Livin’ On The East Side

By Omar Etcheverry

Thirteen years ago a white-haired grom who barely even surfed moved to the dead center of the East Side (Pleasure Point) of Santa Cruz (S.C.), California. He was soon to learn what it’s like to grow up in the middle of East Side’s surf scene. That white-haired kid was me, Omar Etcheverry.

I grew up across the street from Pleasure Point¿a mile stretch of sick point breaks starting with Sewer Peak, then First Peak, Second Peak, and ending up at the Hook. It’s definitely a breeding ground for all types of people from all walks of life, but who all share the same passion¿surfing.

It’s strange how diverse the East Side can be. On one side you have the old-school Sewer Peak locals who dominate the sick little bully wave created by an old sewer line. Back in the old days, the name Pleasure Point came from an old whorehouse that used to be on the beach, and Sewer Peak was the main surf spot.

Today, most of the old-school locals are still at Sewer Peak with their classic stories of no-leashing it and roughing the cold. On the other side is the 36th Avenue Wingnut/longboard crew that hangs out only four blocks south of where the shortboard crew kicks it every day. It’s amazing how the entire surfing community is surrounded by a longboard scene, all driving around in their Troopers or new Ford vans. There’s also the fairly recent addition of the women’s surf scene, which has grown enormously in the past few years¿I swear it went from around three female surfers to hundreds. There’s even a women’s surf shop right up the street now. I was surfing the other day, and I was the only guy out¿I couldn’t believe it. The Hook was once heavily localized, but now it’s sometimes called the Kook because of the large amount of untalented surfers who come there right off the freeway. You see, the Hook is the first reef break when you take the 41st Avenue off-ramp¿very convenient for clueless valleys (Silicon Valley is about a one-hour drive from S.C.). The Hook’s a sick wave, but it’s also known for spinning you into a baddy because you’re frustrated from all the kooks.

Twenty-sixth Avenue, or the Slab, can be compared to Salt Creek¿a fun reef that peels into a death closeout. On a sunny day it might even look a little like Rocky Point because of all the photographers posted up on the beach watching the pros and groms trying to make a come-up. It’s known for breaking boards and tearing ligaments in your body. The clique of surfers who surf there will say it’s the best wave in S.C. The dotcommers, oh no, let me explain. Dotcommers earned that nickname from all of the booming computer industries over in Silicon Valley. You can spot one from a mile away. You know the type: flashy BMW or Range Rover with a brand-new hybrid surfboard on the surf racks, and sporting a brand-new wetsuit. They seem like really nice people but are clueless when it comes to common surfing etiquette, respect, not running into the good surfers, and causing dings in your board and body. They’re resented by the locals for causing high real-estate prices in S.C.¿it sucks! Most people in my generation can’t even dream of owning a house in S.C. these days. Pleasure Point has become a haven for surfers like these¿it’s crazy.

Then there are the shortboarders who hang on the northern end of the Rail right next to Pleasure Point Drive and the local market. This is the crew of surfers I grew up with, sometimes known as The Point Boys, E.S.L. (East Side Locals), or P.P.B. (Pleasure Point Boys); there have been many different characters and phases that have came and gone in this crew of tightly knit bros.

Talented pro surfers who have taken surfing all the way to the top include Adam Replogle and Chris Gallagher, the only two surfers from S.C. who have qualified for the WCT (World Championship Tour). Their success in professional surfing has motivated many generations of East Siders, with many more generations to come.

Drug addicts. Yeah, there was a time in the 90s when the East Side went through a crazy period of drugs and hammered picklers (drunks). It was scary. I was just a grom. It seemed like more people were interested in getting high than surfing. Characters who had nothing to do with surfing would hang at the Rail all day. Some of the insane surfers would just hang out facing the road while six-foot perfection was peeling right behind them. While some made it to the Gray Bar Motel (jail), others just sort of fell off the face of the Earth or just left¿such a waste of talent! It bums me out just thinking about it.

Growing up on the East Side also had its standard grom beatings. I remember for a while the Point Boys used to put all the groms’ names in a pile and pick one out. That chosen grom was then harassed all day. It wasn’t too mean, just your standard surf-grom beatings¿you know, tied to the No Parking sign with your pants pulled down around your ankles.

A few things I learned as a grom at the Point included never going to the Rail on your birthday; never wearing a hooded sweatshirt to the Rail (the ones with the ties are great for tying up groms); and don’t be a pansy, yet don’t be too spiteful, or you’ll be beaten.

I’ve learned so much growing up on the East Side because it’s tight here. The surfers stick together in the classic form of heckling each other to the ground¿when it’s really deserved you’ll get props. Having someone look down at you from the cliffs and yell, “Do something” definitely motivates you go bigger and better than anyone. East Siders are just positive, psyched surfers doing whatever they can do to support their addictive yet fun habit¿surfing.

Just like the rest of S.C., the Point has a lot of talent coming out it at all times. I’d have to say S.C. is probably one of the most talented surf towns in the world. It’s a joke how good everyone surfs in S.C.¿I don’t know, maybe there’s something in the water. You name it: big waves, small waves, airs, women, tube riding, contest, and even longboarding¿there’s surfing talent in every little nook and cranny here. The following are some quotes about the East Side:Casey Snider: “The East Side is pleasant and a little down and dirty.” Kieran Horn: “When I’m home, I don’t feel like driving. The Point is always good for a quick surf, and there’s always a good place to talk smack and eat nearby. Ain’t nothin’ like the East Side.” Bud Freitas: “Keep it real. Nothin’ but the East Side Boys.”

Darshan Gooch: “I remember having to stay out past dark paddling all the way to 38th Avenue and sneaking up the cliff on Bud’s B-day so he wouldn’t get beaten by all the Pleasure Point Boys.”

Sean Peterson: “It’s not the same anymore.”

Dave “Nelly” Nelson: “I love the East Side, it’s my home. The people are cool for the most part, and it still has a NorCal rootsy vibe. The crowds are getting gnarly, but if you’re on it, you get plenty.”

Adam Replogle: “The East Side is a little different than the West Side. When I was young, from the East looking to the West always looked a lot darker. I would have to say the East Side is brighter than the West.”

Chris Gallagher: “After traveling so much, I have really grown to appreciate how good the waves are on the East Side. There’re like fifteen different surf spots, many of them point breaks, just walking distance from my house. I’ve been so many places where the only surf spot is some shit closeout, and the locals were dedicated to it every day. It really made me feel lucky when I came home. The East Side is such a great place for surfers to hone in on their surfing talent.”