Category Archives: Venice Beach People

These posts include video and written interviews with the people who make Venice Beach California interesting!

Paddle-Out for Brian Zarate


Brian Zarate Venice Local
Venice Local the late Brian Karate Photo Courtesy: Instagram

A paddle-out is planned 9:00am this Saturday at the Venice Breakwater for beloved Venice local Brian Karate who, just under two weeks ago, died  in a tragic car accident along with his dog Mari.

An actor and well know figure in the venice surf and skate community. Karate co-wrote and starred in History is Myth. The 2013 short film was shot in and around Venice Beach. Other notable film credits include the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown.

Know for being a warm and genuine person, Karate will be missed by the many in Venice who knew him.

Brian Zarate Tribute
Tributes filled the corner of Ocean Park and Centinela

Santa Monic Mirror reported that tributes filled the corner of Ocean Park and Centinela after the fatal crash. Hats and photographs attached to a tree,  one reading “Brian & Mari you will be missed.”

According to Santa Monica Fire Department, at 11:14 pm on Friday, January 30th, 2016, Santa Monica Fire Department was alerted to a single-vehicle traffic collision, with entrapment, at the corner of Centinela and Ocean Park Boulevard.

The City of Los Angeles Fire Department was also alerted to this incident, as is very common on border line calls. Santa Monica Fire Department units arrived on scene and found a single vehicle traffic collision that started in the city of Santa Monica, crossed the city line, knocked over a street light, and came to rest in the City of Los Angeles.

Santa Monica and Los Angles Firefighters worked together to treat the single patient, access the electrical hazard of the toppled light pole, and shut down the sheared off fire hydrant.

Also on scene were Santa Monica Police, Los Angeles Police, and Public works from both Cities. It was unknown what caused the accident.

Riding High – The Adler Bros. Rule the Morning Waves VIDEO

By Melanie Camp

The soft dawn light has Venice Beach glowing gray, the sun has not yet risen, and clouds hang heavy in the sky. It is a dull winter morning after a week of storms but Beck Adler doesn’t need the sun, or even an alarm clock to get him out of bed, not when there is a wave to ride.

The Adler Family: Beck pictured with his mother Emma, father Gary, & brother West
West Adler 1 Photo Credit Mike Riggins.jpg
Yang to Beck’s Yin, Brother West Adler prefers long boards

Beck is joined most days by his brother West. This morning however West is holed up in bed with strep throat. The boys have been described as being the Yin and Yang of surfing. “He has an old soul,” Beck says of his brother, “he longboards and rides single fins, and shapes his own boards,” whereas Beck on the other hand has his sights set on going pro. He is the third young surfer from the Los Angeles area to be invited to compete on the Surfing America Prime series.

Board tucked under one arm, Beck hurries down to the water’s edge, plunges in, and paddles, slicing through the whitewash as he makes his way out to the break at the Venice Pier.

At just 13 years old he’s almost half the size of most others out catching waves but his form sure catches the eye of most people watching from the Pier. “He’s great, really talented,” says one photographer who snaps away at the young surfer. “My favorite,” says another.

Beck Adler 1 Photo Credit Mike Riggins
Beck Adler Surfs Venice Beach
Beck Adler 3 Photo Credit Mike Riggins
Photo Courtesy: Mike Riggins

Beck’s father, Gary Adler, stands near local photographer Mike Riggins. Riggins is down at the pier most mornings taking photos of all the surfers.

“The kids love seeing if they’ll make the cover of Mike’s facebook page that day. It’s great for them to get on and take a look at pic- tures of themselves in action. It helps with their form,” says Gary.

With Venice local, 13 year old Noah Hill, winning a national championship last year and becoming a member of the US Surf Team, Gary says that all the Venice kids now push each other very hard to follow in Hill’s footsteps, “things are changing for the better for the kids around here and this young generation is leading that charge.”

It is common knowledge that you need to earn your place if you want to surf the Pier, “I haven’t earned mine yet, I stay kinda to the side,” says Gary, unlike Beck, who has.

