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Sportsmen Play but Some Suffer on a Stormy Day

February 16, 1986|GEORGE STEIN and RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writers

The soggy storm that meant little more than slick brakes, soggy newspapers and mislaid plans for most Southern Californians brought sport to some and misery to others.

Hundreds of surfers yearning for big waves flocked to the beaches where the surf was up to eight feet high. But for the area's homeless, the storm meant searching for shelter and a warm meal and chancing a night in the rain.

For authorities who have to deal with both subcultures, the storm meant added worries.

Sister Michele, executive director of the House of Yahweh in Lawndale, which serves hot meals to the homeless, said: "They're sleeping out someplace in a park, in a box, under a car, and it's cold. It's sad . . . I think about that when I'm lying in my bed."

At Topanga Beach, senior ocean lifeguard John Renaud worried about the inexperienced surfers attracted by the big waves. Renaud had to warn two less experienced surfers to paddle away from waves smashing against the solid rock wall of Chart House Point Saturday.

At the southern end of Los Angeles County, surfer Dan Parker got up at 7 a.m., grabbed his surf board and went straight to his favorite spot off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

"I knew it was going to be good," the El Camino college student said after two hours in the 58-degree surf off Malaga Cove.

Well-Shaped Waves

He was right. The surf was eight feet high, not as formidable as two weeks ago, but still respectable. The shape of the waves was clean, not quite high enough to be tubular--"not that big, not that hollow," commented wave watcher Clinton Bogart--but good enough for some fine rides.

"Excellent surf," commented David Crabbs, a friend of Parker.

Parker, Crabbs, Bogart and other members of the small but quintessentially Southern Californian clan of wave riders listen to the weather reports carefully, waiting for the words that mean the swells will be big.

"It excites us," Parker said.

Fifty surfers braved the waves in the chilly waters off Malaga Cove Saturday, while scores of others prepared to go in.

A Popular Spot

The waves were not so well formed at Topanga Beach. "Mushy . . . not at all tubular," Renaud said. Nevertheless, the lifeguard estimated, 500 came throughout the day to Topanga, which has been called the most crowded surfing beach in California.

"Everyone finds out about (the surf) and they come down here," he said. "They are all out there having a great time."

Today may be even better.

Bogart, 24, who attends Los Angeles Trade Technical College, explained that storms kick up big but messy surf the first day or two after a storm. A day or two later, the waves are better formed, he said. Bogart, 24, said, "You have to wait for the wind to do its thing and let the swells get organized."

The storm that delighted the surfers only made the homeless more miserable.

"Every time we have bad weather, there is always more pressure on our services. We're always stretched to the limit," said Alex Akar, volunteer service manager of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles.

An Early Start

Mark Holsinger, director of the nearby Los Angeles Mission, came to work at 5 a.m. Friday and had to step over a man rolled up in a plastic sheet sleeping on the mission doorstep.

Demand for the mission's 70 beds always exceeds supply, and the center is serving more than 600 meals a day, Holsinger said. But during the recent rainstorms, the mission's workers have found themselves handing out far more clothing than usual, and ignoring a mission policy that prohibits giving clothing to the same person more than once every two weeks.

"It's hard to say to somebody standing there soaking wet that you can't have any more clothes," he said.

The Union Rescue Mission, which normally gives breakfast to 500 to 600 people, served 735 people chipped beef on toast Saturday, Akar said. About 750 people crowded into the shelter Friday night, sleeping on the floor or chairs. And Akar said he expects it to be just as crowded Saturday night.

Bernard Underwood, 65, slept Friday night on a folding chair at the mission.

"It's better than sitting out in the street," said Underwood. "I've never been a choosy guy."

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