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‘We dig it’: Surfers brave the waves as dangerous ‘Pineapple Express’ hammers California

Famous tourist hotspot Venice Beach, which usually sees thousands of people and vendors, was shuttered and quiet, as gusts battered the boardwalk

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Thursday 01 February 2024 19:47 GMT
Rain batters Venice Beach as 'Pineapple Express' hits West Coast

Despite the strong winds and heavy rain in Los Angeles brought on by the Pineapple Express storm, surfers braved the conditions to hit the waves on Thursday morning.

Famous tourist hotspot Venice Beach, which usually sees thousands of people and vendors passing through, was shuttered and quiet, as gusts battered the boardwalk.

Only a handful of thrill-seekers remained, delighting in the waves – which reached up to six feet. Among them was Ian Dell, who described the outing as “a regular Tuesday”.

“As a lifelong surfer, days like today are what we surfers kinda dig, which is lingo for we crave it, you know?” he told The Independent, speaking on the shore of Venice Beach.

“And big waves, slight offshore, sideshore winds, those are gifts from Mother Nature so we’re happy about it and especially if you surf here in southern California in the Santa Monica Bay there’s usually hundreds of surfers out there.

Venice Beach in California has been battered by the Pineapple Express (Mike Bedigan)

“So on a day like today there’s only like 10 or 12 so that’s a blessing in itself.”

Mr Dell said he had texted a couple of his friends before heading to the beach and knew the majority of those already in the water.

“We surf here every day or every other day and there’s probably gonna be people here from other beaches because it’s good here today,” he said, adding that he was not concerned about the perilous conditions.

“For places with real weather, Los Angelinos are like ‘oh man it’s winter, it’s rainy, it’s cold’ but as a surfer you’re in contact with nature a lot. It’s the ocean, it’s the edge of the continent so it’s great.

“This is a regular Tuesday.”

Surfers brave conditions of the Pineapple Express storm in Venice Beach (Mike Bedigan)

Warnings of potential flash-flooding have been put out in the Los Angeles County area. The Bay Area, Sacramento and San Diego are also under flood watch, as the storm spreads across Southern California on Thursday.

The second storm in the series will arrive in the state over the weekend and has the potential to be much stronger.

A lifeguard who asked not to be named told The Independent that despite the extreme choppy conditions, they were unable to tell people not to surf – only advise them.

Seasoned surfers are less of a risk than those entering the water for other reasons including cold plunges, a recent and increasing fad, the lifeguard said.

He said that he was trained to spot the signs of people unprepared for such conditions – who misjudged things such as riptide currents – likening it to “spotting a drunk driver on the freeway”.

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