The World’s 10 Best Cities For Surfers: Los Angeles

Number three is: Los Angeles, US

By Charlie Smith / Designs by Shinya Dalby

Los Angeles is a dream. It was dreamed not by the Native Americans tribes who roamed thousands of years ago nor by the Spanish who build missions and roads nor by the Mexicans who broke free from Spain and raised cattle on perfectly temperate rolling hills. No, it was dreamed by the white man in the roaring 1920s when 80% of the world’s films were produced here. Film lifted Los Angeles from city/region to something much, much more. Its economy had no tether and its people had no real sense. Reality, in fact, became totally distorted, beginning in the roaring 1920s and continues to be distorted today. A dream. It is wealthy. It is expansive. Mary-Kate Olsen takes her lunch on the palm-lined streets and so does Ashley Olsen and so does their newer, more popular sister Elizabeth. Why here? Sans exaggeration, any beautiful woman, at one time or another, makes Los Angeles home. They move from colder states, worse countries, and imagine that stardom is just around the corner. It is not, for them, and they will retreat to colder states and worse countries still, but for the moment they are on the top of the world and so are you. The beaches are not spectacular. The Los Angeles basin contains poor beachbreaks and Malibu and Lunada Bay (ridiculously localised) but Trestles is a short drive away and so is Dane Reynolds. Everything in Los Angeles is a short drive away (which means two hours). And beautiful women line the way.

Where to stay: Convention says the west side, either Venice Beach or Santa Monica, but convention don’t float in a dream. Stay at the Chateau Marmont (suites from $US525 but do try for the poolside bungalows at the $US2200). It is nested in the Hollywood Hills, far-ish from the beach, but is the most gorgeous in imitation French style. There is a pool and Howard Hughes used to peep on girls sitting by it. There are stars and starlets and the ghost of John Belushi. He died of a heroin overdose here. It is expensive but living LA on the cheap is not a good look.

What to see: Not Hollwood. Stay in Hollywood but don’t play. Play on Abbott Kinney, in Venice Beach, which has very fine restaurants and very fine bars and very fine coffee. Maybe the best coffee in the city. Hipster girls roam wearing very high-waisted jean shorts and very short shirts. Also Disneyland. It is a breathing example of 1950s utopianism. Also, East Los Angeles. This area is almost completely Mexican and can be rough but the tacos are out of this world.

Where to eat: There is a restaurant in Santa Monica named Capo and it might be one of the best restaurants in the world. It is non-descript, hiding beneath a dingy stucco façade, but the wine list is as big as a telephone book and the oysters taste like cream. There is also a restaurant in West Hollywood named Traktir. It is Russian and the caviar will make you cry. There are tacos and donuts everywhere, most good to great.

What to dodge: Dodge the valley. The media will talk about African-American gang violence in South Central and Mexican gang violence on the east side but both of these are over exaggerated. The real threat is sexually transmitted disease from actors and actresses who work in the San Fernando Valley, the northern portion of Los Angeles. The valley, as it is commonly called, is the porn hub of the world. Recently, at a valley Starbucks, Stab sat next to a very busty and leggy blonde. She tempted, and was tempting, but also tainted. She, like every other woman in the valley, is a trap. A momentarily pleasurable, infinitely damned trap.

Culture: None. It is why Los Angeles shines. There is no pretence. There is no looking down the nose. There is no faux intellectual speak about Manet or Monet or Julian Schnabel, though Stab, personally, is well-acquainted with the Playboy covergirl currently dating Mr. Schnabel. Sure there are museums and an art scene and an independent music scene but fuck it all. Watch IMAX blockbusters instead and laugh like you were in Idiocracy. A fine, fine film.

Politics: The best! Celebrities love a good armchair bourgey-bourg liberal diatribe. They are totally clueless about how trite they sound and how transparent their empty squawking is, but it is all amazing. A pleasure to behold. They speak about the honor of President Obama, having the first black President in our time, at the same moment that they berate their Mexican help and curse their Mexanity.

