Mathilde Giard - 2011-08-08
At Newport Beach to the south of Los Angeles, surfers practice their art from the break of dawn before commencing their studies or day’s work. The latest trend to hit the beach is ‘Stand Up PaddleSurf.’
It’s seven in the morning at Blackies beach in the town of Newport Beach. You get there via the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the entire Californian coast. This exclusive resort to the south of Los Angeles has given its name to the TV show popular with teenagers. A wooden pier juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The beach is deserted, but on the ocean there’s a crowd skimming the water’s surface. Surfers on the sand pass by each other, coming from or going to the waves with boards under their arms. Every generation can be found here, from greying veterans with combi Volkswagens parked in the lots to golden-skinned girl and boy teenagers arriving in groups.
Sitting on a wall, Matt, 19, takes a break, his hair still wet. "This is where you have the best waves. I love being alone on the ocean with nothing but the natural elements," says this history student from Orange, 20 minutes from here. He’ll surf a few more rollers before heading off to his lessons. Matt comes three times a week, and spends about three hours on the water each time. Clayton, 18, gets ready to face the sea with his long red board. "I surf every day and twice a week with my training group. Friends phone each other to let everyone know when the surfing conditions are good!" he says. He’s a student in business school and has three different boards that he maintains with care, even giving them each a nickname, like his favourite green board - ‘The Beaver’. He chooses a different board depending on the size of the waves, the wind and the currents...
Surfing amidst the Sea lions
Whilst Matt and Clayton wait for the best wave lying on their boards, others take to the ocean using a paddle. This is known as Stand Up Paddlesurf (SUP). The interest of this latest surfing trend (which is also catching on along the English coast) is that it allows you to move away from the water’s edge more quickly, propel yourself on the wave at the right speed and stay balanced in the rollers, using the paddle as a rudder. Another advantage is not needing to be an experienced surfer. This style began in the 1960s and was then abandoned in favour of shorter boards. Today this variant is once again riding the waves!
You can also do SUP on a calm sea. An ideal setting is the sheltered bay of Newport Beach. At sunset, young people paddle silently between the yachts and the sea lions squatting on unoccupied bridge yachts. Chic villas stand proudly on the banks. The owners have been actors such as John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and, more recently, Nicolas Cage before his real estate difficulties. These days the residents include the basketball player Kobe Bryant, an NBA player in the Los Angeles Lakers.
The very same evening, on Blackies beach, the morning surfers returned to their hallowed spot. They roast some marshmallows on a campfire and listen to reggae. That’s the surfing way of life!
Where to Sleep?
Newport Beachwalk Hotel
Opposite Blackies beach, from £100 per night.
The Blackies Café, which gave its name to the beach, located next to the car park. Concerts are sometimes held here.
Where to go for a meal
The Cannery, a restaurant that is practically on the water, with an amazing view over the port. It serves traditional cooking in the ground floor and Asian food on the first floor.