surfers flock to California town
Oksena Dotsenko finally stands up on her board at surf school
with instructor Gerry Kantor keeping a close watch in Leucadia,
Calif. uWith the brilliant blue water of the warm Pacific Ocean
crashing on the white sandy beach, Leucadia contines to be a
beacon for those gnarly types who have dreamt of hanging 10.
Published Saturday June 23rd, 2007
Appeared on page G2
LEUCADIA, Calif. (CP) -- It's a Zen thing, dude.
else would you expect from this small town, located north of San
Diego, that was once a haven for both hippies and surfers?
the brilliant blue water of the warm Pacific Ocean crashing on the
white sandy beach, Leucadia continues to be a beacon for those gnarly
types who have dreamt of hanging 10.
of hardy souls generally show up in February to test their mettle,
and the numbers swell through the end of summer. Surfing is an industry
in Leucadia. The town, population 6,250, is made up of small trendy
restaurants, antique stores and surf shops.
Kantor has been showing beginners the basics for the past four years
at his Leucadia Surf School, one of several outfits giving lessons
here. The onetime writer and lifelong surfer has been catching waves
for 45 years. He declined to give his age, saying he prefers the
term "ageless." Unshaven with thick grey hair, a baseball
cap and a wetsuit, Kantor looks the part -- and even sounds like
a surfer but is a little too old to comfortably use the word gnarly.
won't wear surf clothing," said Kantor as he prepared for surf
school recently. "A lot of these guys -- it's just a real fashion
show out here."
of Kantor's students are from out of state, with several coming
from Canada during spring break. He understands their desire to
master the board.
can feel your rails moving into the edge of the water. You can look
down ahead of you and see the wall of water. I guess it's like an
amusement park ride," he said with a faraway look in his eyes.
get a lot of religion out of this. It's a Zen thing. When you're
riding you can't really hear anything, you don't think about anything.
It really is a form of Zen. You could go up to the mountains of
Tibet and do the same thing, but surfing does it for you a little
bit faster," he said with a laugh.
Getfasets and her friend Oksena Dotsenko were the only two students
on this day.
included how to balance the board and carry it on their heads, how
to walk through the surf without stepping on a sting ray, and how
to stand up on the board. Kantor found a stretch of white water
for his clients to try and led them out to the ocean.
the end of the two-hour lesson neither was going to win any contests
but they each had a moment or two where they were standing and surfing.
was really hard but it's fun. I've been living here for almost five
years and always wanted to learn how to surf," said Getfasets,
who moved to California from Ukraine four years ago. "Finally
my friend got here to visit me and we decided to take a little surf
lesson. For me the hardest part was just to keep your balance and
stand on the board and just get up."
visiting from Russia, has snowboarded and skied but had a desire
to take to the water.
from the mountains but we don't have waves. We have mountain skiing
just feel passionate about the ocean. I like it. We don't have it
in Russia so it's good," added Dotsenko.
is just the beginning of the busy season for Kantor's surf school.
Once August rolls around as many as 20 students a day show up for
instruction. The cost of a two-hour group lesson is US$50, private
lessons run to $100 and a five-day camp costs $300.
have been as young as five and into their 60s, but there are some
body types that have a distinct advantage.
you're short and light you're going to do better. If you're 14,
15, or 16 you're going to do better," said Kantor. "If
you're really heavy you're going to do worse, if you're really tall
you're going to do worse and if you're 55 you're going to do worse."
lot of the pro surfers are built like horse jockeys. They're really
short and they're really light."
teacher was pleased with his students' progress on this day.
never been in the ocean, they're from Russia and here they are out
there and they're actually riding waves -- catching them and riding
them and surfing," he smiled. "No frills here. We just
tell them to get up and do it."
up to four hours a day in the pounding waves does take its toll
physically on Kantor, who doesn't actually surf as much as he used
to. But he clearly appreciates the fact that work is always "another
day at the beach."
surfed since I was a little kid," he chuckled. "It amazes
me I can finally exploit being a slacker all my life and capitalize