The Few, the Proud, the Totally Chill: LIFE With Old-School Beach Bums

San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Culture
'50s

In February 1950, LIFE published a feature on what the magazine called “the gold-bricking existence” of ski bums at Sun Valley, Idaho. Eight months later, in its August 28 issue, LIFE published a follow-up piece with the wonderful title, “LIFE Revisits the Ski Bums (and Finds That They Are Now Beach Bums).”

“Photographer Loomis Dean,” LIFE told its readers, “looked up his cold-weather friends and found them still leading a bum’s life.”

Now, however, they are beach bums, spending the summer at San Onofre, Calif., 70 miles south of Los Angeles, where they take as much delight in surfboarding on rolling waves as they did in winter schussing down snowy slopes.

In May, as soon as the snow gets soft at Sun Valley, the bums begin to migrate. They head first for their parents’ homes where they drop off their skis and pick up their brightly colored, 15-foot-long surfboards. Then they make for the beach. . . . On the beach the bums spend every minute they can surfboarding, sunning, guzzling beer, making friends with people who come down to be weekend beach bums. By taking jobs nearby as packers, lifeguards, bartenders, they earn just enough to fill their cups and stomachs and gas tanks of the trucks in which they live and sleep. If war does not catch up with them one way or another, the bums expect to be back at Sun Valley by November.

Here, in tribute to that rare individual self-assured enough to scoff at societal expectations and embrace his or her inner bum, LIFE.com remembers the few, the proud, the charmingly, unrepentantly feckless.
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