Book Review: Topanga Beach Experience by Paul Lovas

  • Topanga Beach Experience: 1960s – 70s 

  • by Paul Lovas (as told to Pablo Capra)
  • 
Publisher – Brass Tacks Press

  • Copyright 2011

  • 43 pages

Rating – 7.5/10

Summary – Topanga Beach Experience is a chapbook recounting Paul Lovas‘ experiences there during the 1960s and 1970s. The book is short, but has some great anecdotes about bohemian life in Topanga before gentrification. At the end, the reader is left to ponder what we can learn about life from Lovas’ stories.

Review – In the short book Topanga Beach Experience, Paul Lovas recounts his experiences living on Topanga Beach during the 1960s and 70s. He has a great collection of stories about how he and his friends “lived for the moment.”

The Topanga Destroyer

Lovas’ place in the world came about by happenstance. Back in the 1960s, he had a high school friend whose parents had a beach house on Topanga Beach. Lovas and the friend began surfing Topanga and Lovas then moved to Topanga, where he has lived since the sixties.

Eventually, Lovas acquired a reputation as an excellent surfer and friends dubbed him “The Topanga Destroyer.” Much of Topanga Beach Experience centers on the ways that surfing shaped Lovas’ life.

Vignettes

43 short chapters comprise the book, which loosely arranges the vignettes in chronological order. The chapters start with Lovas’ high school experiences and run to the 2000s. However, almost all of the book centers on the 1960s and 1970s.

For the most part, Topanga Beach Experience is lighthearted. Lovas recounts how he spent his early years surfing and partying with the creative people who drifted through Topanga. (In one memorable scene, Lovas and actor Jan-Michael Vincent barely escape getting arrested for drugs. In another, Lovas and a friend “take over” a beach house that Bob “Bear” Hite of Canned Heat had recently rented and trashed).

However, the book has a more-sobering, serious side. Lovas also discusses:

  • the Vietnam draft,
  • the time a good friend of his was stabbed in the heart. (He lived).
  • And the destruction of Topanga’s beach community by (first) floods and (then) the State of California.

Whatever the topic and tone, the book is consistently interesting.

Areas for Improvement

Prospective buyers should know that Topanga Beach Experience is not a “true book” – it’s a chapbook and the printing reflects that. It’s something of a cross between a pamphlet and a book. There are 18 pages of interesting pictures, though they are grainy, black-and-white. (There are 43 pages of text, as the “photo pages” are not numbered). Moreover, the pages’ size varied a little, which gives the book an “untidy” appearance.

One thing that I would have liked to have read is a bit more reflection at the end of the book. Lovas sums up simply by stating that “success is just a smile on your face.” It’s not a bad way to end, but Lovas has lived an unconventional lifestyle in a place that has been a center of many of the social changes in the U.S. since the 1960s. Paul’s reflections on “what it all means” would have been welcome.

Summary

Topanga Beach Experience is a fun, lighthearted look at a world that – for the most part – no longer exists. It’s also cheap – with shipping, my copy set me back $7.50. I recommend it to anyone interested in the 1960s, bohemians, surfing, or southern California.

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About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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