Beck has been surfing Venice Beach for the past 11 years, most of his life. He started when he was only 2 years old, “my Dad was pushing me in the waves on a big soft top,” says Beck.

“We started down at the end of Driftwood Avenue, I’d bring the kids down on weekends and would push them into waves and they got better and better and better. When they were about 7 they kept asking me, ‘can we go down to the Pier,’ and I finally said, ‘OK,’ and they worked their way into the lineup and now they just know everybody and it’s really nice,” says Gary.

Gary explains that a beautiful thing has started happening at the Pier, “Beck and the other local groms have been taken under the wing of the older Venice locals who give up their break from 6am to 8am every morning so the kids can get as many waves as possible before school and then they take over the break after that.”

The support the older locals are giving the younger surfers is something that has happened organically, “it’s unsaid, they look out for the kids and want them to get as many reps as possible and get better, but if it’s really good they’ll just go out and take over. Which is great,” says Gary.

While Venice is Beck’s home break on weekends he hits the road to compete and entering competitions not only help him move closer to his goal of going pro but he gets to experience surfing breaks all up and down the coast of Southern California.

“It’s a nice place to grow up and it’s a nice place to surf. It’s a great home break. It’s not the best wave in the world but sometimes that’s better to learn on,” says Gary.

Beck bobs in the waters off the Pier watching for a wave, “yeah, there’s some bad waves but there’s always going to be a good one, you just have to find it. You have to wait for the good ones if you want to get the best ride and it pays off when you wait,” he says.

However patience is not something he takes out of the water, “no, I’m not very patient in life. I’m pretty hyper,” and already Beck has sponsors. He is on the amateur Hurley team which means he gets free gear like wetsuits, clothes, and stickers, “they’ve been sending me boxes now 3 every 4 months. That was a great feeling when I got sponsored by Hurley.”

Anderson Surfboards have been shaping custom boards for Beck for the last 3 years and have given him 15 boards all up. ZJ Boarding House is Beck’s surf shop sponsor, and Hecho en Venice is another local sponsor that provides clothing for the young surfer whose aim is to “take it all the way” to the World Surf League.

Beck Adler with Coach Justin Swartz
Beck Adler with Coach Justin Swartz

Former pro surfer and Venice local, Justin Swartz, is Beck’s surf coach. Together they train 3-4 times a month, depending on Beck’s contest schedule. After training they’ll get together at the Adlers’ home to review videos.

Beck says all the travel he gets to do through surfing has shaped his outlook on life,“I get to travel different places in California and the world and I get to see so many different things and lifestyles and it impacts how I live.” He says surfing has inspired him to think more about human’s impact on the environment, “recycling, all that kind of stuff.”

“there’s trash all over the place and it’s sad. There are beach clean ups every now and then but when you see people throwing ciga- rettes into the street… it doesn’t make me feel good.”

From his spot on his board in the water Beck sees the impact a city full of people, who don’t always think before they litter on the streets, has on the environment, “when it rains there’s so much trash in the ocean. So just recycling anything you can, clean up after yourself, and if you see a piece of trash pick it up and throw it away,” he says.

Gary whistles from the Pier, Beck seems to be pretending he can’t hear his Dad as he paddles out to catch a last wave, make that his second last one before he finally rides one all the way in to the shore.

Back in the carpark he pours a cooler full of hot water down the front of his wet suit to warm up while Gary calls Tommy’s on Washington to order a breakfast burrito – although he doesn’t quite order so much as let them know he and Beck are on their way. All part of the morning ritual.

“I’ve surfed my whole life. Probably will keep surfing my whole life,” says Beck who was looking forward to the weekend because it meant he’d be able to surf 3 hours each day instead of only an hour forty five.

“It was obvious from the beginning that he was going to be good.” “I joke that I taught him everything I know “how to stand up” and he took it from there,” says Gary.

Where Beck takes it from here appears to be a clear run.


