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In Search of the Perfect Wave Close to Home

August 25, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

Before sunscreen, there was zinc oxide; before short boards, there were long boards; before pickups, there were Woodies; before the Halibuts, there was Dick Dale.

And through it all, there has been Bruce Brown, documenting the endless pursuit of the perfect wave--first with "Endless Summer" and, 28 years later, with "Endless Summer II"--by and for a couple of generations of surfers.

And one of those surfers, free-lance writer Ken McAlpine, has been lying in wait for the release of "Endless Summer II" and for the opportunity to go in search of this county's best waves. When the film came out this summer, McAlpine pounced.

"I was looking for a good excuse to have fun," said McAlpine, who spent a day surfing the county with some young friends for this week's Centerpiece story. "I've surfed most of my life, but this was a chance to do it and get paid for it."

It was an idea that McAlpine said he had for some time.

"The original Bruce Brown movie had a big effect on me years ago, and then I saw the sequel and it got me worked up all over again. I couldn't really hit the road to do a piece like this, since these days I need to be home changing diapers. I thought, 'What the heck, we have some of the best surfing in the world in this county. I'll do it here.' "

Not that McAlpine hasn't seen his share of the world. In fact, he got a minor taste of what Bruce Brown feasted upon while he was growing up.

"My family traveled a lot when I was a youngster, and I got the opportunity to surf in places like Bali and Australia. My claim to fame is that once in Indonesia, I jumped out of a boat and nearly landed on the back of a shark," McAlpine said.

"Actually, I've had my head handed to me in some pretty exotic locales."

While Ventura County surfers do share water rights with bottle-nosed dolphins and must contend on rare occasions with a great white shark, conditions tend to be somewhat more predictable around these parts, McAlpine said. On the day he and his two young friends went surfing, conditions were perhaps a bit too predictable.

"It was a pretty typical day of surfing, with things getting off to a pretty slow start. But then it is rare when you pull up and it is perfect. In truth, had I not been doing the story that day, I would probably have pulled up to the Point, taken a look around and gone home," he said.

"But I'm glad I didn't, because in the end we found some good surf."

McAlpine's hunt for perfect surf took him to virtually all the prime spots in the county, but sensitive surfers need not worry that we're going to give away their secrets. Because other surf stories have brought death threats to their authors, McAlpine made us promise to be discreet, not print a locater map and tell Valley surfers to stay home.

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