The recent incident in Malibu where the paparazzi were assaulted and their expensive camera equipment destroyed by surfers and friends of a celebrity who the cameramen (and women) were trying to photograph  is far from an isolated incident here in Southern California, particularly not here in Ventura County.

2008 marks my 30th year visiting Southern California beaches as an adult, first as a resident of the San Fernando Valley, then as a Ventura County resident for the past 28 years.

I’d visit the beaches frequently when the sun was shining, for all the normal reasons: Swimming, sunbathing, people-watching, volleyball-playing, Frisbee with my friends or with my dog, playing guitar, writing, socializing.

But I have never been, nor will I ever be, a surfer.

I am a swimmer, a body-surfer, an athlete not unfamiliar with the water. I’m not afraid of sharks, jellyfish or riptides.

I am afraid of surfers.

Being from “the Val," even without a surfboard, I’ve been verbally assaulted by the “locals” who acted as they owned the beach both by night and day. Members of such notorious surfer gangs as the SSL (Silver Strand Locals), OSL (Oxnard Shores Locals), the Pierpont Rats (especially violent surf gang during the ‘80s and ‘90s), and a host of Ventura Avenue felons on bikes, who cruise the Surfer’s Point and Promenade areas, with or without surfboards in tow, all opened my eyes to the gangs-on-the-sand. There was the recent incident of the tourist who made the mistake of walking up to a bonfire one evening, only to be beaten, tossed into the fire and left for dead, by a local surf gang.

This exposé is in no way intended to disparage the fine sport of surfing, and my apologies to all surfers who are not gang-affiliated.

But the problem of surf gangs is HUGE, especially here in Ventura.

It would be so wonderful if someday enough beach-goers could band together and have these thugs and their friends banned from the beaches for being a threat to public safety, given restraining orders to keep them off of our beaches,

if they are arrested or cited more than say 3 times, for assault or verbal threats (caught on tape or cell phone, of course), and be made to understand that the public beaches are not THEIR beaches.

Having cousins that grew up on Oxnard Shores, Hollywood Beach and “the Strand”, I heard daily (at least every time I’d visit from “the Val”) about who beat up whom, for some surfer gang-related reason (i.e. protecting “their” surf spots, “cutting in” on “their waves”, etc.).  I’ve witnessed enough fights breaking out at their drunken parties, over the slightest of provocations, to know better than to become a surfer, especially one from the Valley.

The “lovers of the environment and wholesome 60’s rock music” image that the surfers enjoy doesn’t wash with me or with anyone who knows better. The incident in Malibu is more the rule than the exception, when it comes to beaches infected with local surf gangs and their foul-mouthed hate criminal girlfriends.

I have all the respect in the world for environmentalists who happen to be surfers and law-abiding citizens, and again no offense to them, but the surf gang element in Ventura County and elsewhere up and down our coasts needs to be addressed on a larger level than just with our limited law enforcement resources.

All of us who love the beaches need to be kicking ass and taking names when it comes to witnessing surf gang behavior. We need to capture all criminal threats and behavior on our cell phones, and then turn the evidence over to authorities. We need to point out to others exactly who these local hate criminals are so that we can avoid them if we can and confront them if we have to, letting them know in no uncertain terms, that these are NOT their private beaches, for their personal hate-crime and surfing pleasure.

Sharks are not the worst risk you face when surfing the waves of Ventura.

Oh, and did I mention illegal drug gangsters, who also use the beach areas frequently, to conduct their elicit business?

Even parking by the beach or strolling down the promenade these days (or evenings) can be a very dangerous thing.

The letter writer wishes to remain anonymous for personal safety reasons.