Crime & Justice

Police vow to stop Southern California surfers who use violence to protect waves

View of Lunada Bay from the Southeast bluff.
View of Lunada Bay from the Southeast bluff.
Chris Greenspon/KPCC

For decades, local surfers have been accused of using violence and intimidation to protect their Southern California surf spot from intrusion by outsiders — so much for hanging loose. Now, a police chief is vowing to crack down on the so-called Bay Boys.

Authorities have been accused of looking the other way as local surfers at Lunada Bay in tony Palos Verdes Estates threatened outsiders, tossed rocks at them and vandalized their cars.

Surfer Sef Krell says that when he went to try the waves last year, men threw dirt clods at him and yelled at him to go home. When he persevered and got in the water, the gang hurled rocks at him and chucked his belongings into the waves.

"I'm in the water alone and there are people yards away throwing dangerous missiles at me," said Krell, an attorney from Encino who's surfed all over the world. "I don't have any way to protect myself because that culture is allowed to continue without the type of law enforcement that I would expect."

Jeff Kepley, the new police chief, told the Los Angeles Times this week that he hopes to make the first arrest of one of the assailants in years. He has added patrols along the coast and ordered overtime for officers in the city about 30 miles south of Los Angeles that's known for its multimillion-dollar homes.

"We will make an example out of anyone who behaves criminally down there," Kepley said.

Authorities have repeatedly pledged to rid their coast of bullying and other bad behavior, but critics say enforcement is weak.

Kepley took over the police department in Palos Verdes Estates about a year ago and said he couldn't be held accountable for the past.

But "if we did discount a claim — and I'm not saying we did — we are going to make sure we do the right thing," he said.