Venice High Principal Looks Back On Semester

Dr. Oryla Wiedoeft.
Dr. Oryla Wiedoeft.

By Oryla Wiedoeft, Ed.D. – Venice High School Principal

It was such a great semester with so many positive things, it’s hard to know where to begin.

The Associated Student Body (ASB) and school newspaper, The Oarsman, worked together to really increase school spirit. The pep-rallies, supported by our growing marching band, were highly attended and enjoyed by both students and teachers. The turn-out at the Homecoming game was one of the biggest in seven years, and the Homecoming dance sold-out and was fun for the students and the staff and parents who volunteered to support the student dance.

With the support of our new College Counselor, Mr. Guy Cerda, we expanded our commitment to a college-going culture at Venice High.  We hosted an increased number of college fairs and speakers from colleges and universities, and Wednesdays became College Day, when the staff wore shirts and gear from the university they, or sometimes their kids, attended, and the students wore gear from the universities they hope to attend.  It has been a nice way for our students and staff to connect.  Also, there is a very healthy rivalry between the many Bruin staff members and the handful of us who are Trojans.  As a testament to the success of Venice’s college-going culture, we are proud that one of our seniors, Miranda Rector, was accepted to Yale under the early decision process, to which more of our seniors are applying.

LAUSD graciously provided Venice with an instrumental music teacher, Mr. David Lee, to grow our large ensemble and marching band programs. We have enjoyed having band students from the neighboring middle schools play with our students on the Venice campus. Students from Palms, Twain, Marina, and Wright came to play with our band during a football game in October, and we are looking forward to the orchestras playing together in the spring.

Our choir program continued its legacy of success, led by Mrs. Sarnoff, by having three students earn spots in the California All-State Honor Choir. Our choir students were invited to perform at many community events this semester, and they enjoyed caroling in the Venice and Del Rey communities at the fire and police stations.

Venice High expanded our community partnerships this semester. Google Venice had previously supported Venice High through grants to our Robotics and STEMM Magnet.  This December, 12 Googlers voluntarily spent a Saturday training Venice High teachers and staff — also voluntary — on the use of Chromebooks, Google Classroom, Aps, Hangouts, and  Expedition. Our staff is looking forward to ensuring that Venice High students have a cutting edge 21st Century educational experience during their four years.

Gjelina restaurant has partnered with Venice High’s Earth Justice Academy to develop a Farm-to-Fork culinary arts program. The students work with Gjelina chefs, who are volunteering their time, to grow produce in our school garden, then create culinary masterpieces in our Culinary Arts room. Currently functioning as an after-school program, the class was so popular that a second after-school session was added. We hope to grow this program into a regular course sequence and add entrepreneurship, marketing, branding, and business management to engage our students.

The University of Southern California’s Games program has partnered with our Media Academy. USC Games represents a collaboration between the School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games Division and the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science.  We will soon offer an after-school program combining computer programing and graphic arts design, and the program will serve as an articulation pathway between Venice Students and USC.

Our Dual Enrollment program with Santa Monica College, which offers Venice High students both college units and high school credit, expanded. In addition to Graphic Design and Media Arts classes, we are now offering Film Making and adding Broadcast Journalism.

The World Languages Magnet, with the support of Donor’s Choose, took all 450 to see a preview of He Named Me Malala at Arc Light in El Segundo.

For another consecutive year, Venice High Japanese students welcomed a student cultural exchange with Japanese students from Oguni High School. Gifts were exchanged, games were played, songs were sung, and cultural activities were conducted. Both Oguni and Venice students truly enjoyed the visit.

We had a surprise visit from the U.S. Treasurer, Rosie Rios, whose signature is on dollar bills. She graciously spoke to students in our Economics classes during her visit to Los Angeles. After speaking with students about the path and challenges she faced getting to her current position and encouraging them to find their passion, Treasurer Rios took photos with students and autographed dollar bills for them.

Our sports teams did very well. The Girls Golf team won the City Title, the Girls Volleyball team won Reserve City Champions, Boys Cross-Country won the City Individual Championship, and the Varsity Football team is the Western League Champion for the 13th time in 14 years.

