While Taiwan celebrates Chinese New Year, my boss took the opportunity to bring me over to Austin for a week or two with the team. I didn’t struggle too hard, since I can reschedule the holiday, and anyway flights out of Taiwan are pretty expensive during the holiday period. I have been through LA a couple of times, but never stopped for more than a couple of hours, escaping from LAX to Manhattan Beach for a swift beer.
This time, however, was different. I finally took Pip up on his offer to visit, and he picked me up at the airport in his new Range Rover. Without hesitation, he asked ‘do you surf?’ and I was too deep in exhaustion and jet lag to say anything else but ‘hell yes’ … I am not going to look a gift horse (or a Brit in a Range Rover) in the mouth. So, before I had even sat down, I was walking out of a surf shop in Santa Monica with surf board and wet suit in hand. Life is Awesome. Otherwise known as LA.
Range Rover + Surf Boards x Los Angeles = Pip Tompkin
Pip in his natural environment
Manhattan Beach in the daytime … long board in hand.
Limited snowboarding and wake-boarding experience have even more limited application to surfing, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from trying. I mean, first time surfing here … what a start. Pip gave me the basic pep talk; essentially, paddle really quickly, jump up in one motion, don’t fall off … and we were off. I was far from completely fluid, but I did legitimately have some real standing time … I will be back.
After an extended chat on the beach and with my brain still being faxed over from Asia, we spot that the waves had receded. We grabbed the boards, paddled out to beyond the break, and hung out a little more. Some fins approach in the distance … “are they sharks?” I calmly ask. No, a school of dolphins swims by us, flirting in the wake. I bob there, mouth agape, and more than a little overwhelmed by the scene of dolphins, salt spray, and California rising up in the distance.
Jet lag completely forgotten, I decide this is time to catch a proper wave for the first time, and am caught by a fairly serious swell building up behind me. Arms darting into the salt water, I build up precisely the right amount of speed to catch the full momentum of the wave, and it picks me up like a rag doll as I dive off the six-foot wall of water. Screaming like a schoolboy (and with feet flying into the air) I plummet to oblivion, only to be spun around like an old t-shirt at the bottom of a washing machine. Twice.
Emerging from the water, I had nothing but a smile on my face, and water leaking out of my ears. My first proper wipe-out. Time for a burger. Time for In ‘n’ Out Burger.
While only having about three things on the menu, other styles, ingredients and upgrades can be had with the use of secret code names … a very cool idea.
The burger was pretty awesome, but mazing out on all the code names that I could think of broke my flat-mate’s #1 rule of buying burgers: get the basic one. ‘Animal Style’ and whatever happened to the fries, was delicious, but oh so oily. Ah well, start as I mean to go on!
After a quick brunch at Santa Monica staple, Norms, it was time for a tour of the LA sights. Naturally, we swap cars for something a little more befitting of Beverley Hills, Bel Air and Hollywood; yup – a drop-top BMW coupé. Music, shades and attitude packed, we prowled the streets, wowing at the cars on display, the wanton display of wealth, and imagining what celebrities are waiting around the corner (or at least I did). Since we were not rich Chinese tourists, we pointed the car at the mountains, and took in views of Hollywood from Mulholland Drive. It was surreal, taking in all these sights that I knew so well, and yet had never seen.
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Pip has two rather beautiful fixed-gear bikes, and he was kind enough to take out his baby for a spin – what a host. Cruising along Venice Beach was a cultural lesson in taking recreation very seriously; this is the melting pot that lead to skateboarding, surfing, hip-hop and BMX. It’s pretty humbling, and highly entertaining to see new forms of street culture bubbling up in front of your eyes.
Swap four wheels for two.
LA all the way.
Cavendish takes the green jersey.
Santa Monica amusement park at sunset … why doesn’t the whole of America live here?
Watching the scene; I could stay here the whole day.
An absolutely phenomenal weekend … thanks so much Shannon and Pip. You are welcome in Asia!