And unless you live near the South Bay of Los Angeles, you’ve probably never heard of it. Until now.
Every 4th of July morning for the past 49 years, 30th Street in Hermosa Beach has transformed from a tranquil, pristine stretch of sand into a churning mass of sprinting, paddling, beer-chugging debauchery. It’s wild, exuberant, and a little disgusting.
To complete the Hermosa Beach Ironman, competitors must run one mile on the sand, paddle one mile on a surfboard, and chug a 6-pack of beer. If you barf (known as the “reversal of fortune” or the more colloquial “upchuck”) you’re disqualified.
The Ironman is the kickoff event to what is perhaps the most anticipated date on the calendar in Hermosa Beach, a tiny beach city just south of LAX known for beach volleyball, the beautiful scenery and equally beautiful people (“hermosa” means “beautiful” in Spanish, after all), and the hard-drinking party culture that starts at Pier Avenue and spills onto the beaches most weekends.
As one of my bro-ier friends once told me while gearing up for the day of partying that is Independence Day at Hermosa Beach, “Dude, the 4th of July is, like, my favorite holiday. SO stoked.”
If you’ve ever experienced the 4th of July scene at Hermosa Beach, especially while in your free-wheeling, responsibility-free, clean-and-healthy-liver twenties, you’d probably agree. And somehow the scene lives up to its debaucherous reputation despite the fact that drinking alcohol on the beach is illegal in LA County and enforced with militant intensity on the 4th of July.
That is, everywhere except 30th Street during the Ironman. For the final, beer-chugging leg of the race, a 50-yd square corral marked by yellow caution tape defines an area of the sand where the law does not apply.
Horseback riding cops patrol the outskirts, ensuring that no beer leaves the premises. But within the lines, you’re somehow allowed to openly celebrate freedom by drinking on the beach on the 4th of July… as long as you’re drinking six beers at a time.
It’s all good, clean fun until that first person “reverses” some beer onto the sand. Like a vile, yellow wave, the urge to vomit spreads through the crowd. Inevitably, the most aggressive bros start taunting their struggling buddies until they disqualify themselves.
Others sneak up behind an unsuspecting, soon-to-be-former friend and projectile barf onto their shoulders. By the end of the event, beer, barf, sweat, and sand all mix together in a revolting, freedom slushy that the remaining participants don’t seem to mind (probably because of the six beers).
So if you happen to be in LA for the long weekend and you’re one of those people who think the beer mile sounds fun, or you’re not deterred by the sight of grown men and women barfing on each other, head down to Hermosa Beach and enjoy the spectacle.
Just be sure to mix in a water after those first six beers. Because when you start the 4th of July with the Hermosa Beach Ironman, it’s going to be a long day.