We are looking forward to an exciting spring semester. We will have ambitious plans to continue to develop and expand our great programs, so that Venice High is the star school of Silicon Beach!

Venice’s Homeless Romeo: Aspiring Model On Meeting Kendall Jenner & Sleeping Around Town For A Warm Bed

ABOVE: Despite being homeless, Johnny Economou, 20, says has regular “sleep overs” with women all over town after he meets them on the Venice Boardwalk.

By Melanie Camp

The air is fresh, the sky uncluttered. A clear blue after a week of wind that chased away clouds, the Los Angeles haze, and unburdened the palm trees of their dead fronds. In the distance is a crisp view of Malibu and the undulating lines of the Santa Monica mountain range.

Johnny Economou drifts by, his board floats over the smooth concrete at the north-west end of the Venice Beach Skate Park. Undulating lines that mimic the mountain view. We had decided to meet early because Economou had wanted me to watch him skate but he didn’t want to compete with the crowds.

“I’m not that good. They’d make me look bad,” he says. His self-deprecation is endearing.

We had decided to meet so Economou could tell me his story. It reads like a fairytale filled with romantic encounters, and a meet-cute that could be straight from a Hollywood movie. For Economou Venice Beach is home, of sorts. His home without a house. Like many young, mid-western, Americans Economou has made the pilgrimage to Venice Beach with dreams of hitting the big-time, and he may just be on the brink of breaking through.

Working as a child model growing up in Wisconsin, Economou had aspirations to go further in his industry.

“L.A. is where it’s at. I have a plan to go as far as I can in the modeling world,” he says. Part of that plan includes living on Venice Beach, camping out under the stars.

Growing up Economou’s family often spent holidays camping.

“I love nature, I like being around it, it doesn’t bother me to sleep outside,” he says, adding that he believes society today disconnects individuals from nature and that living outdoors is a way to reconnect. “You’re always inside or you’re always on your phone so being in touch with nature is a good thing. It grounds you more to the earth and to the energy and everything.”

Economou believes being connected to a universal flow helped him land a big break after only three months on Venice Beach.

“I was just chilling on the beach after a swim when these people stopped about 20-feet away from me and set up a picnic,” he says.

According to Economou the picnickers caught his eye as they looked more like celebrities than the regular Venice Beach-goers. He even noticed they had their own security, watching from a distance.

“I thought they were police at first, then I realized they were bodyguards,” he says.

However the security had not anticipated an attack from above and a flock of Venice Beach seagulls quickly invaded the party.

“These seagulls started swarming them after they pulled out their food and the girls in the group started screaming. So I ran over and helped chase the seagulls off,” says Economou.

Grateful for his efforts the group of four struck up a conversation with Economou, two in the group suggesting Economou should take up modeling. At that moment Economou realized who he was talking to. The celebrity group was none other than Kendall Jenner, her best friend, supermodel Gigi Hadid, actor Ansel Elgort, and Jenner’s modeling manager, Ashleah Gonzalez. The group was in Venice shooting a commercial and had decided to share a lunch-break picnic on the beach.

The chance encounter led to Economou signing with modeling agency TwoManagement where he is managed by Katie Wolland.

“I was at the right place at the right time,” says Economou. “It’s the law of attraction, you put out and you receive. If you’re really spiritual and you’re in touch with energy and the world, you can control things like that.”

Economou has dreams of a big house and a fast car.

“I want to live lavish,” he says. “I want to get that Ferrari; I want that house on the water. I’m shooting for that.”

For now he’s enjoying the freedom life on the streets provides.

“Homeless by choice, not by force,” he says. “I don’t want a house, I don’t want my own apartment yet because I like being free and living the Hippie life.”

Economou may be homeless but he is not often short of a bed. This morning Economou had caught the bus out from Hollywood where he’d spent the night with a female friend. He says that as much as he enjoys sleeping under the stars he does prefer a warm bed.

