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Will surf gang allow the integration of city's waves on MLK Day?

Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Three years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Christopher Taloa, an actor and former professional body boarder, tried to honor the famous civil rights leader with a paddle-out for surfers at Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates -- an infamous surf break where outsiders are not welcome.

Taloa, whose credits include the 2002 surf film "Blue Crush," says that the local surfers he encountered did not judge him by the content of his character.

Members of the so-called Bay Boys, he says, kicked him and forced him underwater. One paddled out in blackface wearing an Afro wig. "You don't pay enough taxes to be here," Taloa quoted the person as saying.

Another surfer kicked him, he says.

This Monday, Taloa plans to return to the wealthy enclave and has invited the public to join him in a peaceful Martin Luther King Jr. Day protest against racism and the notorious localism that has denied people access to scenic Lunada Bay for decades.

"We are going out there to enjoy the place. Some people may paddle out. Some might just enjoy the beach," said Taloa, 43, of Los Angeles. "We will celebrate the fact that we can finally do this event in a place where we always should have been able to do it.

"This is your bay," he said. "It always has been."

He says that the event will go on all day along the sheltered shore below Paseo Del Mar and that anyone is welcome to drop by at any time. The forecast calls for waist- to shoulder-high waves, fair conditions and partly cloudy skies.

The Coastal Protection Rangers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing beach access, has been contacting families, community organizations and surfing groups about the event.

"The response has been tremendous," said Alicia Apostol, a board member and chief operating officer for the organization. "We are hoping for a good turnout and a fun, family-friendly day."

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