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Three Hells and a Heaven

Heaven: 70 In Venice

August 01, 1996|DENNIS ROMERO

Question: When is the bikini-wearing, roller-blading, snake-toting, body-piercing, tourist-trapped beach community of Venice considered to be a little corner of heaven?

Answer: This week, when four reporters were sent around Southern California to savor the weather, which was hot (Silverado), hotter (Riverside), hottest (the West Valley) and cooler ("Momma, pack the pythons! We're moving to Venice!").

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It's a cool summer.

Clouds linger over the Venice boardwalk like students after the bell rings. A wet onshore breeze freeze-dries tans in the making. The long-awaited star of the show, planet Sol, makes a commanding appearance around noon and people seem to swoon like daisies in May. The tall cotton ball clouds part and take a bow as the wind hushes.

It's an unusually warm day at the beach. The temperature reaches 70 degrees.

But for the rest of the summer, it's been unusually cool. Vendors along the boardwalk say business is off by as much as 50%. Surfers wear head-to-toe wet suits. And there's plenty of tanning room along these urban sands.

"This year has been kind of weird," says Oscar Galan as he sits inside his business, Venice Breakwater surf shop on Windward Avenue. "For Venice Beach, when the weather's cool, business is dead."

Even on this day, the foghorns blew early in the morning at the end of Venice Pier and at the foot of the Marina del Rey jetty, groaning at boaters that there was land ho through the wet sea air.

Surf forecaster and meteorologist Sean Collins blames high pressure in the Pacific Northwest for the third summer in a row of cooler-than-usual temperatures along the coast. The system drives winds out of the northeast toward shore, pulling cool water down to Southern California with it.

At the same time, the phenomenon promotes the upwelling of deep, cool water. This cools the coastal air, and when it clashes with the normal summer heat of Southern California's inland areas, it creates a marine layer of low clouds and fog more typical of spring.

"I think the water temperatures will continue to increase," Collins says. "I think it will get better."

The water temperature on this day is posted as 67 degrees. It's still wet suit territory, but better than the 64- and even winter-worthy 58-degree postings along the coast earlier this summer. Most surfers show strange tans.

Later in the afternoon, the sun burns majestic, but onshore breezes take away its sting and T-shirts are worn among those meditating in the sand.

Scott Lewis, who is manning his friend's psychedelic T-shirt stand, mocks the flocks of folks who escape inland heat only to find sweater weather near Muscle Beach.

"Everywhere else is hot," he says. "People don't know it's cool out here until they get here."

Then, in a blow to business, he says, "they go home early."

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