“Good morning, Venetians!” That’s how Glen Walsh begins each of his surf reports, joyously exclaimed to camera, with the Venice beach pier in the background. Glen, or Glenice_Venice, as he’s known on Instagram, has been creating his unique brand of hyper-local surf reports for the Venice beach pier for over a decade. With a fierce exuberance, he both documents and embodies the spirit of being a local.
Each morning, Glen gets up at 7:30, brews coffee and makes the 500-foot walk from his apartment to the Venice pier. He chats to a couple other locals in the parking lot, a couple more on the pier, then gets to the report. Those reports have a loose structure that carries over from day to day, but with the casual, free-flowing feeling of a conversation with a friend. He evaluates the waves, comments on the weather and talks about upcoming local events. Usually he’ll call out surfers in the lineup by name, often cheering them into waves with a “paddle, paddle, paddle.”
Glen doesn’t do forecasts, he leaves that to Surfline. He doesn’t even do reports from other areas. “I don’t talk about Malibu, or El Porto, or even Venice Breakwater in my report. I just talk about the pier and what’s going on,” he says. That’s partly because, if you look hard enough, there’s a whole ecosystem of local social media surf reports covering those spots already. The other reason is that, as much as his videos are about the actual surf, they’re about capturing the feeling of showing up to a wave, every day, and knowing you’re at home.
It’s a feeling Glen knows very well. He was born and raised in Ocean Park, Santa Monica, and started surfing at 14, “because it wasn’t cool to boogie board anymore.” The Venice of that era was a place that many current residents would probably find unrecognizable. “Back in the ’70s and ’80s, when I was growing up here, people from Santa Monica didn’t surf the breakwater,” he remembers. “They weren’t allowed. You’d get thrown out of the water, beat up, have your board snapped and told to go back to Santa Monica. It was very hardcore.” Years later, he finally did move into an apartment in Venice proper. It was “a long journey from Ocean Park,” he jokes. Though he initially thought he would only live there for a year before buying a house, it’s now been 17 and he can’t imagine being anywhere else.
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The surf reports started around 2009. “I would just do them for friends because Surfline didn’t have a cam here. It was only at the breakwater. People would text me because I would walk my dog every day out to the pier, because I lived so close to it. Friends would ask me ‘how are the waves,’ so I would take a pic and write a little surf report and send it out in a group text.” He moved the surf report to social media when Instagram came out in 2010, mostly because he thought it would be easier to reach everyone. “It just kind of grew organically from there,” says Glen. “I always had to walk the dog every day, so that was my purpose.”
At first he wasn’t even in the videos, opting to narrate from the sidelines until a friend told him to get in front of the camera. Later on, longtime friend Selema Masekela bequeathed him with his username. “My initial Instagram name was ‘Glen in Venice,'” says Glen, “and he was like ‘Dude, that’s so whack. You’re Glenice Venice.’” Glen also ended up moving the reports to earlier in the morning after a barrage of requests, a tall order for someone who works as a DJ and is often up until three or four in the morning.
Glen’s progression to Venice pier surf sage was gradual, but not without a few bumps in the road. As much as he’s a local, through and through, in some ways Glen had to once again prove his bonafides after starting the reports. “In the beginning, I used to get shit. People would call me a kook and a faggot, and say I’m not from here, but I’m from here. Once I started to establish that and people started to remember and/or recognize me from junior high school and high school, growing up in Santa Monica, they couldn’t talk shit to me anymore. They were like ‘Oh yeah, that’s Glen, I remember him.’”
Proving that he did in fact grow up on the Westside wasn’t all of it though. While many surfers pride themselves in their hostility to physical outsiders, that sentiment is very often wrapped up in other forms of prejudice. “Being gay, I’m already an anomaly,” says Glen. “Gay surfers are like unicorns. We’re very rare, beautiful creatures.” Glen’s sexuality was then brought into sharp focus when supervised the music and co-produced OUT In The Lineup, a documentary about gay surfers creating communities and forging identities in the sport. “When that movie came out, I was doing a lot of surf press,” explains Glen. “All of a sudden I felt like I had a target on my back, because now people were like ‘not only is Glen a surfer, but he’s gay and he lives here in Venice and he does this surf report.’”
However, the relentless energy that gets him out at 8 a.m. every day to share his corner of Los Angeles also saw him through the negative attention he endured. “I just persevered,” he says. “I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna do what I love doing and am not going to let anyone hold me back or put me in a negative space. I love what I do. I know that people love what I do and appreciate what I do. People stop me in the supermarket and concerts when I’m DJing. People just come up tell me how much they love my surf report and appreciate what I do, and that means the world to me.”
While he has his share of local fans, his infectious love of Venice has also managed to stretch far beyond the bounds of the Westside. “I always feel like the whole time that I’m doing it for my friends and that’s it, but it’s gone way beyond that with social media. There are people in England who watch my surf report, or Berlin or New York or even in Sydney,” he says. “They just want to see what the waves are like here, even when it’s shit. A lot of people will DM me ‘Thanks for reminding me how shitty Venice is.’”
In the end, that’s the real magic of Glen’s reports. There are any number of places you can find clips of pros charging firing Pipeline or making strike missions to the Mentawais, but Glen gives people in Berlin a glimpse of what it’s like to show up at the same break day in and day out, sometimes in the worst conditions imaginable, for long enough to feel at home. He’s a champion for a type of localism that takes that feeling and broadcasts it out to the world, rather than building up walls around it.
Luckily for us, those walls aren’t coming up any time soon. “I don’t charge for my surf report. I don’t make people subscribe, and I want to keep it that way,” Glen says. “I want to keep it open and keep it accessible, so people can just catch a vibe every day and either get stoked to go surf or know they ain’t missing shit.”