A History of Southern California’s Best Breaks with Slightly Choppy

Photo: Scott Richards
Photo: Scott Richards

In the back of a former sail factory in Newport Beach, Scott Richards hand-crafts and paints flags that not only represent some of the greatest breaks in California, but also pay homage to the legendary localism and surf culture that accompanies each spot.

Scott’s DIY operation, properly known as Slightly Choppy, is a welcomed take on surf culture creation and caught our eye when its well-designed newsletter cannonballed into our inbox this past week.

Curious about the inner-workings of a fine flag surf brand in the 21st century, as well as its origin story, we got in touch with Scott and picked his brain about some of his most well-known flags and the inspiration he used from each surf break when bringing their respective flags to life.

1. WEDGE

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I’m lucky enough to be about a mile from the Wedge. This spot is magical. The energy and open barrel is like no other wave with a sandy bottom. On any south swell, there is usually something thumping down there. The crowds get out of control. When it’s really working, the skimmers come from the shore, surfers are catching the rebound, body surfers and spongers are at the peak and about a hundred of grommets with their GoPros waist deep trying to get their best Clark Little barrel shot.

So with all this, the design of the Wedge flag best represents the W Tower that stands guard during the massive summer south swells and the Wedge Crew who anticipate the black ball flag to rise. When it finally does around 10am, they grab their black & yellow Viper friends, the water clears of the chaos, and they reclaim their spot.

2. 6th STREET

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This is the beach break right out in front of my house. It’s super punchy and steep in the summer, usually closed-out in south swells, but can get good with a solid west ground swell. Nobody comes here except maybe to skimboard, so my boys and I usually have it to ourselves. The 6th Street tower lifeguard defaults as our babysitter during the summer, so this flag is a nod to our local turf.

3. TACO BELL REEF

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This spot in Huntington Beach is just north of the pier, although the fast food restaurant with chalupas is no más. The waves at 9th street were a simple walk out front of my house when I was living there about 20 years ago. A fun spot, away from the crowds at the pier, breaks on almost any swell. This flag was originally produced for a new complex just down on PCH and is made using a series of hand-cut stencils.

4. RINCON

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This amazing right hander is just a two hour drive north from where I am in Newport. It’s an amazing point break in Santa Barbara that defines the ultimate Golden State of California. My son Jax and I are lucky to do quick strikes when a solid west swell begins to show. The colors and flow of the type in this flag is fully inspired by the mood and topography of this gem of a point.

5. BLACKIES

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What can I say about this fully-exposed, over-crowded beach break that witnesses some of the hottest logging happening in Orange County, California. Daily roundabouts through the parking lot only shows the salty talent from young to old, standing guard waiting for the perfect combo of tide and swell direction. The urban beach setting between the pier and parking meters easily sets the tone for the stenciled flag design.

6. POINT

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When a really big, steep south moves past Mexico and hits the Newport Point, a peeling left hits the sand bar and opens up like Pipeline. Watching Hurricane Marie come in and rattle the coast was a defining moment for the lineup of Newport spots. An iconic design, straight to the point, letters in red like the red flag warning.

7. CHECK

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This flag is a nod to the nautical culture around my hood. I’m surrounded by a juxtaposition of massive luxury yachts and salty fishing vessels. It represents the life I’m living around the water where everything is damp, salty and eventually rusts. These flags are stitched together using 4 separate panels with a contrast cross stitch, then topped with natural twine and twill tape.

Check out the full collection of flags over at the Slightly Choppy website and keep up with Scott and his creations via his Instagram, @slightlychoppy.