Work: You will tend bar but you will say you are an actor. You will wait tables but you will say you are an actor. It will take three years before you have enough money to get a fair cocaine addiction. You will never be cast in a roll. You will share an apartment in Los Feliz with two other bartender-actor-waiters and every weekend there will be a party. Enjoy the years before cocaine addiction takes completely over.

Surf friends: Surfers in Los Angeles are spread far and wide. They don’t surf well, by and large. They surf passably. Dillon Perillo is my favorite and he surfs well. His parents are rich and he lives in Malibu. He is handsome. The world is his oyster from Capo restaurant.

Weather: The weather is perfect virtually year ‘round. A 3/2 in the winter, a short-sleeved full in the spring, trunks in the summer and the fall. Except June which is worse than any winter and it is better to leave Los Angeles and go to Palm Springs. There are many gay men in Palm Springs. Enjoy their house music and enjoy their company.

The Good and the Not-So-Good
+ The waves are way better than their rep suggest (Salt Creek, Trestles, even Huntington), the whips are cheap (40 gees’ll get you into a Porsche Cayenne) and if y’detour into the Valley you might even take down a real-life porn gal! Hello HIV! (Not necessarily a plus.)
- It’s a city built around a spaghetti of freeways. Every town, every beach is accessed from an off-ramp. LA ain’t no rainforest.

I love LA! No, seriously, Stab loves Los Angeles for the crispness of the air, the gold of the light, the underrated waves and gals whose morals are easily set adrift onto our rocky shoals. Photos: Justin Lahr
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The World’s Best 10 Cities for Surfers: New York

From Stab issue 58: Stab reveals the metropolises where a man can lock down a satisfying occupation, be entertained in the most degenerate manner, where he won’t be vilified for his free expression and where a hunk of fiberglass can be put to exceptionally good use…

Number eight is: New York, USA 

Words by Charlie Smith

New York is the only city on Earth that truly matters. Paris is grand and London is nice and Sydney is chic and Los Angeles is a dream and Cairo and Beijing and Helsinki and Tokyo but New York is New York and all other cities prostrate themselves before her.

New York is broken up in to five distinct neighbourhoods, called boroughs. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Rappers croon about the Bronx. Robert Mapplethorpe made very suggestive art in Queens. Staten Island stars in Good Fellas and hipsters have recently embraced Brooklyn but when Stab speaks of New York it only speaks of Manhattan.

Why here? To be frank, I don’t know. Young Jack Robinson’s father, when he gets your ear, will talk on and on about how the rocks in Western Australia have certain magnetic properties and those properties, when channelled and honed, will produce surfing phenoms like Taj Burrow and his son. He sounds off, but Taj is Taj and Jack is Jack just like New York is New York. Maybe Manhattan has particular chemical properties. Maybe the earth’s tilt focuses on the five boroughs and especially on Manhattan. Maybe who knows. But when you get off a plane in New York. When your train arrives you will feel it. There is the top tier and then there is New York. The food is the best. The hotels are the best. The art is the best. The shopping is the best. The architecture is the best. The streets are the best. The music is the best. The women are not the best. That is what Los Angeles is for.

Where to stay: There are too many places. The Standard, the Standard East Village, the Ace, the Jane, the Gansevoort but Stab chooses the Bowery above all else. It is located in the lower east side, which used to be grimy but is now so hip that it hurts. The Bowery will cost $400 or so dollars a night but it is worth the dent. The rooms are generous, in space, which is rare for New York. They have great old windows, some floor to ceiling that peek out over the city. In-room linens are comfortable. The public spaces are stripped down and built to party in a very sophisticated way. It makes great cocktails. Again, $400 a night may seem hefty but New York demands your dollar and will reward them with the best time. Do not stay cheap. Do not stay with friends. Do not stay cheap.

