His Biggest Break
Southern California has no lack of surf reports these days, from the Internet to radio to the TV news. One of the most direct is on radio station Indie FM 103.1. With the possible exception of filmmaker David Lynch's Dadaist weather reports, the most recognizable phoned-in voice on Joe Escalante's morning show is the OC surf drawl of Jeff Malanca, a.k.a. Surf Junkie Jeff. On a Sunday in May, Malanca answered his phone.
OC Weekly: Where are you, and how is the surf right now?
Jeff Malanca: I just got back from Vegas for the weekend and am hanging by the pool. So I haven't seen the waves in a couple of days. But I'll be checking it first thing Monday morning.
Was this an Indie function? Rock stars? Chafing dishes full of drugs?
No, I just went with my girlfriend to hang out.
How long have you been doing surf reports for Indie 103.1?
It's been a little more than three years since I got the gig.
How do you get a job like that?
I sent our old program director an audition tape when Indie first went on the air back in December 2003. I didn't get any response from him for a while, but I would drop him a call every few weeks and tell him that Indie needed a surf report and that I really wanted the job. Well, nearly three months later, he called me out of the blue and said, "I got your tape and wanted to talk to you about doing the surf report." So the next day, I went up to Indie and met with him, and a week later, I started calling in reports from the beach and have had the gig ever since.
Do they pay you, or is your compensation sex and drugs and rock & roll?
Oh, a little of both.
I think 103.1 is alternately a very good and a very bad radio station: Steve Jones is all-time, Henry Rollins is great, Watusi Radio is great, Dave Navarro and friends are great, and some of the other shows are great. On the other hand, they play the shit out of certain songs over and over and over and over and over and over again, and they repeat commercials over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Well, you're probably listening online. There are a lot more commercials on there.
One of the ads they are playing over and over and over and over again is advertising the Surf Junkie Jeff Surf School. Is that a trade-out deal?
Let's just say the head honchos at Indie are helping me to promote my private surf lessons.
How often do you go to the station?
I go about once a month. I'll go in and record a surf-lesson spot and say what's up and hang out and maybe do other spots.
What's it like in there?
To tell you the truth, it's kind of like a college dorm. It's small and plastered with rock & roll memorabilia: posters, fliers and photos signed by rock stars who have been through.
Is there the lingering smell of Jonesy's passed gas?
When I go in there, it has never smelled too bad. I am usually in and out by the time Jonesy gets there. But sometimes I see him, and he always says, "Surf's up, mate!"
Jonesy is always getting teased about his weight or whining about being overweight. Have you ever offered to take him surfing?
Yeah, whenever I see Steve at the station, I'll hit him up about when we're gonna go surfing. I think he's about ready to give it a try with me this summer.
Sounds like sometimes you are talking to Joe Escalante live, is that right?
Yeah, Joe likes to throw me under the bus whenever he can!
How do the surf reports work?
I get up about 5:15 every morning and get down to the beach usually by 6 and start checking the waves at a few different spots. I call in and go on the air live for my first report around 6:30 a.m. I then do a prerecorded report for 7:30, which I can usually do in one or two takes. I'm live again at 8:30, and then prerecorded for 9:30.
What beaches do you look at?
That's classified. Once in a while someone will say, "Dude, where were you looking at the waves this morning?" And I'll tell them it's a secret but be stoked that I'm not mentioning any names of spots in my reports.
Are you an Orange County native?
I grew up in Fullerton and started surfing when I was about 13. I went to Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, which was about 17 miles from the beach. I surfed mostly Huntington and Newport then. I did some contests in high school, but I never liked them that much. Didn't surf pro after. Then I went to Long Beach State and majored in broadcast journalism.
Is Indie 103.1 your first radio job?
No, I worked at a number of other stations. I worked at KKJZ , which is formerly KLON.
That's the station I turn to when too many commercials and too much Muse drive me away from 103.1
I worked there for almost 10 years as a roving reporter out in the field, until March of 2004.
Well, you've got a good gig now, and it seems like it would have fringe benefits.
Well, I had a car endorsement for a year, so that was killer. Also, I get free tickets to shows Indie is promoting.
What kind of things do you get to go to? Coachella?
You know, the best Indie thing I have been to was seeing Iggy Pop at Fox Studios. This was a live Internet show sponsored by Yahoo and Nissan, and there were maybe 200 people there. He just turned 60, and he was jumping off the stage. He was there with all the original Stooges. It was by far the best show I have ever seen in my life.
Pearl Jam did a private show like that on the North Shore last winter. That is the way to see them. So, can you get Police tickets?
Indie isn't involved in that one.
Ever hooked up because a girl recognized your voice?
Nobody ever recognizes me for my voice.
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