Thursday, July 5, 2012

"ZEROS, A History", by Cal Porter


We called it Zero Point after the one mile, legendary ride of Duke Kahanamoku from the far outside lineup called Zero Break all the way through connecting peaks to the sand at Waikiki Beach near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  The Duke did it in 1930 and it was thought to be the longest ride ever, so it seemed an apt title for the well-shaped, unsurfed waves at the point that is now called Nicholas Canyon County Beach.  It was all privately owned beach when I first surfed and dived there in the 1940’s while living and working at Zuma Beach as a Lifeguard.  I was renting one of the original houses on the beach at Zuma for $25 dollars a month but I loved Zero, and eventually in the mid-1950’s I bought a one-half acre beach and bluff piece of property there for $4,000 dollars and built a house. Many zeroes would have to be added to that amount for a beach property in Malibu today (the owner actually wanted $4,500 but I talked him down).  Comedian Bob Hope had a small beach house near ours. My family and I lived there for many enjoyable years where a locked gate discouraged the few beachgoers and surfers who knew about the spot since it was unseen from the highway.  We welcomed to Zero the small number of Zuma Lifeguard surfers there were in those days, and unlocked the gate for Zuma Guard and world champ Mike Doyle and the rest of the guys.  Miki Dora would call occasionally and ask if I would mind letting him in for some of the best left breaking waves anywhere.  For years my young son and I surfed the place mostly alone.     

  Zero, late 1940’s, early 1950’s (me)

The place was just too good for the few of us to have all to ourselves.  The lobster and abalone diving and spear fishing were almost as good as the surfing.  So it was natural that the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches started to think about what a nice public beach that would be.  The purchase went ahead in the 1960’s and our house and the few others that were there then were paid for and demolished.  A lifeguard would be needed on this new public beach and I asked if I could be the first since for sure I knew the area well.  I was a school principal by then as well as a county guard and working that early summer at Leo Carrillo when the County, not the State, still operated that beach.  My first location on the new beach was on the sand midway between Zero and Leo sitting on a beach chair under an umbrella not far from the off shore rocks that were still loaded with abalone.  I kind of liked that assignment.  Some time passed and a tower arrived and was placed a hundred yards or so toward the point.  But since most of the activity was at the surfing point itself the tower much later was relocated on the sand adjacent to the point.  It wasn’t until I was long gone that the tower ended up on top of the point where it is today.

Zero, 1976
I retired from the lifeguards and the Zero tower in 1976, one of my favorite assignments, and I had worked most of the beaches from San Pedro to Leo Carrillo.  The morning workouts there were, needless to say, fabulous.  The surfers now call the place Zeros, not far off from when we named it Zero Point some sixty-five years ago.  The waves look pretty much the same today but unlike then, when I surfed alone, each wave seems to be crowded with a half a dozen surfers scrambling for position much like all the other spots these days.  So I just go up and take a look now and then and spend a little time thinking back about those gone forever days.  And then there’s just one more thing to say; I’d like to be working that tower today.



("Zeros, A History", by & Copyright Cal Porter 2012.  Photos courtesy of Cal.)

*** Many Thanks to Cal for another great story from "back in the day".


 Until next time.....

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