures of surfing.

While "Malibu" refers to the long stretch of south-facing coast that extends west like a frying pan's handle from the bustling Los Angeles basin, encompassing several breaks (including Little Dume and Zuma) and dozens of beaches, it's First, Second, and Third Point (which together comprise a sprawling right point officially named Surfrider Beach) that have landed it on this list. Primarily a summer and fall break, it has several different personalities as you work your way down the point, and it's loved by shortboarders and loggers alike.

Malibu's beach culture is unlike any other. On any given day you'll be dropped in on by pop-culture icons ranging from box-office sensation Cameron Diaz to Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha. This is where Mickey Dora first radiated the anti-establishmentarian vibe that would come to be surfers' calling card, and the attitude of Malibu's Black Knight still lives in the locals, who continue to spray-paint variations of "Dora Rules" on the wall at Surfrider Beach, no matter how many times it's painted over by the city.

Quality of Life
While you may have Malibu and smoggy, sprawling Los Angeles inextricably linked in your mind, they are, in fact, very different places. Protected from further development by national parks, intimidating costal mountains, vigilant environmental groups fronted by famous TV personalities, staggering real-estate prices, and a profound lack of freeway access, the area is an homage to how well preservation can work when a bunch of rich people decide to invest in their community. You may never be able to buy a house there, but you can bet that a century from now it's rolling hills, costal lagoons, and native plant life will be unchanged.

Average Water Temp: 64
Average Air Temp: 62
Median Income: $129,562
Median Home Price: $2,571,682
Most Common Industry: Professional, scientific, and technical services
Population: 13,041
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Los Angeles, CA (27.9 miles , pop. 3,694,820).
Premier Surf Spots: Surfrider Beach (First, Second, and Third Point), Zuma, Big and Little Dume,
Local Talent: Miki Dora, Gidget, Terry "Tubesteak" Tracy, Dale Velzy, Dillon Perillo, the Brothers Marshall, Allen Sarlo, many many others.
Odd Fact: Chumash Indians, the area's first permanent inhabitants, named it "Humawilo" which translates to "the surf sounds loudly."

Back to No. 8 II Forward to No. 6