SPOT ON SPOT A Revisionist Glance At Historic Surf Locales: Lowers
When it’s good, it’s ridiculous. You’d think that a surf spot that boasts nearly a mile-long walk, a gridlocked crowd situation, and Port-O-Potties with the repulsive reek of neglect, would wane in popularity on a coastline littered with surf breaks. But, as the hundreds who surf Lowers everyday can attest, it’s worth it.
Lowers is the perfect blend of consistency and quality, and the only Mainland spot ASP has deemed World Tour-worthy. With 100-yard rides of almost machine quality, the break makes even the most blaringly mediocre surfers appear to possess talent, which perhaps can explain why everyone and their mother wants to surf there. Throughout the spot’s long history of military reign, the subsequent opening to the public, and the most recent reclamation of the spot by an army of overconfident groms, Lowers has remained the unparalleled icon of exemplary Southern California surf.
Well, apparently it’s just “Lowers.” I guess the simplicity of the two-syllable moniker has deterred people from getting slangy or creative. Nicknames are the stamp of ownership- only real locals can nickname a place, so maybe the lone label, “Lowers,” will stick around until Pendleton shuts down, “locals” move in, and people can rightly nickname the place.
The Notorious Locals at Lowers are actually neither notorious nor local. Although dozens of surfers have come to call Lowers their homebreak, no one apart from the buzz-cut militia can technically call the break “home.” Despite this, rampant trash talking and daily squabbles confirm that there are some definite ownership issues at Trestles.
Gone are the days of military reign and the endless tales of marine-dodging. Today we fear not angry soldiers in uniforms with machine guns, but angry old men in wetsuits with guns (a 7’6” is not a shortboard). Everyone has their stories of “the guy who held this old guy under water,” or “the guy who took off his leash and used it whip someone,” or “the grumpy guy who shot his board at a kid’s head,” or “the kickboxers who came out just to find someone to take back to the beach,” or another equally heated tale.
As Pat Gudauskas explains, “There’s a handful of guys who only go left, and a handful who literally ONLY go right. It’s hilarious cause you can put yourself on the opposite side of that person and split peaks all day long cause no matter how good the opposite ride is, they don’t even want it. It’s like a giant chess game out there, and there’s little secrets and tricks that allow you to not be suicidal after 3 hours out in that ferocious line up.”
The villainous creatures are not only inside the water. On land, there are a fair share of notorious locals as well. There are the kids (or so we hope) with a phallic-obsession who have defaced the path with graffiti penises, the Reef model-esque pro surfer’s girlfriends armed with cameras and thongs, along with hoards of kooks who think they’re Kelly.
Significant Moments in History
In 1971, Trestles was opened to the public. It was pretty much downhill from there.
Prior to an early 1980s storm, Trestles was exclusively a right-hander. It was only after massive squalls moved the sand that the point was transformed into the A-frame we know today. “On the cover of Surfing in 1983 there was a shot of Mike Crookshenk on the Trestles left,” recalls Sam George. “After that it was discovered. In the afternoon, the left is perfectly front-lit. It became the premiere surf studio of Southern California in the 80’s.”
With the storm also came torrential rains that carried trees and sticks from the inland swamp area down to the beach. These sticks were laden with rattlesnakes and for a brief period, hundreds of snakes covered the beach at Lowers. They even had to postpone a contest to avoid the widespread swelling, vomiting, and possible internal bleeding of hundreds of surfers.
“In 1992 the parks cleaned the graffiti on the trail for the first time and erased ‘Dishman has prune balls.’ That had been on the path for years. Dishman was probably pretty happy, but an entire generation of wax grafitti was lost,” recalls Bill Stewart.