Editorial: Surfgang 1 - Publication: Arena Magazine - April 2009 Back to Editorials

Rich Kid Gangs

Gang Life in Los Angeles is nothing new - gun toting desperados dealing drugs and death – a cliché really. Yet how do achieve street cred when your parents  earn several million annually and you live in Malibu, – where the average house cost around $4 million? (pre recession) -  Join a gang of course,.. absurd..? umm.. yes.

MLO or Malibu Locals Only gang isn’t a scripted creation, its a real life gang, though grasping the concept seems a little like the 2003 film Malibu’s Most Wanted, a storyline that sees a US senator arrange for his aspiring rapper son to be kidnapped by a couple of black actors  posing as murderers to shock him out of his plans. In the film Taye Diggs plays a hardened gangster (chortle)  while Snoop Dogg does a cameo as a talking rat - enough said..?

Patronised by a variety of A List celebrity offspring, including Ed Gibson (son of Mel) and Brawly Nolte ( son of Nic) the Malibu based surf gang is all about localism. Privileged kids on an idyllic beachfront town laying claim to their turf.- apparently its not a comedy satire.

Meanwhile there are 720 identifiable gangs with 39,000 members in Los Angeles, responsible for 6% of the city’s violent crime  For them its all about survival.  Being part of a racial minority and having a criminal record means your basically unemployable, crime is often the only alternative.

Yet for the average MLOer trust funds, pampering parents and the luxury of options suggest a bit of hardcore roleplay at work. Still MLO member Sam(not his real name) 26  is adamant the MLO isn’t really a comedic pursuit. Sam opts to use an assumed name when interviewed, as he is now on a suspended sentence after an assault charge late last year. He and 12 other MLOs were charged after attacking paparazzi who photographed actor Matthew McConaughey as he surfed off Zuma beach.

Eyewitnesses ( and video evidence ) testifies to an MLO member verbally taunting, “We’ll draw a line on the sand and we’ll fight for . If you guys win, you can have .”

The surfers then formed a semicircle in front  the snapper stating [McConaughey] didn't want him or anyone to film. After an argument ensued  the 15 strong MLO mob unloaded on a handful of photographers. One was downed and received kicks to head while his $15,000 camera, lenses and videocamera were hurled into the ocean. US People Magazine’s 2005 “sexiest man alive,” later denied knowing about the incident -despite being photographed speaking to the attackers beforehand.

Sam recounts the incident, “We had just j had enough of the paparazzi invading our beach - why don’t they get a real job ?.”

Sam assures me that the gang does have a purpose –  and  that there is a real need to rid pristine coastline ( and prime tourist destinations) like Zuma Beach, Malibu Pier, Point Dume, and Broadbeach of “wandering blow-ins.”

 “Im born and bred in Malibu and Ive been part of the MLO ever since I was old enough to surf. It’s a thing that’s been around since the 1980s, just local kids hanging together and keep out those who aren’t welcome.”

Sam adds that MLO members often resort to vandalism to get their point across. Often slashing tires, keying doors and smashing the windows of cars owned by outsiders who visit the beach.

35 year old Pat Ryan is an MLO "elder," who’s been involved with the gang for about 20 years.  “It used to be about the surfing and the codes of surfing. Nowadays, the whole thing has dissipated, with younger dudes claiming to be MLO flashing M hand signals and spray threatening graffiti claiming to be MLO though they arent.

“We are generally longtime locals, and our parents are admittedly middle class. We have no problem with surfers from other nearby areas coming, its now mainly the valley people.”

A sort of long boarders racial cleansing,? - pretty innocent really, though things were a little nastier back in 2004, when MLO members, after a party fight between MLO gang members and Valley based teenagers left a valley teenager brutally inured, suffering permanent brain damage.

Despite its severity, Lost Hills Sheriff's Detective J.P. Manuelle, who investigated the beating still doesn’t see the MLO as serious. “This is simply a local group of kids,. There are no carjacks guns, drug dealing, or burglary, just petty crime such as graffiti and some party fights."

Malibu Mayor Jay Jefferson a former area Sherriff and current Malibu surf shop owner adds, “They aren't exactly living on the edge or on the fringes of society. They are kids living very comfortable and pampered lives often on big allowances, the children of professional parents such as doctors or lawyers.

As a haven for the rich and famous Malibu also offers plenty of the glam factor. When you’re a rich kid you can afford to buy cool. MLO types will often drive old “beaters,” around the hood, like 1980-90s opened topped Jeep and Bronco pick ups, though they’ll have a second car like an $80K Mercedes, BMW or Audi parked in their mum’s driveway.

Commercial enterprise has also crept in to exploit the whole MLO mystique. There a t-shirts, board shorts, hoodies, caps and more emblazoned with MLO initials in gothic typeface. There’s even a jewelry designed by Bill Wall jewelry. These are insignia fighting rings that can be combined in sets of four to use as brass knuckles

Surf clothing Store owner Mark Jacobs of Clout clothing near Zuma beach says the MLO gear is huge for the store. “Its huge for tourists which is kind of ironic  Japanese Koreans, and Italians, they love it.

On the gang issue, Jacobs adds, “There will be attention on Malibu as its a celebrity rich area. there are about six high profile celebrities involved with the group who. are indirectly involved, not outspoken members. Their parents are respected people who arent happy about their kids being aligned to the type of activity.

“Malibu is and always has been a rich area and the kids who are brought up rich do normal things. They surf, chase girls, see live bands. They have wild parties, get wasted and fight. They don't just sit at home studying the piano.”

Written by Craig Stephens

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