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PhotoGraPh Courtesy of the JaN deNNis ColleCtioN.

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El Porto

Surf Spot of the South Bay

Written By deniSe Kano

if you cruise along highland avenue toward the airport, you’ll drive right through what is now known as north manhattan Beach; however, this area used to be known as el porto (and still is by some longtime locals), featuring good restaurants, great surfing, and a laid-back vibe. el porto was first subdivided in 1911 on land that was owned by well-known local developer, george h. peck. at that time, there were roughly 80 business lots and 225 residential lots, and the streets originally had no names. later on, the east-west streets were assigned numbers, and the alleys were given names. denny Smith, a third grade teacher and self-proclaimed “mayor of el porto,” has lived on 38th street for over 25 years and is considered somewhat of a local expert on el porto history. he explained that at one time, this was the only part of the manhattan Beach area that had rentals. “Back in the day, it was all flight attendants and bartenders — people who were renting — a completely different demographic makeup than what manhattan Beach is like now,” said Smith. With an abundance of renters who did not have any roots established, el porto became a place where people would come and go, and with ready vacancies, you could entice your friends to move in down the street. “an apartment would open up and your buddy would move in,” said Smith. “the area became an enclave of friends, which made for more of a party atmosphere. people would walk up and down the streets until they found a party. and most of the people at the party were locals. it was a crazy, homogenous group of people who just loved the beach.” although Smith moved away from the area at one time, after six months he returned to this special part of the South Bay. and, his moniker of “mayor” is not just for show — he’s very active in city issues and runs the rosecrans volleyball tournament, including painting the poles and taking care of the nets. he also tends a garden at the end of 38th street and is responsible for the nearby chalk mural that he changes every month or so.

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surfer’s Paradise

Smith recalls el porto becoming quite a popular surf spot. “it was fun and crowded,” he says. “But it’s a lot more crowded these days.” local surfer tony del castillo has been surfing el porto for over 25 years. “the northwest and west swells are best for el porto; the waves can get very big in the winter and tend to have better shape then other areas in the South Bay,” said del castillo. he explained that el porto can handle swells better than other areas. “it also tends to develop better sand bars from rain runoff, and these sand bars also produce better-shaped waves. Some of the more frequented areas include rosecrans, 45th Street, and the entrance of the parking lot. probably the most recognized surfing area in el porto is the jetty. on the south side of the jetty is a right hander called, “the right,” and on the north side of it is a left hander called, “hammerland” because it gets really big and breaks in shallow water, and when you fall, you get ‘hammered’!

local memories

in november of 1980, el porto consisted of approximately 34 acres and a population of about 1,185 people and was annexed from the county of los angeles by manhattan Beach. the area is now considered north manhattan Beach. however, ask any South Bay local about el porto, and if they have frequented the area at all, they will have their own remembrance of the town, pre-north manhattan Beach days. maybe it’s “the devil’s triangle” (the intersection of rosecrans and highland along with the various bars that came and went); orville & Wilbur’s which lasted up until 1998 and was considered by some to be the first “good” restaurant in town (opening in 1971), or the famous pancho’s which stills stands. Volleyball, surfing, and great places to meet up with friends — the name may have officially changed to north manhattan, but the unique el porto vibe remains the same.

el Porto iN the 1930s. the View is eNteriNG maNhattaN beaCh from the North.

1930s. the View is eNteriNG maNhattaN beaCh from the North. El Porto Fun Facts: • for

El Porto Fun Facts:

for oVer six deCades, el Porto was Part of the el seGuNdo uNified sChool distriCt.

deVeloPer GeorGe h. PeCk laid out 30-by-90 foot resideNtial lots for el Porto.

el Porto was almost ComPletely deVeloPed with two resideNtial uNits filliNG eaCh of its small lots, with little room for yards.

the Name el Porto is thouGht to be a CombiNatioN of sPaNish aNd PortuGuese Names.

10.05.2012 |