So, how does one get that if they are not interested in taking on the responsibility of paying rent?

Economou has “sleep overs” with women he meets on the Venice Boardwalk.

“That’s my motivation, to go home with a girl, or else I’ll be out on the beach,” he says. “I like sleeping on the beach but obviously going home with a girl is better.”

While the Homeless Romeo will not name any names, he says he has gone home with many women, from tourists staying at nearby backpackers, to wealthy Venice locals. He even travels as far as Beverly Hills and Hollywood to visit his lady friends.

Economou says he is truthful with all the woman he sees.

“It’s mostly an open relationship,” he says. “I keep them as close friends and I keep on talking to other girls and I let them know that. I believe in sharing the love. I like to date a lot of women. You can’t just pick one.”

As we move away from the Skate Park and make our way along Ocean Front Walk, Economou is distracted by an attractive local taking her dog for a morning walk. Whipping out the charm he says, “hello.”

“How old are you?” the local lady asks.

“I’m 20,” says Economou.

“20! Oh my God. I’m double your age plus. How about that!” she says.

“Good. That’s just how I like it,” says Economou adding that while he prefers women over 35, it is more important he feels a connection.

Later the Venice woman says she though Economou was a sweet kid and that she understood how someone might want to take him off the streets for a night and cook him a home dinner. While she did find his quest for a bed amusing, she said she could see how he had a string of ladies around town who regularly welcomed him in for the night.

While being discovered by Kendall Jenner, and regularly bedding a bevy of fascinating women, all the while living the hippie dream on Venice Beach may sound like a dream come true, Economou is quick to say he always had a plan and he works hard to stay focused.

“Somedays I’d have a feeling that I wouldn’t get discovered, or that I wouldn’t make it but you can’t have that lack of confidence, you can’t have that mindset,” he says. “You’ve got to really focus, and really put out good vibes, and overcome those bad thoughts and good things come.”

Economou doesn’t feel it is his place to judge others but agrees that many people, while they do come to Venice with a goal to make it big, can lose direction. This is something Timothy Pardue, the Manager of a local homeless youth organization The Venice PAD, backs up. Pardue explains that being homeless still costs something and many arrive underestimating how much money they will need to bring with them.

“A lot of kids come out here to get into the entertainment business and they have a picture in their mind of L.A. that is based on what they see on TV. They get out here, they bring a thousand bucks with them, and then they realize it’s not what they expected. L.A.’s a tough town to live in for sure,” says Pardue.

Time will tell how far from the streets of Venice Beach Economou will rise but as he is determined to stay focused on booking work as a model, as well as finding shelter in the arms of his many California girls, his future seems as clear as the view out towards the Santa Monica mountains on this bright, sun-shiny Venice day.

Once Homeless Author Jason Stoneking On His Return To Venice

Above: Jason Stoneking will travel from his home in Paris to host a reading at Small World Books in Venice on Monday, Dec. 7.

As a teenager Jason Stoneking lived homeless in Venice. At the time he was an aspiring author, sleeping on the beach, and dreaming of one day being published and having his work sold in Small World Books. Having moved away to live in Paris, it has been more than 20 years since Stoneking’s days as a Venice Beach local. On Dec. 7, he will return to his old stomping ground to read from his book of essays. Speaking to Yo! Venice the author discusses the lead up to the reading, an event he says is a very “sentimental thing…”

What drew you to Venice Beach all those years ago?

Venice is the first place I went when I quit school and left home just before I turned 15. I had just read “On the Road,” and had decided that a pilgrimage to the west coast was the only course of action. I had a brother there that I thought I could stay with, but that didn’t really work out. So I fell in with some hippies on the beach, doing hair wraps, busking, panhandling, selling weed, getting by however I could. I had a gig for a little while cleaning the floors at night in a coffee shop called Van Gogh’s Ear that used to be on Westminster, and sometimes I would crash in there for a couple of hours after I was done cleaning. I was there for large chunks of 89 and 90, when I was 15 and 16, then I was traveling for a while, but I was back in Venice again in 92/93, living on top of the Morrison building for a few months.

