By Rich Kane
By Joel Beers
By LP Hastings
By Dave Barton
By Patrice Wirth Marsters
By Erin DeWitt
By Taylor Hamby
By LP Hastings
As extreme as any sport you can think of, but as simple as just standing on a board and skidding into the water, skimboarding is as authentic an Orange County invention as Fender electric guitars and Balboa Island’s frozen bananas. You can pretty much skimboard at any sandy beach in Southern California, but the best place for beginners is north of the Seal Beach Pier. The best place for advanced skimboarders—and the world headquarters of the sport—is Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach. That’s where the sport truly originated and where Victoria Skimboards opened shop 35 years ago. “Laguna works so well because there’s a nice deep canyon offshore, so the waves hit the shore with really big breaks,” says Nick Aleandro, the team manager at Victoria Skimboards. “Plus, you need a nice, sandy beach to get to the water, and Aliso’s got that.” Skimboarding actually uses the same maneuvers from skateboarding and snowboarding, according to 14-time world skimboard champion and Laguna Beach native Bill Bryan. In skimboarding, you start running on the beach to catch a wave, while bodyboarders and surfers are already in the water. “The waves have a lot of power, and there’s a lot of running in soft sand, so it can get very tiring really quick, and you can get knocked down and spin out in the water or just laid out on the beach, so it has more than its fair share of danger, which just makes the rush all the more exciting,” Bryan says. It’s also an affordable sport: Cheap Chinese-manufactured skimboards go for as low as $9, though high-end boards can run as high $300. Victoria Skimboards, 2955 Laguna Canyon Rd., Ste. 1, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-0059; www.victoriaskimboards.com.
Snorkeling isn’t exactly what Orange County is known for, but Shaw’s Cove has enough marine life to make you at least want to try and breathe underwater. To get there, you’d have to take a 58-step, six-landing staircase off Fairview Street and Cliff Drive. It’s a mostly sand beach, with a few rocky areas, so if you don’t mind sharing your water space with practicing divers on weekends, you’ll probably be able to see a few garibaldi, the state fish of California, along with eels, rays, octopi, bat stars, dolphins and purple sea urchins. 999 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach.
So many places to watch and play softball exist around here it’d be pointless to list them all. So we’ll give a shout-out to a purely alternative softball organization: the Sun and Surf Softball League. The Long Beach league sounds pretty nice, eh? Sun, surf, softball—who wouldn’t have a ball? One thing: It’s, like, really, really gay! The league has been a member of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance since 1983 and has sent teams to the Gay World Series for more than 22 years (there’s a gay World Series? Does Mike Piazza know about this?). It holds its annual Liberty Classic softball tournament in Huntington Beach on July 4. So if you’re athletic and also happen to be gay or lesbian, check ’em out. Even better: If you’re a homophobe who thinks all gays are fags, sign up and show them what a badass baller you are. If there’s any justice in the world, you’ll be the lamest pansy on the diamond. www.surfandsunsoftball.org.
There may be better surf in other parts of the world, more pristine beaches, and more places to rip and shred in relative solitude, but nowhere is surf as saturated into the culture as Orange County. Scores of surf shops dot the coastline from Seal Beach to San Clemente, which also happens to be the surf-media capital of the world, and the biggest surfing competition in the world, the U.S. Open of Surfing, visits Huntington Beach each summer. “I’d have to agree with anyone who says Orange County is the surf capital of the world,” says Matt Yuhas, a manager at Jack’s Surfboards, which opened its original shop in 1957 in Huntington Beach and now has six locations. The reason? “I think it is just the fact there are so many people here, and we all grow up with surfing around us,” he says. There are prime surfing spots up and down the OC coast. If you’re interested in watching really good surfers, head out to the Huntington Beach pier or farther south to Trestles near San Clemente State Beach. But the best places to surf? Unless you already know, you probably won’t ever know. “There are always secret spots, but nobody’s telling,” Yuhas says. If you’re interested in finally picking up the sport, you had better be patient. And it is not the cheapest avocation. Technological innovations make the current generation of surfboards the most advanced ever, and with that science comes a steep price: The cheapest boards at Jack’s begin at $500 and many top out at more than $2,000. Jack’s Surfboards,101 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-4516; www.jackssurfboards.com.