Tell me about your time in Orange County, surfing and otherwise.

We moved to Orange County from Torrance when I was entering seventh grade. I grew up in a beach community and was well into surfing culture when I left LA County to land in the boonies with orange groves and open fields all the way to the Yorba Linda foothills. I was teased for wearing surfer clothing during my first few days at school. I had never heard of wingtip shoes before that move.

El Dorado High School had a “summer spot” at the beach—15th Street on the Newport Peninsula. All the guys were into body surfing. But my parents loved Laguna (smart parents), and we used to spend many Sundays down there. They bought me a foamie that I tried riding in the shore break at Main Beach.

The 38th Street gang (Newport Beach) poses on the beach after a rendition of the Santa's Chug-a-Lug longboard contest
Courtesy Victoria Shequin
The 38th Street gang (Newport Beach) poses on the beach after a rendition of the Santa's Chug-a-Lug longboard contest

We loved going to the beach, but also riding bikes along the county’s back roads. A close friend, John Shumate, and I ran cross-country one season at El Dorado and discovered all those amazing trails up Carbon Canyon. I think a lot of our places are developed now.

I got back into surfing my senior year in high school. By then, the swimmers and water-polo players were my best friends. But it was a cheerleader—Don Carroll—who led the way. He helped form a surf club at school, and a bunch of us started going to the beach. I remember one morning, at 5 o’clock, the crew pulled up with surfboards on top of their cars while a much more expensive car parked across the street; my neighbor was going golfing while we were hitting the waves.

I probably spent more time at the beach than at Cal State Fullerton, where I earned a degree in communications and political science. Even when I worked at the now-defunct Fullerton News Tribune, the Orange Coast Daily Pilot and the LA Times, surfing came first. What was so great is surfing was more open back then. It seemed overly crowded, but we had tons of days with just our friends catching nice waves. That just doesn’t happen in Orange County now.

You’ve got me all nostalgic. I miss those times and the friends I no longer see.

There’s more! Elliott Almond talks about Orange County surf pioneers, Trestles vs. the toll road, Huntington Beach vs. Santa Cruz, the demise of print journalism, and his future in the biz on the Navel Gazing blog.

mcoker@ocweekly.com

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