The Malibu Blues— Dispelling the Beach Boy's Myths

So I go to Pepperdine for the Christian scholars conference and I run into this other alumnus from my period at Carolina—- Francis Collins.  I’m sure you’ve heard of him.  Turns out he became a Christian while he was there, and in fact so did I.  So picture us singing the UNC fight song at the science and faith conference.   Anyway,  he presented an awesome powerpoint lecture on genetic research and its ability to help us cure diseases, and he also talked about creation and evolution in a helpful and non-confrontational way.  I was still left wondering why in the world the God who can raise Jesus from the dead in a nano-second would need or bother to set the clock to millions of years until the creation process worked itself up to homo sapiens.  It doesn’t really compute.

Whilst at Malibu I had various myths I had previously believed firmly refuted by the empirical evidence.  I am referring to myths about the Pacific Ocean.  It turns out Brian Wilson (no not the pitcher for the Giants) lied to me all those years ago about California beaches etc.

Myth Number One— the blue Pacific is more beautiful and more user friendly than the bonny Atlantic.   False.  Unless you are a surfer dude and just love giant crashing waves with lots of current, undertow and the like, it is not.  In fact the Pacific is a good 15-20 degrees cooler than the Atlantic.  There is no Gulf stream off the Pacific coast to keep it warm.  Unless you prefer Maine kind of cold to Myrtle Beach kind of warm when you go swimming you can forget the whole Pacific for normal  summer time swimming.

Myth Number Two— You can also forget the Pacific for body surfing, which I do every summer in N.C. or S.C. You will get yourself thrown straight to the bottom with those gigantic Pacific waves if you are not on a board.  Forget about it.  The Atlantic wins hands down.

Myth Number Three— the beaches themselves are better on the Pacific than the Atlantic.  Not the ones I have seen up and down the coast (I’ve been to various places in California from San Diego north, and places in Oregon, Washington and Vancouver as well).  In fact, at Malibu you have these rickety old houses right on the beach!  That is totally not allowed in North and South Carolina where there are no private beaches up and down the basic coastline.  It’s public property, shared by all.   Sand is sand anyway, and there are plenty of big broad soft sand beaches in the South Atlantic states.

Myth Number Four— There are more beautiful women on California beaches.  This one will be debated, but in terms of population density there are far more human beings living east of the Miss. who go to south Atlantic beaches than persons who go to Pacific beaches.  Sorry Beach Boys,  you can sing all you want about California girls, but you needed to come check out the Carolina girls before rendering a verdict.

Myth Number Five— The seafood is better from the Pacific than the Atlantic.  There is good seafood everywhere, but if you want things like flounder or large bay scallops, or swordfish, the Atlantic has an edge.  Not to mention that it is way less expensive to buy seafood on the east coast, and way less expensive to rent a place at the beach on the east coast, than on the Pacific.

Myth Number Six— the weather is better on the California coast.  Not if your vacation is in May, June, or July.  You have what they call the June gloom in Malibu and the general region. This amounts to clouds and mist and even fog from the marine layer in the morning, though by the afternoon you get some blue sky finally.  You also get more heat intensity from the sun, so you need total sunblock there.  Tanning is no longer much of an option in California if you want to actually avoid skin cancer.  And since the water is 60F and the wind picks up, even in the afternoon its chilly at the beach in Malibu.

Myth Number Seven– the beaches are readily accessible in California.  Let’s ignore the private west coast beach places for a moment where you can’t go, and talk about general accessibility.  Guess what, there are not many hotels visitors can stay in real close to the beach in and around Malibu.  I looked.  And this is one of the beaches of choice in north L.A.  You need a car to get there. I had to walk three miles each way just to get access to a public piece of beach strand.  There were all these millionaire mansions eating up the prime coastline and blocking all access to the beach itself.  I walked past Cher’s zillion  dollar umpteen acre shack in the process.   I ended up after all that walking carrying a beach chair feeling like a Norse god— Thor, very Thor.   Give me Wrightsville Beach or Cherry Grove Beach any day, any time for any purpose but surfing!

Having said all that, here are a few pictures of a pretty decent beach at Malibu with some industrial strength sea gulls, big ole waves, and some tasty clam strips at the clam shack.

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  • Kenny Johnson

    I’ve lived in the LA metro my whole life and have never been to the east coast, so I can’t compare, but I’d like to respond. . . All in good fun, of course. I won’t cover all your points.

    1) I believe this is all true. Except that the water is perfectly comfortable to swim in during the summer.

    3) I’ve heard the Atlantic has some gorgeous beaches and not having seen them, I can’t compare… But there are some places along the California coast that I just love: Central Coast beaches like Pismo are great (I’d live there if I could convince the wife and find a job there), Carmel is beautiful, Monterey Bay and even the populated beaches of Huntington, Hermosa and Redondo are great beaches.

    5) I’ve never heard this myth. I don’t like seafood, but I think it’s well known that the Atlantic has superior seafood.

    6) Personally, I love the marine layer. I’ve always loved it, because I enjoy waking up to a nice, cool morning. But California weather is judged mainly on year-round sunshine, temperate weather (i.e. avg 80s in the Summer and 60s in the winter), and low humidity. I hate humidity.

    7) Malibu is a bit of a drive for me, but I live about 3 miles from Manhattan Beach in an area known as the South Bay. Beaches here are easily accessible and there are plenty of hotels and guest houses nearby. Beaches from Laguna to about Santa Monica are all, generally, easily accessible with plenty of accomodations nearby. Laguna Beach is actually a cool beach town if you ever get a chance to be out this way again. It’s about half way between San Diego and Malibu. Additionally, there are some great places to stay in other coastal areas like Pismo. My wife and I stayed and a nice hotel right on the beach at Pismo for one of our anniversaries. Very nice.

