By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
East Coasters who depend on NPR to keep abreast of what's happening west of the Mississippi know at least one thing about Huntington Beach: it's locked in litigation with Santa Cruz over who owns the rights to the name "Surf City USA." Both burgs think they have the best waves and want the phrase to draw the tourists.
But as the Weekly's own Gustavo Arellano recently asked KPCC listeners, why would any city want to affiliate itself with the crappiest surf song ever written? And if that's the setup, clearly Huntington Beach deserves the title; it has crappiness greatly in common with the groups of white-Levi's-wearing, harmony-singing pseudo-surfers.
So: crap. Poop. Ca-ca. Shit. Feces. Mierda. The stuff that floats down the Santa Ana River into the Pacific Ocean and keeps getting surfers sick and which has repeatedly led health officials to close the beach. Who can think of Surf City without thinking Surf Shitty? Unfortunately, crap is just one of Huntington's myriad environmental problems.
So why would you—would anyone—want to live in Huntington Beach?
Uh, because it happens to be a great place to live. With an average annual temperature of 75 degrees, the weather is perfect year-round. It's boring, but in a good way: the streets are clean and shiny and black and don't have potholes, the skyline is punctuated with lovely palm trees and oil derricks, the lawns are green, it's nice and flat so you can skateboard everywhere, you can watch birds or go jogging in the nearby Bolsa Chica Wetlands, there's a great dog beach, Main Street is door-to-door bars and restaurants, and the waves are excellent, even if they're often full of crap. But more than anything else, what truly makes Huntington Beach a great town is that it's full of hot women—like your mom. Dude, your mom is hot.
Photo by Kilwag
Toughest Skater Dave Reul (see also: Best Bar Band). So we like the guy; so some 11-year-old prodigy with an empty pool in his back yard built for skating could get this major award. So what? Reul is older than you, he's broken more things, he still gets chased out of barges—and, seriously: man knows every empty pool around. He's Orange County's Steve Alba that way. Look it up.
Best Vegetarian FooD Happy Veggie Vegetarian Restaurant. Ex-Weekling Sarah Callendar came, saw and tried to conquer Happy Veggie's extensive and affordable menu of pan-Asian, 100 percent vegan cuisine. And she was trounced by the 100-plus meals on the menu—everything from Vietnamese spring rolls, Indian curry, Chinese chow mein and pad Thai to soy Mongolian beef. Defeat has never tasted so sweet—or healthy. 7251 Warner Ave., Ste. F, Huntington Beach, (714) 375-9505.
Best Eyesore El Don Liquor. As tatty old cool Huntington rolls under the bulldozer's blade, we pause to remember a city that once was a place where methed-up surfers, Nazis and assorted scum held hands in the sewage-y ocean together—a city that lives on now only at the famous El Don Liquor store, a nearly century-old fixture at the corner of PCH and Main that sticks out like a melanoma on an old beach bum—ugly, sure, but also a badge of credibility. El Don is one of the last reminders of the way the beach was before the bros showed up: no shirt, no shoes, no bullshit. The land it sits on must be worth millions, but the chance to buy a bunch of shot bottles of Jim Beam and pass out in the sand—or, God help you, LIVE right on PCH in one of the El Don's terrifying second-story apartments—can't be priced. Never sell out, guys. 416 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 960-5536.
Best Surf Shop Jack's Surfboards. Jack's has a big selection of surfboards, bodyboards and action-oriented water gear for the serious sporting enthusiast, and enough beach-friendly leisure clothing and accessories to equip an army of wannabes. Here you can solve your midlife crisis the cheap way: by dropping $100 or so on some polarized sunglasses, some baggy cargo shorts and a pair of Reef flip-flops. 101 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-4516.
Best Source for Surf Shorts Kanvas by Katin. A true kounty klassic: Nancy and Walt Katin pretty much invented and then perfected the modern boardshort, stitching a chunk of rough sail canvas into a fundamental piece of surf life over 40 years ago. And some things never change: Kanvas by Katin is still just steps from the beach, and original seamstress Sato Hughes is still sewing away—son Glenn thinks she's at 30,000 pairs and counting. 16250 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-2052; www.kanvasbykatin.com.
Best Bar BandWe'll get an empty Keystone bottle in the kisser for this one, but: Skatanic Rednecks. This city's answer to Hank Williams, Jackass and Steve Alba. Frequently found toasted medium-brown and crunchy, onstage at places like Gallagher's Pub & Grill—or street-skating (lead singer Dave Reul) some underused natural resource (empty pool) in a secret location (secret).
Best Place to Drink With Porn Stars Hurricane's. Okay, so this place is typically crammed with obnoxious peroxide-dyed spiky-haired surfers and weightlifters. Who cares? The female bartenders and most of the ladies sunning themselves on the balcony overlooking Main Street look like porn stars—and some of them actually are. This place rocks! 200 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 374-0500.