Crime & Justice

Attorney skeptical Palos Verdes Estates surf gang will face arrest, despite chief's assertion

View of Lunada Bay from the southeast bluff.
View of Lunada Bay from the southeast bluff.
Chris Greenspon/KPCC
View of Lunada Bay from the southeast bluff.
Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Jeff Kepley.
Palos Verdes Estates


An attorney involved in two lawsuits against the city of Palos Verdes Estates over persistent attacks at a local surf spot is pleased but skeptical the city will go after a notorious group of local surfers. 

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Jeff Kepley said he hopes to crack down on a group that uses violence and intimidation to keep their surf spot from outsiders. It would be the first arrest of a member of the group — known as the "Bay Boys" — in years.

Attorney Michael Sisson has sued the city for failing to adequately protect the civil rights of his clients, who were attacked when trying to surf in the area. He's also sued several of the alleged attackers.

Sisson told KPCC that the latest comments from the police chief sound similar to comments officials have made in the past, but that the "proof is in the pudding."

"I did hear that the local chief of police is anxious, or willing to crack down on these guys," Sisson said, "but that remains to be seen. We've been hearing that for 30 years."

"We'll see if arrests are made and people can go down there without fear of being assaulted, to surf our local waves," he added.

Attorney and surfer Michael Sisson on the Eastern bluff of Lunada Bay.
Attorney and surfer Michael Sisson on the Eastern bluff of Lunada Bay.
Chris Greenspon/KPCC

The police chief's comments come as waves are starting to pick up due to annual north swell, Sisson said. He described the problem in Palos Verdes Estates as one going back to the 1960s.

"You get vandalized, your car gets vandalized, your surfboard gets vandalized, and rocks get thrown at you when you go and try to surf," Sisson said. "I mean, for an exclusive area like Palos Verdes to exclude, preclude, harass, attack, beat on non-local people who just want to use what God gave us — the ocean — is ludicrous."

What's needed to solve the problem? Sisson said there needs to be a cultural change.

"I mean, I know for a fact that many of the local residents, who happen to be friends of mine, are embarrassed by this," Sisson said. "To not only vigorously enforce the law, but to be proactive — proactively go down there."

A report from the Guardian earlier this year indicated that the local police know who the Bay Boys are.

"It's not rocket science," Sisson said. "There's very simple ways to deal with this issue, and for some reason, they don't seem to be interested in correcting it."