Surf City. Legend has it that Jan and Dean's '63 anthem was
inspired by Huntington Beach. Think of '60s surf mania as a
tactical nuclear strike aimed at buttoned-down Middle
America, and Huntington Beach as ground zero. "Everybody
thought we were nuts," says Raul Duarte -- ace surfer then
and now surfing coach at Golden West College. "No wet suits,
out in the cold. All of a sudden it changed. We went from
being crazy to being cool." Or as another local icon, Corky
Carroll, puts it: "Huntington Beach is the heartbeat of
Huntington Beach, CA-
"It was, in some ways, a funny place for
that heart to beat. Other Southern California beach towns
were more beautiful (La Jolla) or more amenable to Hollywood
glamorization (Malibu). Huntington Beach was a gritty,
blue-collar burg. But the surf was industrial-strength --
huge waves guaranteed most of the year.
"We have two good windows," explains Steve Seim, who directs
Huntington Beach's lifeguards. "In summer we get great south
swells -- from hurricanes in Mexico, from storms all the way
in Australia. In winter we get great western swells from the
North Pacific, coming through the window between Palos
Verdes and Catalina."
Such choice surf means that in summer Huntington Beach has
the bona fides to hold some of the biggest surf competitions
in the country. The waves also help power Orange County's
economy, thanks to brand-name surfwear manufacturers that
inhabit industrial parks inland.
These days Huntington Beach has acquired airs -- pastel
palazzi done in a red-tile style Corky Carroll dubs "nuevo
viejo." The Huntington Beach Pier's splintery wood pilings
have been replaced by concrete. Yet, head down to that pier
any morning. The surf is still churning. The legend still
grows. Only a few years ago a high school girl ran away from
her Florida home because her parents didn't understand her
passion for waves. Where did future world champion Lisa
Andersen run to? Huntington Beach, of course.
THE SCENE. It centers along Main Street and Pacific
Coast Highway, near Huntington Beach Pier.
Flanking Main are two rivals. Jack's Surfboards (101 Main;
714/ 536-4516) is fronted by the Surfing Walk of Fame.
Across the street, Huntington Surf and Sport (300 Pacific
Coast Hwy.; 841-4000) has surfers' footprints and autographs
enshrined in concrete. Want more surfing history? The small
Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum (411 Olive
Ave.; 960-3483 or www.surfingmuseum.org) showcases cool old
boards, photos, and music.
SURFER EATS. Surfers know Mom was right. You need a
big breakfast before you jump into that ocean. In Huntington
Beach, head for the Sugar Shack Cafe (2131/2 Main;
714/536-0355). Michele Turner has been running the joint for
30 years, serving terrific short stacks and homemade
oatmeal. Does she surf? "My sons and my husband do," Turner
says, "but I'm afraid of the water."
Other favorites: Wahoo's Fish Tacos (120 Main; 536-2050) and
Ruby's Surf City Diner (Huntington Beach Pier; 969-7829).
Scheduled to open at the foot of the pier next month, Duke's
Huntington Beach (634-4799) will be an outpost of the
popular Oahu eatery.