Searching for Los Angeles: Part 1

Venice Beach

Some of my earliest memories involve taking the bus to Venice Beach with my older siblings. During the summer they were out of school and we went at least twice a week. For them, it was a two hour journey to a world far from the Brooklyn streets they were just transplanted from. During the peak summer months the bus was full of teenagers talking loudly over one another to the dismay of the other passengers. As a child I loved taking in the madness of each trip in all of it’s hectic, calamitous glory.

Once we got to the beach it was time to navigate the boardwalk en route to the actual sand. This always took forever because the boardwalk was where all the real fun was for my sisters. After what seemed like an eternity (but was likely about a half hour) we would finally grab a spot on the shore amid a sea of towels and beach umbrella. Unlike Santa Monica to the north, Venice back then always reflected the city’s actual population, attracting masses of black and brown people from all over Los Angeles. Kids played, teenagers flirted and families chatted as waves crashed in the backdrop.

Venice Beach in the early eighties was nothing like the gentrified tourist destination that exists today. Kids from all over the city flooded the area every weekend, sometimes clashing with the fiercely protective local scenes. The potential for violence was always present but for the most part went unrealized. It was a place where skate, surf and gang culture all intermingled and overlapped. This combination resulted in the emergence of a scene and aesthetic that continues to influence street culture worldwide.