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Turf Wars Spoil Sanctity of Southland Surf Beaches : Violence: Popularity leads to crowding. Charges that one group attacked outsiders highlight the problem.

May 08, 1995|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"If I see you dropping trash on the beach, I'm going to kick your ass," Klyn said. "If you're not happy, then move to another break because I'm going to be here every time."

Klyn also claims that non-locals are prone to show disrespect toward women surfers, such as Klyn's actress-friends, Blueberry Blervaque, 27, and Charlene Henryson, 30, by dropping in on their waves without waiting their turn. This too requires Klyn's intervention.

"I just throw (the non-locals) around the water and they get the message," he said.

Surf journalist Chris Ahrens, 46, abhors localism and notes that only a few surfers engage in it. He suggests that far more punches are thrown on basketball courts than at the beach.

At the same time, Ahrens admits to past indiscretions.

"When I was in my early 20s, I went through a period where I was very localistic," he said. "My tactic was to pretend I was out of control and get loud and aggressive. But I realized it was a foolish, regressive way to be, and I was embarrassed."

*

Lunada Bay has several elements conducive to ferocious localism.

For openers, the neighborhood is one of the most exclusive in Southern California, with a sense of superiority infusing the air like sea spray. A fixer-upper home can cost half a million dollars.

Many of the most dedicated surfers at Lunada Bay are, in the words of Surfer magazine editor Steve Hawk, "trust-fund babies."

The bay is a gorgeous horseshoe of deep green, popular with seals and lobsters. In the winter, the surf is as good as any in Southern California, with waves off the north point up to 20 feet high and offering a long and demanding ride.

And there is only one trail down the 200-foot cliff, a twisting series of switchbacks that can be treacherous to the unwary.

The lone trail allows the Bay Boys to pinch off access, harassing surfers as they attempt to descend to the beach, or, as was the case with the confrontation between McCullom and the Torrance contingent, allows them to approach outsiders as they reach the top of the cliff and head for their cars.

"Localism is way out of hand at Lunada Bay, and it's been like that as long as there has been surfing," said Eric Cooperman, manager of Natural Progression surf shop in Malibu.

"Localism is very bad in Hawaii, and there are lots of reasons for the locals there to resent the outsiders, but it's not nearly as bad as Lunada Bay," said Nick Carroll, editor-in-chief of Surfing magazine.

McCullom sees himself as heroically guarding Lunada Bay against outsiders who would ruin it. By his own admission, he yelled at the Torrance surfers never to return to Lunada Bay, pounded his fist in his palm just short of one surfer's nose, and spewed "Budweiser breath" in his face.

"Those guys at Lunada Bay remind me of the early stages of guys who would become Nazis," Geoff Hagins, 39, a plumber and surfer whose effort to "take back Lunada Bay" led to the confrontation. "They just seem to hate anyone who isn't part of their small group."

Hagins says the police have done nothing to thwart the Bay Boys because it suits the wishes of the residents to uphold the community's exclusivity.

But the police deny the allegation and say that they are equally sick of the Bay Boys' intimidation of outsiders and that they welcomed the opportunity to arrest McCullom on a charge of misdemeanor assault.

In January, police arrested another member of the Bay Boys for assault after a skirmish with a Brazilian surfer who had heard of the gorgeous winter swells at Lunada Bay. Threats to trash the Brazilian's car escalated when he paddled out to catch a wave, police say.

McCullom is aware that the law of Lunada Bay does not square with the law of the California Penal Code. But, he says, it is necessary to keep Lunada Bay free of the graffiti, pollution, trash, crowding and unruliness found at other surf beaches where a come-one, come-all attitude is allowed to exist.

"We've protected this beach for years," said McCullom, as he picked up a piece of driftwood. "This is why: so we can have driftwood on the beach rather than Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes. If this place was ever opened up, it would be packed with lowriders, guys in VW bugs; the rocks would be marked with graffiti, and the beach wouldn't be safe at night."

He likens Lunada Bay to a fraternity, a fraternity of local surfers who have inherited a tradition from their fathers and older brothers. If someone from outside shows up and is respectful and accepts some hazing, ultimately, possibly in a few years, he might be accepted as a new member, McCullom said.

But the police in this tiny enclave of affluence--4 1/2 square miles, 14,000 people--find this pose a cover for illegally usurping a public beach into a private club.

They wish that more surfers who are hassled would drop the surfer code of silence and file complaints against the Bay Boys, a name that McCullom hates but acknowledges is used by outsiders to describe him and several dozen other like-minded local surfers.

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