3 min read

Venice Beach is L.A.'s Theater of the Absurd – and we love it

Venice Beach, California surf school.
Watch and learn. Would-be surfers ready to conquer the waves at Venice Beach.

THERE WAS THE guy with the bike. It was cool, because it had a side rack for a surf board.

Across the parking lot, this dude with a convertible was setting up his gym. He had a bench, some dumb bells, a lawn chair and a Starbucks cup. He was unabashedly overweight, rocking a home-made, cut-with-scissors muscle shirt. His shorts were pulled up to his chest, his white hair neatly trimmed.

Parking lot dreams unfold at California's Venice Beach, just west of Los Angeles.
If anything says Venice Beach, it's this guy.

About 100 yards to the west, a beginners surf class was learning how to stand-up on their boards. This was happening on the beach, of course. Because that’s where one learns things about the ocean.

Nearby, the surf school van, painted in pale blue. The lone electric bike on the path, parked perfectly in the middle. Another lone bike was close, chained to a fence. One had freedom; the other did not.

Looking south down the coast, smatterings of people were enjoying the weather. The sun was bright and hot, beating down on the beach with its ultraviolet death rays. The sand, soft and fine and smooth, fought back, deflecting those rays toward the sun, creating squiggly waves of heat that shimmered high and danced wide.

The bike path was busy, but not 405-at-Santa Monica busy. Inline skaters pushed past, with a steady stride and easy spirit. Cyclists whirred and stomped on pedals. Runners plodded, mopping sweat from brows, focused on playlists curated to push them further and harder. Moms with strollers, gossiping into iPhones. Dads on scooters, racing kids.

This area, west of Los Angeles, is known for keeping it weird. Street performers, beach performers, path performers. Shirtless and tanned bodies glistening in the sun; bikinis dancing on roller skates, both clinging to shapely women with pony tails and Madonna-level stacked bracelets.

Weird shops and funnel cake and ice cream. Homeless people and junkies, sometimes the same, sometimes not.

The guy with the bike is back. It was hot, and he was rocking his best 'fit. A cap covered his bleached dreadlocks, joggers tapered to the ankles, checkered Vans on his feet. A purple rain coat, shiny and weird under blue skies. He was an instructor with the surf school, and his shift was done. Walking across the sand, his look accented by an exquisite cream and pink checkered fanny pack slung over a shoulder and down his back. His left hand full of keys; his right pulling the cap lower over his eyes.

Soon he would leave on his bike, pedaling across the asphalt and weaving through people and cars before disappearing into the side streets.

The whole thing unfolded like a play. The stage was wherever you were looking. The actors were everyone. The story was whatever you could imagine. Your mind absorbs it while wondering what else is out there.

Welcome to Venice Beach on a slow and lazy day. It’s where L.A. loves to get its freak on.

The Barrel

For some casual grub and a front-row seat to the freak show, hit Venice Ale House.

The Bomb

The public parking lot at Venice Beach Pier is your all-access ticket to the scene. From here, you can get a surf lesson, hit the path, swim in the ocean, lay in the sand, dine, drink, people watch — it’s the center of of the attraction.

Is there a more California band than Red Hot Chili Peppers? In the past 12 months they have dropped two albums, both with classic Chili Peppers beats. The latest, “Return of the Dream Canteen” is worth the spicy worms it’ll place in your ears.