Travel time from West Hollywood on the bus: 1 hour. Ideal trip length: 5 hours (or until you burn). Nice to haves: retro bathing suit, sun hat, and camera. Directions: take the 704 bus towards Santa Monica.
There is nothing like a day escape to the beach. And sometimes, you aren't looking for a quiet place to relax, but a public arena to watch the crowds. Santa Monica is best for that: sun tanning amongst the general public. Avoid Santa Monica Pier (unless you want to really be in it) and Venice boardwalk (unless you want to literally walk through a mosh pit). Just pick a spot anywhere near the water on the stretch of beach near the pier or the boardwalk and watch.
There will be families from all over around you, but that's precisely what is fun. You won't read your magazine because you will be too busy laughing at surfers. Or watching kids in the sand. It's great.
I just heard a piece on NPR about Nick Gabaldon, an early surfer of African-American and Mexican decent. He grew up in Santa Monica in the 1940s and started surfing on the stretch of Santa Monica Beach nicknamed "Ink Well" or "Negro Beach" because it was one of the few places minorities were allowed to use the beach. He died in June of 1951 attempting a 'pier ride'; crashing into the Malibu Pier.
His story reminded me of the segregation my grandparents and great-grandparents faced growing up in Miami, Arizona and San Pedro, California. I don't know if my great-grandma ever went to Santa Monica to sun bathe, but I'm thankful to not face the same discrimination myself when I go to sun bathe with my friends. Though the same discrimination still exists and I see it, however subtle it may be, every time I go to a public beach.
So if you are angry about being too close to a beach neighbor that doesn't look like you, remember, we all have a right to wander.
The capricious ocean so very strong, Robust, powerful, can I be wrong? Pounding, beating upon its cousin shore, Comes it clapping, rapping with a mighty roar.
The sea vindictive, with waves so high, For me to battle and still they die. Many has it taken to its bowels below, Without regards it thus does bestow, Its laurels to unwary men.
With riches taken from ships gone by, Its wet song reaches to the sky, To claim its fallen manmade birds, And plunge them into depths below, With a nauseous surge.
Scores and scores have fallen prey, To the salt of animosity, And many more will victims be, Of the capricious, vindictive sea.
O, avaricious ocean so very strong, Robust, powerful, I’m not wrong. Pounding, beating upon your cousin shore, Come you clapping, rapping with a mighty roar.
-- by Nick Gabaldon May 31, 1951, six days before he died at Surfrider Beach.
Have you been to Santa Monica? What was your experience? Leave a comment below and share your travels!