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Ocean Beach: New-Money Surfers Wipe Out Old S.F.

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It’s a beautiful day at Ocean Beach: head-high peelers; winds offshore; Audi wagons double-parked along the Great Highway, each one driven by a guy who woke up this morning and raced down to the beach as soon as he saw a perfect A-frame on Instagram.

Surfing is to San Francisco what making money is to New York or social connections are to L.A.: key status currency. And with just one image, filtered for maximum effect, you can tell the world that you’re killing it in the game of life. The problem is: That picture posted of your beautiful ride makes the next guy want the same thing. And before you know it, much to the annoyance of the city’s longtime surfers, ten guys with a couple of Oahu lessons under their belts are floating on boards in the same takeoff spot in the water. Only one can score each wave. And that’s the least of the worries if the kook can’t ride.

“Every time we have a good swell, you’ll hear the sirens going because there’s been an injury,” says Lewis Samuels, who has been surfing here since age 14. “Fire trucks out there, boards washing up on the beach.”

The Outer Sunset used to be the town’s backwater, the foggy forgotten. Now you can buy a kale Parmesan scone and a $3.50 coffee at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company or a limited-edition linocut of the Brooklyn Bridge at 3 Fish Studios, just a few blocks away. And then there’s Mollusk surf shop. While the shop dudes pump Steely Dan vinyl through tube amps, you can flip through traumatically hip art books like Enrico Natali Detroit 1968. Oh, and you can buy a board. Maybe a five-foot-eight-inch board made of sustainable wood for $995. Or a nine-foot-ten-inch board with Thomas Campbell art for $3,500. (“A wall hanger, obviously,” says Matt Warshaw, author of The History of Surfing, also on sale.)

By mid-afternoon, the Sloat Boulevard parking lot is overflowing onto the Great Highway, with a few cars in front of NO PARKING signs. Paying a parking ticket is a pretty low cost of entry, after all. A young man, ocean-tousled and shirtless, clicks off a few selfies. Who knows what he did out there in the water? He surfed, he scored, he documented it.


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