  • Oscar

    OK, time for a little pushback…I live in northern San Diego County and I live in a modest neighborhood where, if I chose to, I could walk to the beach.

    I also work in the same area and I drive up and down the coast where the road runs RIGHT ON THE BEACH and, except for some weekends, there is ALWAYS parking and access to the public beaches, of which there are many. Why anyone would go to Malibu is way beyond me.

    That all being said, I NEVER go to the beach because it leaves me feeling gritty from the sand and I don’t like going into water that requires you have to shower after coming out. If the Pacific ocean dried up tomorrow it would take me a couple of days to realize it.

    So, why do I live here? Inertia!

  • ben witherington

    Hi Oscar and Kenny:

    Thanks so much for your West coast perspectives. I go to the beach not to lie on the beach for hours like a beached whale. I go, to enjoy the warm waters and the beauty. I certainly grant, and have seen the beauty of the California coast in various places. No argument there. If I want to swim in water that is about 60 something degrees, I can just go to a lake around here. The ocean is so much more fun and enjoyable when it is 70 or so degrees. You need to generate a Gulf stream coming up from Mexico!



  • Bill

    I used to live near the ocean in southern California and so I warn people I know not to visit in May or June if they want sunshine and blue skies.
    One year toward the end of June there was finally a break in the marine layer and my 4 year old looked up and asked, “Daddy, what’s that blue stuff up there?”

  • Rick

    I agree with much of the list, but perhaps the weather issue needs to be limited to just May and June. If the layer breaks by July, I would much rather have that than the intense heat and humidity of the mid-atlantic/southeast.

    Also, for beautiful beaches, neither coast beats the beaches of the gulf coast.

  • Jonathan

    Regarding the “resurrection in a nano-second” question: It seems to me that God often chooses to work over the long haul, through historical processes. For example, God theoretically could have provided redemption more or less right away (say, within a generation) after the fall. Instead, God worked through several millennia of history before sending the redeemer. The second coming could have happened more or less immediately, but again God seems to be working over millennia, preparing for that.

  • Mark Rowland


    I had these Beach Boy myths crushed 10 years ago in a trip to Southern California. I have been going to the Outer Banks for 30 years. No comparison!

  • Eric Sawyer

    LOL! How tall is Collins ? ;)
    Okay, he used powerpoint! That means there’s going to be an awesome video presentation out soon, right?
    Beaches. I never knew that cobblestone beaches existed on this planet, until I came to England.
    If ya wanna check out the beaches where I used to hail from, follow this link: Muizenberg – – The photographer is using one o these snappy new cameras, that put together panoramic type shots.
    His latest picture is of the putt-putt and water slide feature.

    Surfing USA!

  • Kelly Carter

    So, what about the Christian Scholar’s Conference?

  • Justin B.

    “I was still left wondering why in the world the God who can raise Jesus from the dead in a nano-second would need or bother to set the clock to millions of years until the creation process worked itself up to homo sapiens. It doesn’t really compute.”

    I don’t think that’s a strike against evolution, though. God doesn’t seem concerned with doing something because we feel He should have done it faster. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead also waited a very long time to send His Son into the world at all.

  • ben witherington

    Collins is a gentle giant. I am 5’10″ and as you can see, short by comparison. Justin I disagree with this analogy. God waited a few thousand years to send his Son, and in between lots was happening God was involved with, like the Exodus or the monarchy. This is no comparison to the apparent millions of years of development leading up to homo sapiens. It really doesn’t make much sense. The Christian scholar’s conference was good, as I have said in another post.

    As for beaches on the Gulf— warm yes, waves, not so much unless you are swimming during Katrina! The west coast of Florida is just a sauna bath in the summer. It is not an ocean, and you can’t body surf.


  • Mac Sandlin

    I’ve been waiting to see a post about the Christian Scholars Conference.
    I wonder if there’s an East Coast university with a view to rival Pepperdine’s. You have to admit that the combination of hills and ocean was pretty spectacular.

  • Bert

    “God worked through several millennia of history before sending the redeemer. The second coming could have happened more or less immediately, but again God seems to be working over millennia, preparing for that.”

    “The same God who raised Jesus from the dead also waited a very long time to send His Son into the world at all.”

    And during this time rivers of blood and tears have been flowing everywhere on Earth, not less among His supposed followers. Strange logic, and pointless suffering indeed!

  • Julianne Reeder

    ;-) You were about 25 miles (& 50 years) away from where the Wilson brothers went to the beach. But Malibu . . . so beautiful! The mountains & the sea!
    June is still spring in Southern California. Our hottest weather is August to October, and then we’re happy to be able to COOL OFF at the beach.
    The conference sounds great. I was lucky enough to get a chance to hear John Polkinghorne speak at my church after the conference. Very interesting man!

  • Greg England

    I moved from Cocoa Beach are (FL) to Long Beach (CA) and agree with you 100%.

  • Douglas E

    Francis is about 6’5″

    Although the Geffin-type billionaires would like you to think that their portion of beachfront is private, that is not the case. All of the CA coastline is public, but what is tricky is finding a public-access site. There is one not too far from Geffin’s place named in honor of Zonker Harris, the Doonesbury character who was always walking the beach to surf in front of the Dark Lord’s mansion;

    The water is a tolerable temp in the summer, but the surf is not for the faint-of-heart; the coves such as at the Malibu Pier and at Paradise Cove are much more wade-in-the water friendly;

    Agree with many of the rest of your myth-busting :-)