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I went to the United States Surfing Championships down near San Clemente, California one year (about a hundred years ago) with the Texas delegation and when the contest was over we got to surf some jetties near Seal Beach in South Bay, close to Long Beach Harbour. You could see the fake islands with oil wells piled on them like cordwood from where we surfed. It's a mellow place in the summer to surf but in the winter it can get kind of gnarly and the jetties create these neat backwashes that everyone likes to take photos of. If you look at the photo above there is a dude actually in the wave with his camera housing stuck out getting an awesome shot of this backwash.

"World famous" Curley's Cafe is a few blocks away from Seal Beach so we went up there after our day at the beach and ate some raunchy Mexican food and got hammered drinking cold beer on the patio.

It's a nice joint, but still a joint, and we were sort of lucky the day we were there the bikers didn't have it occupied. That's a sure way to get your ass whupped, drinking in a California joint with bikers, particularly if they find out you are from Texas. Been there, done that.

If you sit out on the patio of Curleys Cafe a few blocks south, toward South Bay, you can see the famous, Signal Hill sticking up like a big 'ol hump. Signal Hill is full of amazing oil history; when it was being developed in the early 1920's there were blowouts and fires everywhere. A Standard well got away and caught fire in Signal Hill in 1922... five other rigs downwind of it burned to the ground in a matter of hours. Signal Hill is a very cool story and you can read a little more about it, here, on Oily Stuff.

A few blocks southwest of Curley's Cafe, closer to downtown Long Beach, about a decade after Signal Hill was discovered the great Wilmington Field was also discovered. They jerked so much oil out of Wilmington Field, so fast, in the mid 1930's parts of the City of Long Beach sank 20 feet below sea level. They were eventually able to re-inject the oil field with sea water to arrest the subsidence and cover up the very big hole...but home and business foundations are still cracking, even today. That's a cool story too, called The Sinking City, also on Oily Stuff.

Curley's Cafe, established in 1932, is a real oilfield joint.

I liked Curley's; it had two 320 pumping units in the parking lot and you could sit at the table on the patio and watch them nodding up and down while you drank cold beers. It smelled like the oilfield and one of those pumping units even had a clank in it that, well, reminded me of... home.

Carnage at Seal Beach. Nothing like getting launched in a big backwash, then doing a faceplant in four feet of water.


Yeah, so what in the hell is a dumbass roughneck from South Texas doing in California, surfing? Well, that was my deal when I was a kid. I was OK at it too. I'd work a little bit then take off on some surf trip somewhere, come home and go back to roughnecking. Ms. Cath and I still go from time to time, Mexico, even back to California now and then. I sure can't paddle like I use to, though.

Self portrait, El Savador; 1971

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