Muscle Beach Retro!

By Ruth Silverman

Managing Editor

Ah, Venice! And by that I mean Venice, California, a seaside section of Los Angeles where you can go from funk to fine dining just by turning a corner. The famed Ocean Front Walk is still the eclectic, Bohemian stroll it was when I arrived here many moons ago, and as a fitness-friendly destination Venice can’t be beat. In their recent blog on that very subject, Magda and Paul Wilk cited the iconic weight pen at Muscle Beach Venice as a don’t-miss attraction, and if you’re lucky enough to be in town during one of the big-three summer holidays, you’ll want to take in the physique show and fitness expo going down at the beach.

Sun, sand, and built bodies in bathing suits—what’s not to love about the Muscle Beach contests? They’re the essence of why people work out—to feel good and look good—and a living homage to the post–World War II era and beyond that shaped bodybuilding history. Plus, you’re at the Ocean Front Walk, a trip in itself, as I mentioned.

Many a résumé has started with these casual outdoor events, which nowadays take place in a small amphitheater that was donated by the late Joe Weider, creator of Shape, Muscle & Fitness, and Flex magazines and the often-described godfather of modern bodybuilding. The events have grown in recent years under the stewardship of promoter Joe Wheatley, with festivities including the induction of the latest Muscle Beach Hall of Fame honoree, a busy expo of big-name fitness-industry companies representing, and, on Memorial Day, an impressive flyover of a United States Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster II.

The contest divisions cover the spectrum from bikini through bodybuilding. New this year is an original one that just tickles my fancy: vintage swimsuit. Harking back to the days when women who trained with weights were a very special few, the initial vintage swimsuit contest took place on Memorial Day. It attracted 13 athletes whose suits gave proved the notion that sometimes less is not more. Striding onstage in their colorful pinups and period hair styles, they were an immediate hit with the crowd, the first of what I suspect will be a long line of ladies scouring the Internet for old-style suits.


What’s the attraction—as if the opportunity to put on a cool costume and strut your stuff onstage wasn’t enough? Some cited the coverage factor of the classic suits. Said Karlie Marquez, one of an enthusiastic group I met backstage, “Vintage swimsuit is different from bodybuilding. You can stay curvy and be fed.” The awards were handed out by 85-year-old Sara Clark, Miss Muscle Beach 1948 and a Hall of Fame member, who got a real kick out of being able to pass the torch. A walking advertisement for what a lifetime of exercise will get you, she was a hit with the contestants and everyone else backstage.


“Vintage swimsuit is here to stay!” says Wheatley. The next show, the Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach