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Back in Shape
After decades of looking flabby and neglected, the Santa Monica home of Muscle Beach gets a major workout..
By Katherine Melcher

Timothy Street Porter
Timothy Street Porter

Palm trees, sand, sunsets. People on roller blades whiz by; surfers walk back in from the water. As the sun sets over the ocean, the lights on the pier's Ferris wheel flicker on. Home of the original Muscle Beach and the first "hot dog on a stick," South Beach in Santa Monica attracts tourists and residents year-round.

This has been the case since the 1880s, when Santa Monica developed as a vacation destination with luxury hotels, bathhouses, Ferris wheels, and other amusements. Although piers were a popular form of entertainment along the ocean from Santa Monica to Venice to Ocean Beach, Santa Monica's piers gained the reputation of being more family oriented and upscale than other beaches.

During the early 1930s, some high school students and other young people set up exercise mats and rugs on the beach just south of the Santa Monica Pier, near an existing children's playground. The space was free and public, and the sand provided a natural cushion for falls. This was the start of Muscle Beach.

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