Tripped: May 2013
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Surf Ninjas came out twenty years ago. Mind blown? Having come to that realization recently I decided to watch the movie with a friend in celebration. (Not that I don’t watch it at least once a year, anyway. Who doesn’t?)
One of the weirdest things about living in Los Angeles is developing the ability to immediately recognize places in movies you’ve seen a million times. Surf Ninjas ain’t no different. Looking online, it seems like there’s a lack of location knowledge for this movie, which is a crime. So, ladies and gentlemen… I give you my journey into Surf Ninjas. (The first forty minutes, at least….)
So in LA they’ve got this bike trail that stretches across a ton of beaches. I’ve gone down it a few times and am vaguely familiar with what every beach looks like. So in my latest viewing of the movie, I thought Johnny and Adam’s house looked like it was in Hermosa Beach.
I google satellite viewed Hermosa and it took about five minutes to find this house, which strangely hasn’t changed since ‘93. It’s crazy because all the surrounding houses have been torn down.
The houses surrounding the movie house have changed so much that I was a little worried that I’d found the wrong place. After all, it did explode in the movie.
But once we got there with screenshots it was obviously the same house.
….which is really awesome. We spent a little too long taking pictures of this person’s house. The homeowner was at home while we were there. The door opened at one point and you could tell there was someone watching us…
But who wouldn’t be ecstatic about owning the Surf Ninjas house? I’d burn copies of the movie that I’d hand out to people that walked by. Also, these screenshots are a little off because they put up a privacy fence around the place…
…which doesn’t work too well on hills. If you want to check out this house it’s 24th St and The Strand in Hermosa Beach, CA. I’m officially claiming discovery of this location. It’s mine.
Moving on… Once I found this house, I decided that we had to go take some screen shot comparisons. I took some grabs from the rest of the LA locations and cheated a bit. I sent them to my friend who’s from Santa Monica and he told me where they were. (Thanks, Rob…) So here we go.
This is Santa Monica High School, located right in the middle of Santa Monica a few blocks away from the pier. I feel increasing creepy because this is the fifth or sixth high school I’ve gone to with a camera.
But we showed up right at the end of a school day, the gates were open, and I look like a teenager. What’re they going to do? Tell me to leave? Pffft. This shot was done with a crane, obviously, but it’s the same location. They added that “Surfview” thing to it for some reason… I guess to establish that they’re in an auditorium?
It’s pretty cool because this high school hasn’t really changed much, which is weird for a school. Most of them I’ve seen have been destroyed and remodeled a thousand times and are completely unrecognizable.
Like this gate. This is the back entrance to the school. (I guess.) They changed the crosswalk, but that’s about it.
Next we move to Little Patu San, which in reality is Chinatown in Downtown LA.
The last time I watched this movie, I really wanted to find and eat at this chinese restaurant, with no luck. When I rewatched it this month I flipped my shit because I had literally eaten at this place less than a week before without even realizing it. Now I’m just ashamed of myself.
This place, if you can’t tell from the pictures, is Hop Louie in Chinatown. It’s got the cheapest lunch special combined with the Chinese-iest looking exterior… which are the reasons I’m sure both me and the Surf Ninjas people were attracted to it.
I guess you could say Chinatown is kind of a shithole? Which means it’s kind of poor, which means they don’t change their buildings very often. That’s good for me but sucks for them.
All of the action in the movie plays out in real space. Everything is right beside/behind Hop Louie just like it appears to be in the movie. Most of the time it isn’t as easy to find places.
Let’s go back to earlier in the movie.
This was a no brainer. It says where it is in the movie. This is the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier, which is where a lot of the movie was filmed.
And then in the next shot we’re in Venice. This is a funny place that just keeps popping up in movies I watch. So this is Rose Ave in Venice. About four blocks or so from here in one direction is the beach. If you go three or four in the other direction you’ll find Rennie Ave. Rennie Ave has the distinction of being a street that’s a half mile from the beach where you can leave your car for days. For free. Now you know.
But seriously, I started parking there and then that damn clown started showing up in everything all of the sudden. It’s the same place where the first bus blew up in Speed.
…and it’s in the opening credits of Californication. At least in the first season.
But in the movie they wind up right back at the beach. This is Santa Monica Beach right next to the pier.
And this is the Hot Dog on a Stick in front of the pier. Notice the uniform of the guy in the screenshot? Also in the screenshot you can see a location from later in the movie.
That cage-like gazebo thing shows up in the previous screenshot. This is the Santa Monica Pier, as well. I felt like a idiot when I asked my friend about this place. I’ve been here more times than I could count but I guess I never noticed this stupid dragon.
Also, the screenshots are off here because I had them on my phone and it was too bright here to see the damn screen. If you go movie tripping to the beach, make sure you print the darker screen grabs ahead of time.
So finally we make it to the beach where they do their surfing.
This Santa Monica Beach on the north side of the pier. It’s pretty easy to spot from all the buildings in the background that haven’t changed.
It looks like they replaced that lifeguard station at some point, but that be about it.
The rest of the movie was shot in Thailand. I currently have no plans to visit Thailand. If I did I’m sure most of the trip would be spent on Surf Ninjas and The Man With the Golden Gun.
That’s the end of my Surf Ninjas adventure, movie trippers. I hope I’ve inspired you to go watch this childhood gem of a movie. Go grab your game gear, put on your tie-dyed headband, and be a seven year old for an hour and a half. Just remember: money can’t buy knives.