As it is in almost all of L.A., people-watching from an outdoor cafe table is a top spectator sport.



IN SOUTHERN California, a handful of century-old beach communities are havens from the endless sprawl and highway gridlock.

Hermosa Beach, just south of Los Angeles International Airport, is such an enclave, saved by its broad, sandy beach and beachfront boardwalk.

Swimmers and surfers frolic in the ocean; kids play in the sand; bicyclists, joggers and walkers throng the boardwalk. As it is in almost all of L.A., people-watching from an outdoor cafe table is a top spectator sport. A guy walks and talks to the shimmery green parrot perched on his shoulder. Yoga devotees contort on the beach. Beach volleyballers bounce in the sand. Fishermen try their luck on Hermosa Beach Pier. Muscle-bound men and women, in the latest sunglasses and not much else, strut their stuff.

And in the swirl of it all, the surfing culture endures. Surfers in black wet suits bob like sleek seals, waiting for the right wave. Surf shops dot Hermosa Beach’s streets, including Spyder Surfboards, where an almost life-size display photo in the window catches a surfer catching some air. But when the surf’s up, simply walk to the water’s edge and watch the real thing.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times’ NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.