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County Line

October 8, 2021

During the 1960’s many of us surfed regularly at the break called County Line. Like the name implied, the beach was located on the border between Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Southern California. The break itself was nothing super special; it broke right and left but it was home to some large waves every once in awhile. It was also just an excellent place to hang out.

What made County Line unique was that it was often frequented by some of the biggest names in surfing. Mickey Dora and many others were regulars there. It was also relatively uncrowded and it also featured a small restaurant across the street. That restaurant became Neptune’s Net years later and had  live seafood selections from salt water tanks. Back then, it was a simple café where my friends and I often gobbled down some eggs in the morning before surfing.

I have many memories of County Line, most of them good memories: Soft summer days, surfing and the nightlife on the beach. However, one bad memory born of a particular morning stands out. I believe the year was 1965. We had already been in the water since dawn and finally we stumbled out around noon and headed across the street for a Coke and a sandwich. We were seated in a scruffy booth, staring across the road at the dwindling surf. There was nothing special about that day; it was just one in a long number of days that were spent there surfing and eating. There was a slight fog that was breaking and the day seemed destined to be a keeper.

Although I heard the crash, I did not actually see it. A Volkswagen Beetle travelling south on the Pacific Coast Highway had run squarely into the back of a surfer’s parked car. The driver’s speed was later estimated at 65 MPH. We all rushed outside and across the street to the scene of the accident, partly out of curiosity and partly out of an urge to help if possible. When we got to the VW we were treated to a gruesome sight. The driver, a young woman, had been crumpled under the dash board of the car due to the impact. She had been compressed to such a point by the enormous force that she appeared as a cube of bloody flesh. Obviously, there was nothing to be done. The coroner was called and our surfer crew sauntered back into the surf as though the water would wash away what we had just seen.

The image of that woman has stayed with me for well over a half a century. Years later when I passed the location by car, I would always instinctively slow down to look for a VW that had been gone for so many years. Even today, when I see a Volkswagen Beetle in traffic, my mind flashes back to that dreadful morning. I never learned the victim’s name or anything about her identity. I often muse that certainly she had a family, loved ones and friends who miss her still. The vacuum between these two realities is the main force that brings my mind back to County Line so regularly.

For a complete anthology of surfing short stories, read my book: Fifty Years Ago – A Surfing Trilogy: And Other Surfing Stories from the 1960’s

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  1. Jim rogers permalink

    Howdy Allen.. I Spent A Lot of days there at County Line .. I Damn Near Drowned There . It was a Real Big Day around 10 to 12 Not being the Best Surfer maybe I Should have know Better but anyway I Paddled out and took off on the first wave that looked Good .. It was a Great Feeling dropping in . Kicked out and started paddling back out it happened that the wave i Took was the smallest of the set thought I was going to make it over the oncoming set and didn’t.. Went over backward on that Big Ass Wave I Remember seeing the Board flying thru the air some how it didn’t Get me .. But anyway I Ended up having to yell for help I Was close to Drowning after each big wave hit me.. When I Got out of the water I went Strait to my Smokes and Buried them in the sand.. I Surfed Many years after in HB CA but never Did like it when it got real Big .. But did spend many years Fishing and Diving .. that’s the only thing I Miss about not living in CA anymore is I Miss the Ocean so Much But sure Don’t miss the Traffic.. Jim in Iowa

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great story! I got gunned the same at Rizzi’s Reef in Ventura. The story is in my book. BTW – My sister was born in Des Moines.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Erik permalink

      Same here at Diamond Head Hawaii. 8′ summer sets but being unfamiliar with the Islands powerful surf and on an eight foot unfamiliar tanker boad, got pummeled by wall after wall of white water. No more breath and no more strength. Learned a lesson on wave selection.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. Reminds me of the time I was rolling around in the waves at Makapuu Point on Oahu. It took some work to get out of the spin cycle, but I was 18 and thought I was invincible. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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