You Can Take Your Surfboard on the Expo Line, But There's Nowhere to Surf

You Can Take Your Surfboard on the Expo Line, But There's Nowhere to Surf
Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti/Facebook

The mayor of Los Angeles made it official.

Expo Line trains will now take you from the Seventh Street Metro Center downtown to the Downtown Santa Monica Station at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, just three blocks from the shore.

Friday's dedication of the final Expo Line extension from Culver City included a group photo of elected officials, with Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas posing next to a blue prop surfboard.

"For the first time in a generation, Angelenos and visitors from around the world can travel from our skyline to the shoreline without setting foot in a car," the mayor said.

And you can bring your board when you board, bro. That's, like, very L.A.

Except that waves in the area are spotty.

And it has a history of poor water quality. At the foot of Pico Boulevard, a storm drain inspired the Surfrider Foundation to coin the term "the toilet bowl effect."

Really.

Bay Street, just a block south, is the area's main surfing spot, with a history linked to the board sports legends of Dogtown and Z-Boys and to the riders' former clubhouse, Randy Wright's late, great Horizons West surf shop.

In postwar Los Angeles, the area was known as the Inkwell, a place where black mainland surfing took root.

In the 1920s, surfing pioneer Duke Kahanamoku was somewhat of an area local. He is said to have been a lifeguard at the Santa Monica Beach Club.

Former pro surfer Solo Scott, now a Venice-based real estate executive, says he learned to surf in the beach break of Santa Monica when he was still in elementary school.

"The surfing is not that good near the train," he told us.

It's not impossible. It's just that there are few natural features, such as sandstone reefs, alluvial fans from rivers or geographical point breaks, that give Santa Monica waves much shape. Wind-crushed swells of the area often provide no "face" on which to play.

More surfable waves can be found at certain spots in Venice to the south and at the place surfers call Sunset, named for the foot of Sunset Boulevard, to the north.

But those would be quite a hike for Expo Line train-riders getting off at Fourth and Colorado.

However, it's possible that a build-it-and-they-will-surf phenomenon could result from this here light rail line to the sand. Scott notes that Bay Street is a spot because it has a parking lot. Simple as that.

If you didn't need a place to park, then you could paddle out almost anywhere waves break.

"The quality of the wave isn't there," Scott said. "But that beach break is pretty much the same up and down Santa Monica."

He doesn't think "there's going to be a whole new trove of inner-city kids hopping on the train to go surfing," Scott said. But he said that he and some friends are going to start teaching inner-city kids to surf this summer at Bay Street.

So maybe this wasteland of waves will be a surfing mecca again.


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