For Santa Clarita’s Sean Johnson every surf session is a surf trip
Sean Johnson drives over an hour every day from his home by Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita to surf Malibu or Leo Carrillo. He’s a red hot regular footer who’s turning a lot of heads at both breaks. The 5-foot-11, 155 pound, 23-year-old is a Richie Cunningham look alike.
“I work at Becker Surfboards after I surf at Malibu to cover my gas expenses,” he said.
Johnson surfed on a Morey Boogie Boards until he was standing up on every wave and then made the transition to a surfboard when he was 11 years old. He started surfing with his father, who declines any credit for his son’s ability.
“I didn’t shove him into one wave. I was just out there keeping an eye on him. He learned to surf all on his own,” the senior Johnson said.
Johnson started surfing at Leo Carrillo, or Secos, on a 5-foot, bright orange, quad fin, Sunline.
“It’s the only Sunline Surfboard I’ve seen,” he said. Now he rides 5-foot-10, tri-fin, thumb tail, Becker shaped by Jose Barahona.
He won his first Western Surfing Association Surfing Championship at Topanga Beach when he was 16.
“It was my first contest and the waves were 3-feet and fun.” He kept surfing in the WSA meets and placed third in the Malibu Chill to the Wall Longboard Contest.
“I love surfing longboard contests because my style is so funky that it suits ‘60s longboarding. I have an assortment of outstanding longboards.”
Johnson said Leo Carrillo or Secos is his favorite spot.
“It’s where they filmed Gidget. It’s always the same friendly vibe out in the line-up,” he said.
His work at Becker has opened the door to a number of surf adventures. He gives intermediate surf lessons to kids ready to start contest surfing. The parents of one of his students took him to to Melbourne, Australia. “The dad sold a special diet horse feed Down Under. We stayed in Torquay by Bells and got great waves at Winkipop”
Another student’s parents invited him along on a family vacation to Nicaragua, where he stayed at the spot called Colorado’s.
“I was down there with two of my students and surfed perfect barrels everyday. It was so good it was sick.”
On still another vacation with one of his students, he went to Playa Hermosa, Costa Rico, where he surfed what he described as a really weird, A-frame, reef shelf that peeled onto a beautiful beach break.
Sean surfs mostly with his friend Noah Erickson at Secos, or their secret spot Tunnels in the winter.
“Noah is great to surf with because he kills it and pushes me hard. I love the roundhouse cutback and Noah has it wired so I have to keep up.”
Dane Reynolds is the pro he most admires because he can ride anything and do anything on it.
“O’Brien is always doing something new and different on some funky shape. He is totally out there, not conforming to the other pro surfers.”
His all time favorites are ‘70s pros Shaun Tomson for his deep tube surfing and Larry Bertlemann and Mark Richards for their rubber hot dog maneuvers and drawn out, roundhouse cutbacks.
Johnson’s biggest scare in the water came during a big South swell at the Huntington Beach Pier.
“It was a big, high tide day with the sets sweeping right through the pier. I wiped out next to the pilings and got caught in an undertow that wouldn’t let go. I mean that, I was under for more than two waves and past the drowning point. I wasn’t even thinking about what would happen if I scraped the barnacle covered pilings on both sides of me. I just wanted to surface. I was panicking because I was running out of air and starting to get dizzy and high at the same time. I was laughing under water. It was a scary experience that gives me flashbacks every time I paddle out on a big day.” DZ