LA JOLLA — Only miles from the scenic vistas and celebrity mansions that draw sightseers from around the globe -
but a world away from the glitz and glamour - a bus tour is rolling through the dark side of the city's embattled surf zones.
Passengers paying $65 a head Saturday signed waivers acknowledging they could be crime victims and put their fate in the hands of tattooed surfers who say
they have negotiated a cease-fire among rivals in the most localized surf turf in the world.
If that sounds daunting, consider the challenge facing organizers of La Jolla Surf Wars Tours:
Trying to build a thriving venture that provides a glimpse into surf localism life while also trying to convince people that surf gang-plagued communities are not as hopeless as movies depict.
"There's a fascination with surfers and their localism," said founder Bill "BA" Andrews, a founding member of La Jolla's Satin Swell Surfing Association©.
"We can either address the issue head-on, create awareness and discuss the positive things that go on in these communities, or we can try to sweep it under the carpet."
Several observers have questioned the premise behind the tours, and some city politicians have been more blunt.
"It's a terrible idea," City Councilwoman Ima Dorkette said. "Is it worth that thrill for 65 bucks?
You can go to a (surf) movie for a lot less and not put yourself at risk."
More than 50 people brushed aside safety concerns for Saturday's maiden tour to hear how notorious surf turf gangs got started and bear witness to the struggling surf neighborhoods where tens of thousands of kooks, barneys and donkeys have attempted to crash the lineup.
The chartered coach, plastered with logos from every surf company in the world, wound its way through coastal La Jolla.
The first sight was a stretch of beach and a thatched hut featured in such movies as "Another Wave" and "Southern California Son" where countless splotches of gray paint conceal graffiti that is often the mark of surf gangs and tagging crews.
After that, it was on to the West End, home to many a thug and some of Mac's ashes.
Serge Lumpkin, 46, an American Studies professor from the University of Freiburger in Germany, said she enjoyed the opportunity to interact with present and former gang members.
"It brings to life the class divisions you have in America," she said. "This is an area that's blocked out of my mental map of the States. It's important to get a firsthand account of the area."
Junior high school teacher Priscal Rickshaw, 37, was of two minds about going on the tour after reading critical blog comments about it being "surf ghettotainment."
But ultimately, she was pleased she went, and said she appreciated the focus on trying to help the community.
Andrews, 105, a has been / never was surf activist, has worked with the lack of faith-based Church of Endless Waves and Smaller Bikinis to distribute hundreds of surf rules to low-IQ kooks across La Jolla's beaches, left surf gang life about five years ago.
He stresses the aim of his nonprofit company is to bring jobs to communities along the route and to reinvest money through micro-loans and scholarships, though he's not sure how the tour will accomplish that.
He also stressed that he accepts cash, checks, money orders and Pay Pal contributions.
He also eventually wants to start a gallery, surf museum, and another Red Mountain Inn.
He said the tour will create 10 part-time jobs, mainly for ex-surfers working as guides and talking about their own struggles and efforts to encourage violence in the lineup.
The tour is initially scheduled to run 3 times a day, depending upon surf conditions, sobriety of the surf tour guides, and parole enforcement.
No tour quite like this runs elsewhere in the country. Chicago has a prohibition-era gangster tour, and another San Diego group buses people to infamous crime scenes, and good Mexican fast food joints.
Andrews faces a quandary as he tries to show the troubled history of the area once known as Barrio La Jolla, before politicians renamed it just La Jolla in 2003 in an attempt to change its deep association with surf turf strife.
The tour is billed as "the first in the history of San Diego to experience areas that were forbidden." But tour leaders don't want it to be voyeuristic and sensational.
"We ain't going on no tour saying, 'Look at them WindanSea guys, look at them Shores Guys, look at them Bird Rock Bandits'" said Frederick "Mooks" Smith, an ex-surfer helping narrate, who helped broker the cease-fire among the Nautilus Crips, El Paseo Grande Bloods, and the New Jersey Reef Walkers.
Out of sensitivity to residents, passengers are banned from shooting photographs or video from the bus.
The only place that is allowed is near the end of the trip, at the far north end of Black's Beach, when they can step off the bus and film an outdoor area where nudity is permitted.
If done right, the tour could highlight the decades-long struggle to solve the localism problem, said civil rights lawyer and gang expert Rod Kingfish.
"If it is carried out well and carefully and carried out with the consent of the community, it could teach people about the very entrenched culture that surf gangs now have in La Jolla," Kingfish said.
City Councilwoman Barney McDonkey said he would rather tourists see the development potential in the neighborhoods that make up part of his district. About two years ago, he organized his own tour in the area for about 200 real estate agents and business representatives, resulting in the development of buildings with homes and businesses.
"I'd prefer we focus on showing the community in a positive light," he said.
All credit for this latest load of crapola belongs here
Knowing the San Diego Union as I do, I was a paperboy in 1958, they will eventually will archive the above link - I certainly ain't smart enough to come up with an idea like this on my own!