What to see: Manhattan has sights for days. Each little nook of the island is filled with treasure for the discovery. The meatpacking district is fine for higher-end shopping. Tribeca is fine for cocktails. The lower east side is fine for hip buys. Central park is fine for thoughtful meanders. Soho is fine for all of the above. Downtown is fine to watch Patrick Bateman go to work. Walk, don’t ride or even subway. In walking, you will discover the textural nuances of Manhattan. But you will not see any beautiful women. Unless you are in Soho and then you will see models.

The shivering, blinding contrast of life as a surfer in NYC. Early Autumn hits in water still trunk-able and…

Where to eat: Everywhere. There are too many places to eat in New York. It hurts the head to ponder possibility. Do not listen to the hip New York crowd. They will crow on and on about Momofuku or the newest this and the newest that. Their tastes have become spoiled by excess. They no longer know what actually tastes good. Start with Pastis in the meatpacking. Order a chilled Sancerre, oysters and a steak plus frittes. Go from there.

What to dodge: Do not set foot in Brooklyn. When in New York, the same hip crew that tells you to eat at Momofuku will also live in Brooklyn and tell you to stay in/visit Brooklyn. It is trendy. It is hip. It has better restaurants and more refined boutiques. And this hip crew may be right but for you, and for me, Manhattan is enough. Manhattan is, in fact, too much. And so do not confuse yourself by ultra hip Brooklyn. Leave it be.

Culture: The best museums in the world dot the island. The best museums and priceless works of art and also hipster hovel museums boasting the next Andy Warhol. Art is fabulous, art is divine, art can be dull. Season to taste. Broadway, literal Broadway, hails from New York. The latest most wow musical theatre. Musical theatre is the worst. Do not touch. Simply being in New York is enough culture. Soak in the surroundings. Don’t look shell-shocked. Look slightly jaded.

Work: Who knows? Waiting tables? Moving other people’s things out of their walk-up apartments into other walk-up apartments? Selling magazines from a rack? I don’t know what people do for work in New York. I don’t know how people have time for work with so much culture and fun around.

Surf: You will surf at Rockaway Beach and on Long Island. You will surf during Hurricane season and during the winter, if you feel like wearing a 5 mm wetsuit, a hood, booties and gloves. It will be shit, except for the three days a year surrounding the right hurricane. You will surf because it is a novelty to New Yorkers and you will get appropriate stares, nods of approval, questions. The models in Soho may even talk with you.

Weather: Cold in the winter, humid hot in the summer, perfect in the spring and fall. New Yorkers love it when seasons change and they are right. It is loveable. Enjoy the nuances of each. Dress appropriately for each. Dress appropriate always.

The Good and the Not-So-Good
+ If you can make it here, as they say, y’can make it anywhere. Truth is, having NYC on your CV makes interviewers just melt. Shit don’t stop in the Apple and now it even turns on in what used to be crummy burbs like Brooklyn. Waves, as y’mighta seen on the Quiksilver webcast, can be as good as anywhere. It’s also the centre of the universe, culturally and financially, which is pretty much the reason it got hit so hard and so well by fanatical muslims, so maybe that ain’t such a plus.
- Cold, inconsistent and when the novelty wears off, ain’t that diff to any other dirty big city.

…What happens when winter is fully tuned. Photos by Matt Clark.

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The Faceless Australian! Plus, killer clips!

From Stab Issue 58: It’s a breed of surfer unlike any other, tough as mules, as furious as warlords. And, ain’t a wave around too heavy for their big-wave shtick…

By Charlie Smith

He is big, taller than the average surfer and cut differently. Thicker. He drinks beer, has a hell time, knows swell forecasts weeks out, drives a Commodore wagon and charges heaving slabs. Gut wrenching, cold-water, thick-lipped slabs. He is the faceless Australian.

The faceless Australian is a legend in his hometown of Gnarabup or Boranup or Maroubra or Forresters or Ulladulla. He is a legend because he stares Great White sharks right in their beady little eyes. He has never pulled back from a wave even if that wave is closing out onto a dry rock shelf. He has given himself and his best mate stitches. He buys the beer for everyone at the pub. He fights and f***s and sings of the good times. He is on every epic day even if that epic day starts at four in the morning and he was up until three in the morning fighting and f****** and singing.

