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Malibu: 21 miles of scenic beauty and surfing for all ages

April, 2009

Last week my good friend Cassie and I spent the day in the Bu (pronounced “Boo,” which is slang for Malibu). We walked into the Malibu Surf Shack on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) after a two-hour, 20- mile drive through the traffic-filled streets of Los Angeles.

Dozens of colourful surfboards, wetsuits and kayaks lined the deck outside. A young girl from Vancouver was eyeing the latest surf swag inside. Sean, the store owner and a Malibu native, says he typically does not give interviews, passing up opportunities when hotshots from Vogue or Glamour come in, so as not to be overexposed.

Part of Malibu’s essence is its relaxed and laissez-faire attitude. The locals like to preserve the casual-yet elegant ambiance, which separates Malibu from the high-strung, smog filled, paparazzi circus of Los Angeles.

Malibu is 21 miles (34 km) of scenic beauty along the Pacific coastline. It borders Topanga Canyon to the east,Ventura County to the west, the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The California State Parks within Malibu are packed with breathtaking trails for hikes, horseback riding, and biking. But Malibu is best known for its premiere surf beaches and the surf culture that goes along with it.

The Surf Shack is across the street from the Malibu Pier and the well known Surfrider Beach,which is said to have the “best breaks in the world.” Surfers from all over, of all levels, shapes, sizes and ages are drawn to the waves at Surfrider. At $20 an hour or $25 a day to rent a surfboard, surfing is nicely affordable during these harsh economic times. “Kayaking is equally as popular,” Sean says, gesturing to the store’s windows overlooking the beach. “A lady in her 60s is out there kayaking. She’s been in a couple of times,” he says.

“An 86-year-old man from the Midwest came in for a surf lesson,” he adds. “We held the board the whole time until he caught a wave and stood up. It’s one more thing to check off of his bucket list.”

Sean has co-ordinated senior group outings of 20 to 30 people.

We crossed the street and strolled along the pier, which holds the new Malibu Pier Club, a vintage-inspired bar offering cocktails and appetizers. The pier is an excellent spot for salt water fishing. We moseyed on over to the beach, walking along the sidewalk on PCH, passing surfers waxing their boards and zipping up their wetsuits, and breathing in the fumes from a Volkswagen Hippie Bus.

The Malibu Lagoon State Park, part of Surfrider Beach, is where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean. It is a pleasant little bird-watching area where the Adamson House, a natural historic site, showcases Malibu artifacts. The students of Malibu High School frequent this area as part of their nature studies.

Opposite the Lagoon, on the other side of PCH on Cross Creek Road, is the Malibu Country Mart. With over 60 shops, it is a great place to people- watch because many celebrities shop there. The Malibu Kitchen is reason enough for me to make the trip. It is the only gourmet deli in the area, which unfortunately allows them to get away with charging $12 for a sandwich. The service is mediocre, but the desserts are miraculous. The monstrous carrot cake cupcakes and Oreo brownies are my favourites.

Further up the coast is the family friendly Zuma Beach, known for its long, wide sands and excellent surf. This is where Valley kids and Malibu High and Pepperdine University students go to “slide the Bu” (surf in Malibu).

The Paradise Cove Café, just east of Zuma Beach, is the only restaurant in Malibu right on the sand with its private beach and cove. Its Sunday all you- can-eat buffet attracts large crowds, and while it appears in just about every guidebook I would steer clear. When I was there the place was packed and parking was horrendous. We waited 40 minutes for a table, and then were seated in the direct sun surrounded by children running around spreading sand everywhere. There was not one thing to eat for a vegetarian like myself; the menu consists solely of overpriced seafood. I left hungry, sun burnt, and annoyed.

Further up the coast, past several smaller, less-frequented yet lovely state beaches, is Neptune’s Net Seafood. This artery-clogging joint is where the bikers traveling along PCH hang out. Menu items include such delicacies as fish ’n’ chips, oysters, clams, lobster and calamari – all deep-fried, of course.

For a relaxing Malibu ocean front meal, I suggest Moonshadows on PCH during sunset.

Wildfires and mudslides aren’t the only troubles this upscale and tranquil community is facing these days. It’s a telltale sign of the country’s hardship when there are signs that the rich are suffering. Many of the seaside beach houses and canyon estates are up for sale. There are several empty stores in the Malibu Country Mart. Even the Malibu Inn, a legendary bar that has hosted many memorable musical acts, has closed.

However, I believe the Bu will pull through. Malibu’s greatest asset – its 365 days a year of surf weather – will forever attract people to its shores.

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