California surfers chill despite killer tsunami

By David Finnigan

MALIBU - The tsunami may have killed hundreds in Japan and caused havoc in northern California, but further south in Malibu, surfers were philosophical - and still taking to their boards.

"We wanted to say we were in a tsunami," said Julie Gandolfo, a nanny and disc jockey who spent two hours in the surf and caught 10 waves on her long board, even as the tidal waves washed ashore on the US West Coast.

"We're all part of the ocean. I just wanted to send some love to my brothers and sisters in Japan," added the tattooed 31-year-old.

The southern Californian coastline was markedly less hard hit by the tsunami than further north, where boats were damaged in Santa Cruz and Crescent City and one man swept out to sea.

In Malibu, a surfers' paradise less than an hour's drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, the sea surface was perfectly calm, with small curls on waves under an almost cloud-free sky.

"There's nothing," said Paul Harman, a 42-year-old sales executive taking the morning off from his clothing company in nearby Culver City. "Even with the tsunami, there's nothing... Now we are desperate."

Fellow surfer, Ernie McCoy, a 73-year-old retired utility company manager from Van Nuys, CA, was hoping for bigger waves, but would not want to be caught in a tsunami.

"It's not a wave, it's a surge," McCoy said. "You wouldn't want to be in that."

A lone, bare-chested life guard stood near a Malibu bluff as he surveyed the half-dozen surfers calmly sitting on their surfboards in the flat water below his vantage point.

The official request for people to keep out of the sea seemed to have had no effect - even though a few hundred kilometres further north, one man was swept out to sea while trying to take pictures of the incoming tsunami.

Along the Pacific Coast Highway tourists stopped and parked to watch the tsunami-free beach. "Just enjoying the moment," said Oliver Fyfe of Montreal, Canada.

Gandolfo, with classic California laid-back surfer-girl charm, explained that about 10 of her fellow surfers were texting each other on Thursday night excited about the tsunami's impact to make great California waves.

After about two hours in the water, Gandolfo said the waves were just, "beautiful, gentle water."

Her surf pal, software engineer manager Rich Yaker, was less diplomatic about the unimpressive surfing conditions. "I've been out here on days with much bigger currents than today," Yaker said.

- AFP

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