Doug Rapp

Special to the Daily Press

From the groms to the kooks to the locals and everyone in between, a new surf organization in Venice is hoping to bring together anyone who enjoys surfing.

The Venice Surf Association will hold contests, build community, host beach cleanups along with “a little bit of everything related to surfing,” said board member Brian Averill, a professional photographer. 

“Pretty much every coastal community in California has one [surfing organization] with the exception of Venice,” said Alix Gucovsky, also a board member, “and Venice has a long surfing history and culture. We felt that there was a need for it in the community.”

The VSA had a launch party in May, drawing around 200 people. 

“The community really came out and supported it,” said Averill, “and we realized ‘Hey, we got something here.’”

Around 100 people so far have joined VSA, headed by an 8-person board that includes Averill, president Guy Okazaki, vice president Gucovsky, Gary Adler, Ben Cohen, Rafi Gordon, Jen Gordon and Stan Chiu. 

“We’ve got everyone from kids to senior citizens,” said Okazaki, a veteran surfboard shaper. “We have doctors, lawyers, previously incarcerated people, the whole mixed bag. It is a pretty beautiful cross section of Venice life.”

VSA has a beach cleanup scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, at 8 a.m., teaming up with the Waterfront Café, where they’ll meet. VSA will also host their first surfing competition, the Breakwater Open, on October 15th at the Venice Breakwater.

One of the first screenings to be scheduled soon will feature surfing legend Alan Sarlo, who was one of the original Z-Boys from the 1970s who revolutionized skateboarding techniques. VSA will show lost footage Sarlo found that was shot by his mother on 8mm in the 1970s. 

Okazaki also said he wants VSA to engage with local kids in the community who may not feel connected to the surf scene or involved with programs such as Junior Lifeguards, which he said was “amazing” but “pretty selective.”

“We would really like to sort of supplement that and reach out to the kids that don’t feel as comfortable at the ocean or maybe don’t even know how to swim,” he said. “We want to be able to make them comfortable at the beach.”

Gucovsky added, “We hope to really bring in some of the kids from underserved communities and introduce them to surfing and ensure that they have opportunities that those of us who potentially live closer to the beach.”

Okazaki said they’ve also enlisted the talents of Dr. Faye Lee, Azad Al-Barazi, a former Olympic swimmer and current firefighter, and senior lifeguard Tucker Hopkins to help with VSA’s educational programs. 

Along with that, Okazaki said as surf culture grows and more people of all ages try it, VSA wants to offer basic protocol for riding the waves. 

“We want to really promote surfing etiquette and codify it,” he said. “We want to get to the point where we can print signage and have graphics to sort of give the basics of safety and etiquette in surfing and in the water, with a designated web page to get into the more nuanced parts of it.” 

Averill said VSA will also keep members informed on water quality issues. 

“We’re sort of keeping an eye on environmental stuff that comes out of either city hall or Sacramento,” he said, “so we could steer folks in the right direction when it comes time to vote on some of this stuff. It’s no secret that Santa Monica Bay is not the cleanest bay in the world. So, we’re sort of watchdogging the environmental stuff that will have an environmental impact down the road to educate our members.” 

Ultimately, Okazaki, Gucovsky and Averill stressed that they want VSA to bring together people on the Westside who love surfing, regardless of their skill level.

“People are hungry for community,” said Gucovsky. “We hope to build that and engender conversations between the legacy older surfers and keep the stoke going for the next generation.”

For more information, visit vsa.la.

Published in partnership with the Westside Current