How much has Venice inspired your work?

Venice has certainly affected my writing on the whole. Van Gogh’s Ear was the first place I ever read a poem of mine in public. And Small World is where I got my first taste of some of my literary heroes. Venice Beach is also where I met Melanie, my first serious long-term girlfriend, and that’s a story that will definitely be finding its way into my pages soon. Not to mention some of the misadventures I got into there with the cops as a street kid. I have many tales from that time that I have written about in my journals, or that I know I’ll be writing about at some point. It all comes out eventually. I saw a shooting there one time, and had a gun pulled on me as well. And then there was that time that a friend and I got robbed in the public restroom on the beach. All those experiences have definitely played into my writing, even if they don’t appear explicitly in this book. But come to think of it, maybe I should do a whole collection of just my Venice memories next? It wouldn’t be hard to fill!

You say it was always a dream to have a book for sale at Small World Books. How does it feel to know you are days away from holding your own reading at the bookstore?

It’s such a thrill! And it’s also a bit surreal. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed. But I remember, decades ago, sitting on the boardwalk, next to the guy who used to build the giant sand sculptures, spare-changing for a cup of coffee at the Sidewalk Cafe, then going through Small World, running my fingers along the spines of the books, wishing I was Kerouac, wishing I was Ginsberg, wishing I was Jim Morrison, then going back to the beach and writing poems all day, trying to unlock the secret to getting onto those shelves. Later on I wound up living in the same building as Morrison, and after that, I got to read with Ginsberg when I was living in Boulder, and eventually I wound up writing books in Paris (which is something all those guys had done as well). But after all these years, to go back to where I was at the very beginning of that dream is a really magical feeling. I’m so happy to know that Small World is still there!

What can people expect from your reading at Small World Books?

My pieces are usually about tearing down assumptions and opening up new questions. I got into the essay format because at its root, coined by Montaigne as the Middle-French essais or “trials,” it was conceived as a trial ground for ideas, a public forum in which to hash through the author’s feelings and hopefully stumble onto a surprise realization, or even just to illuminate and interrogate the thought process. So my essays aim for that, to dig up unexamined preconceptions and hopefully set myself (and others) off on unexpected trains of thought. That, and I also use them to purge the weight of formative experiences that I might not fully understand, and ask myself questions about how I arrived at my own values. Each one is an investigation. My hope, when I read my work in public, is to make an intimate connection with the people there and pose new questions, open new spaces of conversation that we can occupy together. And hopefully, we’ll all have a nice time together.

How did you end up in Paris?

I took off for Paris at 22, for all the oldest cliché reasons. It was where all my heroes had eventually gone to hone their craft. It seemed to be the destination of choice for poets, artists, romantics, misfits. It was where Rimbaud’s career had started, and where Morrison’s had ended. I knew I had to get there eventually. Plus, I had broken up with a girl and I’m pretty sure there were some police who wanted to know where I was at the time, so it wasn’t so bad to have a far-off place to which I could exile myself.

How long have you been in Paris?

It’s been off-and-on for many years. I first came in 1996. And since then it has felt like home to me, even though I often leave for a few months at a time. I’ll always be a traveler, but Paris very quickly became the place I always come home to.

What is the feeling like in Paris right now in the wake of the terrorist attacks?

It’s a strange and difficult time here right now. People are sad, and scared, and fragile. On edge. But there is also so much love and sincerity that isn’t usually on the surface in the Parisian social style. People are feeling raw. And it’s uncomfortable, but it has also been an opportunity for people to publicly share their deepest most vulnerable feelings. And I think that will ultimately be good for the city and for the strength of the community relationships here. I believe in Paris. And I think we’re going to be ok. Right now we’re all walking around with tears in our eyes and bowling balls in our stomachs, but we’re helping each other work through it.

The reading will be held at Small World Books 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice on Monday, Dec. 7, at 6 pm. The bookstore has parking on Speedway.