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Bay Watchers

The time may come when I just can no longer handle the crowded waves of my favorite surf break on the Manhattan Beach–El Segundo border, known as El Porto, but sometimes called El Potty because of the nearby sewage treatment plant. (An oil refinery and power plant also grace the landscape.) I may find myself “checking out” for cleaner, less claustrophobic climes and breaks. (We all contemplate a simpler life in a less ambitious environment from time to time, right?) If that time comes, nostalgia for what will always be Surf City to me will surely follow, but at least I’ll always have swellmagnet.com (formerly elporto.com ) to turn to.

There are other sites to check the waves at before you make that $30 roundtrip (not counting the inevitable parking ticket if they turn out great) to the beach — surfline.com and wetsand.com, for instance — and most have more bells and whistles and bigger budgets, but they’re like going to Starbucks instead of that local coffee shop run by the cool kids from around the block. Swellmagnet is down home; it’s a local roast, it knows who you are and what you want. Not only do you get all the surf reports on local breaks from Newport to Venice (No Malibu; this is a populist enterprise!), but swellmagnet’s team of volunteers delivers the info with ’tude and panache.

One of my favorites is Uncle Grant, who peppers his Venice report with local lore and sometimes such words of wisdom as: “When you’re dying, and one day you will be dying, be careful what words you use with your loved ones — cause you never know what your last actual words will be...” He then tells how his mother’s last words to him when she was dying of cancer were, “fucking pussy.” (Don’t worry, it’s a heart-warming story of maternal love.) Even better that he took the time to do this on a day when the swell of the year was coming in and getting hyped like it was Big Wednesday — thanks for the perspective, Grant.

If you don’t surf, you’ll still find many fun features on the site: surf tales, profiles of local shapers and personalities, surfing Sheilas, a hilarious feature on the notorious local snakes (guys who steal your waves), environmental issues and plenty of pictures, which will always be, should I one day be gone, sentimental reminders that these were the good old days.


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