The faceless Australian, whose name is either Ryan Hipwood, Evan Faulks, Jesse Pollock, Little Richie or Dylan Longbottom, regularly appears on the cover of Australia’s Surfing Life magazine, air-dropping into a monster, but rarely on the cover of SurfingSurferStab or Transworld. Sometimes, when he finds himself buried in the photo spreads of one of the American magazines, he is either misnamed or listed as “unidentified.” “Unidentified surfer charges the day at Shipsterns.”

And why? Why is the Australian charger faceless here? What has he done to be cast into the shadows of anonymity? He exhibits quintessentially American traits of masculinity, toughness, spirit and bravery. He is Hemingwayian, or at the very least, Plimptonian. So why?

I will posit that the American surf space is currently in an extreme pendulum swing of femininity. The surfers we know are the ones who float, daintily, in the air. We know Craig Anderson and Craig Anderson surfs amazingly but is also a ballerina. We know Rob Machado who is so lithe and flow-y. We know Josh Kerr, an absolute twisty-turny acrobat. We are getting to Matt Meola, very pretty. We know and care about all of the dainty flowers. The men who amaze us with their grace. They can, and often do, have power. Dane Reynolds, for instance, drops jaws and causes hoots of pleasure when he buries a rail and throws a bucket of water with one of his full bore arcing turns. But, Dane Reynolds also dances in the air with the best of them.

And, this era of beautiful ain’t a bad thing by any means. Surfing has never been more exciting or more fun to watch. It is just a fact. Sexy is what sells, today. It’s what turns the people on. A very particular feminine sexy. And so, the macho Australian charger is left in the cold. The warm love of a camera lens or correct caption just out of his firm, handshake-giving grasp.

I will also posit that the American surfer does not understand slabs. Most grow up surfing the comfortable beachbreaks around their homes with the odd point break thrown in for good measure. When they travel it is to Hawaii or Indonesia and not to hunt unruly beasts. American surfers love to get barrelled underneath head-high lips groomed by warm breezes. They love to pretend to punt like the graceful set. They love to wear 3/2s or, rather, they don’t love that but will abide it during the winter months. 4/3s or straight 5s represent burrrrrr.

And so, the idea of actively seeking bone crunching thrills in freezing cold water with sharks circling is difficult for the American surfer to actively understand. It is not what he normally does. It is not what he even wants to do.

I will finally posit that the faceless Australian is unable to care about his lack of notoriety precisely because he is masculine and because he is Australian. It is not masculine to toot your own horn. It is not masculine to have a blog and regularly update it. It is not masculine to seek praise for your hard work. Above and beyond, it is certainly not Australian to do any of those things.

In Australia there exists a condition called “tall poppy syndrome.” Due to an excessive egalitarianism, those who have achieved success based upon their talents, and insist on trumpeting those successes, are cut down. The sociological explanation is long and dull but that is what happens. And so, the faceless Australian cannot go and praise the giant, boil-filled barrel that he rode earlier in the day because that would make him a tall poppy. And he would be made fun of. He is stuck. Faceless. And maybe he is happy there. Maybe he enjoys his work-a-day, blue-collar approach. Maybe he feels comfortable in the warm confines of Australia’s Surfing Life and Australia’s Surfing Life alone. Maybe he needs nothing but his mates and his near-drowning experiences and his beer.

What did you think of that? Well, here are a couple of clips that might tickle your fancy. We love both surfers, one a stickerless, relatively unknown surfer with small wave sizzle and big-wave antics, the other Matt Banting, a golden child with a competitive precision that rivals that of a famous team-mate (you might know who I am talking about).  Watch away, it will be fun.  Oh, and p.s. – Matt Banting surfs to the tune o’ rap.  Ain’t that a refreshing change!

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