While the throw back to the 60's beach blanket bingo vibe definitely flows through the beaches, the cliffs, the mountains and the 22 miles of highway running through it, unfortunately it's 2009, Gidget and friends are long gone and finding a place to leisurely park that pick-up is close to impossible because of it's popularity. But fear not my friends, Malibu's Surfrider Beach remains one of California's premiere surfing beaches and I was actually able to park my Toyota 3 or 4 times on Pacific Coast and hop the rail to the beach. My first stop was Zuma Beach. I've heard so much hype about Zuma , I just had to see what all the fuss was about so here goes: Since I didn't see parking on Pacific Coast right away, I was willing to give up the 7 bucks and park in the lot. I got out of my car and feeling a bit overwhelmed, I stood back behind the crowd for a minute to gain some perspective. As I scanned the 2 mile beach it was umbrellas, families and kids as far as the eye could see. Usually whenever I search for a place to sit on a beach this popular I'll attempt to walk far enough away where the crowds thin out so I have some personal space to just be with the beach but unfortunately there was no space to be had in Zuma land that day. I decided to zig zagg my way through the crowds to test the water. When I turned around to get a different perspective I think I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me- I say I think because it was a strange feeling to have but it definitely felt real. Sure, Zuma is a fairly large beautiful Southern California beach; there's excellent surf, plenty of parking available, there's volleyball courts, snack bars and playgrounds, lifeguards are everywhere, the sand is clean and it was actually relatively quiet sounding considering it was a Friday afternoon in July and the place looked like a 3 ring circus- but my vision of Zuma was now blurred. Malibu Barbie and I used to lay our blankets down next to each other and talk about Malibu Beach. I pictured it-she told me. I'm not quite sure what it was I was expecting but I think next time I head to Malibu, Zuma won't be my first stop, It'll be El Matador Beach, which is up a little more North on PCH. It's semi-secluded and there's way more room to dream the dream. On my way back down PCH I actually ended up back at Zuma but at the very North end of it. I was able to squeeze my car into a spot on the road, hop the guard rail and stake my spot on the sand- I felt I needed to give it a second chance. I sat for a good 40 minutes, watching the surfers and feeling the energy of the ocean. I remember saying to myself that it smelled good there, I could actually smell the water and taste the salt and that never happens in Santa Monica... Thankfully Barbie was right after all, I knew she was.
After a bit more cruising I made my final stop at Surfrider beach just to let it all settle into my system before I headed back to the hustle and bustle and reality of Santa Monica. The cool thing about Malibu is that Pacific Coast runs right next to the beach and that doesn't happen everywhere in California and I love it when it does, it's like the land and the sea are one. Malibu is where the houses line up next to each other on the sand so "Summerland" like. It's where most residences are blocked off, fenced off, tucked away or have restricted views because they're people with a famous name and some cash and they can have it that way. And it's where the "scenic beauty" doesn't look like a movie set you can't walk on, it looks like nature you want to lay down on. I came home and said "now I get why so many Hollywood types live in Malibu". I get it because it's removed enough, quiet enough, beautiful enough, close enough, real enough, beachy enough and special enough to be able to call home. It's cool man... really, really cool and I can't wait to go back and spend another day.
That night with salt still on my face and sand on my feet, we ran into our neighbors unexpectedly and ended up sitting around drinking wine all night out on their patio. Just like Barbie said: California livin' is easy!