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Tubes, Curls, Cutbacks, Barrels, Boards--It's, Like, Gnarly, Dude! : Surfing Fan Takes Ride on Airwaves

December 13, 1987|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

VENICE — The totally awesome experience of ripping through the barrel of some of the gnarliest waves ever is completely the thing to do in the morning when you're a professional surfer.

But with the offshore breezes down early last week, there was only one tube worth catching, so Solo Scott and Randy Wright exchanged their surfboards for sound mikes and agreed to ride the airwaves instead.

They were there, boards in hand, wearing surfer shirts and smiles as Juri Koll and the production team went down the checklist to prepare the fifth segment of "L. A. Surf," the place where beach life and public-access TV meet every month or so.

The show is decidely free form--no script, no rehearsal and, Koll says, no need to worry. Like the sport it features, the program is given to radical direction changes. An interview with a professional surfer quickly cuts to a music video featuring bikini-clad Malibu beachgoers. Another quick cut back to the host. Fade out and cut to shots of surfers in Venice. Cut back to the studio. Somebody flubs a line. Wipeout.

'Super Geeks'

Scott and Wright, two professional surfers from Venice, stood with their boards in the studio, watching Koll work with the director on the format for the show when two guys walked in who caused them to do a double take.

They were a pair of self-described "super geeks." One wore a blue baseball cap, an open, lime-green shirt with a red polka-dot tie, olive-green pants and patent-leather red shoes. The other wore a brown paisley shirt, black leather pants and red leather shoes. Both sported thick horn-rimmed glasses. Meet Barry and Todd Platis, maximum nerds.

"Are you guys comedians or something?" Scott asked.

The two men turned to each other and pointed. "He thinks he is," they said in unison.

The lineup for the show was almost set. Koll said "L. A. Surf" follows a laissez-faire philosophy. Almost anything goes, and almost anyone can go on. That theory is proven with the arrival of his final guest, who entered the studio on roller skates.

His name is Harry Perry. He is to Venice Beach what Jack Nicholson is to Los Angeles Lakers games. Every time there is a shot of beach life in Venice, Perry is in it.

Today he is wearing a turban with a sun visor, knee pads, elbow pads and a white laboratory coat. He played an electric guitar, the sounds emanating from the amplifier strapped on his back.

Koll told the director that he'll open the show with the Platis brothers portraying two nerds from Salt Lake City, Clarence and Larry Webster.

"But they don't want anyone to know they're from Salt Lake City," Koll added.

Someone asks where they surf in Utah.

"You don't, man," Barry Platis said. "That's why we're out here now, catching breakers and stuff. We're really bitchen now."

Koll laughed, grabbed a sheet of paper and took them onto the studio set, which has three chairs, two surfboards and a pile of surfing magazines.

The show was ready to begin.

Koll said he dreamed up the idea for "L. A. Surf" earlier this year after he "got sick and tired" of watching TV and seeing few surfing shows and even fewer programs on ocean pollution, marine life and beach culture in general.

So he wrote a proposal to American Cable Systems in Hollywood to produce the surf show, filming six to 10 half-hour segments on a mostly monthly basis.

"I think surfing is something that everyone can be interested in at some level," Koll said. "Even for people who live in Ohio."

The show reaches only cable TV audiences on Fridays on Channel 37, but Koll, a 26-year-old Venice resident and acknowledged surfing fanatic, said he hopes to make a splash on a wider level. He is trying to attract commercial sponsors to the show but admits he's still working the bugs out of his program.

He said he even would consider changing the name of the show, which he added is really a misnomer. "L. A. Surf" is really a show about the ocean, he said, but now its main focus is surfing because that is what he knows best.

'It's About the Waves'

"When you think about it, it's about the waves themselves," he said. "The water is the what it's really about. Anything that relates to the quality of the ocean relates to surfing."

However, his attempt to transform the show into something between a surfing magazine and a National Geographic special has not gone beyond the theory stage. He has had local environmentalists on the program to discuss pollution in Santa Monica Bay, but so far the emphasis has been on tubes, curls, cutbacks, barrels and boards.

As a public-access TV show, "L. A. Surf" is not constrained by budget requirements--there is no budget at all. Koll has provided all the funds for the show, and most of the guests are his personal friends and surfing partners.

He has shot some of the videotape used on the program and some has been provided by local surf scene aficionados. One of the videos features music by the Charms, a group of San Diego-based rockers whose members include Koll's brother.

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