Search
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
VIEW GALLERY | 22 PHOTOS
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Beach bums, San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Beach bum, San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Tossing crutches up on the beach, [surfer] hobbles over to his surfboard and waits for receding wave to wash him out where swells have broken.
Surfers, San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Beach bums, San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Haircutter to all the beach bums is Myra Roche, mother of three children. She helps friend Warren Miller make ends meet by shearing his hair free.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
San Onofre, Calif., 1950.
Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
1 of 22

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

Aug 30, 2013

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.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.