It’s a bummer there are enough dead surf spots to fill a list. And even more of a bummer that most of them were predictably chewed up by the teeth of industry and avarice. But don’t let the loss of once-epic surf get you down. Let it be a case study for how they vanish and a reminder of the importance of protecting what we still have.
1. Harry’s, Northern Baja
There was a time when Todos Santos was not Baja’s only big wave. The once-dreamy stretch of coast near Salsipuedes, 15 miles north of Ensenada, used to generate a thick, righthand slabbing tube machine called Harry’s. Brothers Greg and Rusty Long – and few others – frequented the hush-hush joint. That is, until 2005, when it was crushed under the wheels of big industry. Neither the Long brothers, nor Save Our Waves Coalition, Surfrider Foundation or more than a dozen lawsuits could stop energy giants Sempra Energy and Shell Oil from constructing a port for liquefied natural gas and a jetty to protect ships. And that was curtains for Harry’s.
2. Killer Dana
In probably the most famous wave-slaughter ever, the 1966 construction of Dana Point Harbor murdered what was Southern California’s only big wave. The righthander marvelously held south swells up to 15 feet, well past the point of closing out everywhere else. At smaller sizes, the place was a longboarding nirvana where, because of its orientation, prevailing westerly winds blew offshore. I’ll stop before you get any sadder.
3. Chevron Reef
Technically, this one should be in the waves-that-never-were category. Regardless, listen to this clusterfuck: In the early 80s, following a powerful El Nino, Chevron started to worry that heavy swells could batter an oil pipeline on Dockweiler State Beach, halfway between LAX Airport and El Porto. In 1984, the oil company was granted permission to build a 900-foot reinforcing groin on the condition that if wave quality was damaged it would compensate surfers. Later, a lengthy study determined that, yes, the groin fubared the surf. As payment, the Coastal Commission, Surfrider and Chevron agreed the energy company would build America’s first artificial surf reef.
In 2000, after more than a decade of delays, 200 sandbags weighing 14,000-pounds each were dropped in a V-shape within spitting distance of shore. It was believed the $550,000 reef — nicknamed Pratte’s Reef for Surfrider co-founder Thomas Pratte — would produce double-overhead teepees. Instead, it produced little more than a ripple that detonated on the shore. After eight years of closeouts, in 2008, the dismal saga came to an end when the sandbags were dragged out. Surfers were left with nada, save for the wisdom that trading surf spots for untested solutions is a very bad idea.
4. Culver Curl
This wave may have never been as epic as the others on this list. But Los Angeles could definitely use more reliable, shapely waves. That’s apparently what this spot provided up until the early ’60s near the end of Culver Boulevard on the shores of the then-untouched Ballona Creek wetlands. Today, Angelenos know this as the beach adjacent to the entrance of Marina Del Rey, the world’s largest small boat harbor. Surfers know it as a dirty, worthless closeout. During the marina’s construction, engineers built a series of dikes to prevent sand from filling the marina, and in doing so said, “Sayonara, Culver Curl”.