Fourteen miles from the center of LA lies the famous seaside town of Venice Beach. What first started out as the 'Venice of America', a short lived residential concept by tobacco tycoon Abbott Kinney, the heavily neglected 2 mile stretch of coast quickly transgressed into the 'Slum By the Sea'. The waterways and canals that first drew so many people to the area on the Westside soon became clogged and unnavigable from local oil drilling. Corrupt politics, mismanaged money, and gang violence indirectly became a perfect melting pot for hippies, weirdos, punks and surfers alike. It was here where a homeless bum, Jim Morrison, started writing his first lyrics and booze induced poetry. Jack Kerouac called it a jungle. Andy Warhol called it plastic.
A few blocks inland and the scene transforms to a burgeoning mixture of foodies, socialites and techies. Locals know it as Abbot Kinney Boulevard where more often than not, money is no object. But there's still pockets of the ol' Venice stretch, just visit the boardwalk on any given day or night and you'll be bombarded by the sights, sounds, and yeah, smells. For some, it's a bit easier to navigate than the clogged canals and selfie taking influencers.
We meet West out front of his house. He's 18 and just graduated high school, drives an old Benz and has a couple small dogs that bravely try to chase us away until we bribe them with belly rubs. As the newest comrade to our Banks Journal team, we saw it only fitting to spend some time with the Venice local and (admittedly) make him remind us of what it's like being fresh out of school with nothing but surf on the agenda.
BANKS: Hey West! So tell me about yourself, were you born and raised in Venice?
WEST: Yeah, not always in the same spot but yeah, Venice it is. I actually was in Topanga for a few years, but came back for my last year of school.
Be sure to check out some tunes that West curated for us during the interview over on our Spotify Channel
BANKS: How is it up in Topanga?
WEST: It's cool man, just really far from basically everything. You're close to the valley I guess, but nobody wants to be close to the valley, it's hot and boring. Having to navigate traffic around that area is a nightmare. Surfing Topanga, was just as hard to get to as any of the other local breaks, and if you don't leave before the sun comes up you'll be stuck for hours. Both ways, even though I lived right there. I love surfing Topanga though, I like the left better than the right... if you know, than you know.
BANKS: Bit of localism there, huh...
WEST: Oh yeah, it's always been like that, such a protected beach even though everyone surfs there. Everyone surfs there and everyone gets yelled at, but it still doesn't deter anyone from going out. It's kinda weird, kinda funny. I've seen people snap fins out of other boards there... Stuff like that isn't even a big deal anymore. I mean it used to be more when I was younger, but it's kinda phased out now, almost. Localism in general, how fast it phased out, was kinda crazy. I remember seeing people get their ass beat in the parking lot with lead pipes and that wouldn't fly anymore.
BANKS: I wonder if it's because people film everything these days...
WEST: Yeah, and just the volume of people that have moved to Venice or vacation here, is so insane. There's no way you could stop it all, even with heavy localism. It's like a horde of locusts. You can try to catch 'em all but you'll never be able to. It sucks haha. But hey, at least Venice has good food now! LA food used to be such trash. Now it's kinda become a mecca. I like that part about it, there's a few businesses that I appreciate being here that have added some value.
BANKS: What's your go-to spot to surf around here?
WEST: The Pier. Although I've been finding these fun little novelty waves in, uhh, we'll say in Dockweiler. And yeah, more recently I've been surfing those but most often you can find me at the pier. Always the pier. There's always gonna be something I can stand up on there cuz the waves are usually shit around here. So at least I know it'll be working. It's close to my house, I know where to park, and I don't have to give a shit, I can just do whatever. It's Venice, it's a little fun, piece of shit wave.
BANKS: Welcome to LA.... What are you usually surfing on?
WEST: It depends. Usually in the summer, there's a super fun peak that forms off the north side, so I'll surf a shortboard or something. I've been having a ton of fun on this Rabbit's Foot that I have, it's amazing. It's a Lovelace board that I actually got to shape with him back in 2014, but I just glassed it. It's been wrapped in plastic for like 4 years haha. That thing goes great around here actually, I was surprised. It's an asymmetrical finless, it relies more on channels with a bit of hull influence. There's a lot of different edges and concaves on the board, it's a trip, something you need to see and feel. I love finless boards, I've been surfing them since I was thirteen, I actually bought an alaia for my birthday that year. Like a 6'2" Wegener. It happened to be too big, pretty funny actually, because I traded that in for my first longboard! So that's when I picked up longboarding, kinda random haha.
BANKS: What's your quiver like now?
West: My favorite boards at the moment are:
9’4” Thomas Surfboards Harry model
7’0” 88 Surfboard (always finless)
5’8” Dead Kooks 80s model...it has sick green airbrushed flames.
5’3” Ryan Lovelace Rabbits Foot
5’1” Thomas Surfboards Fish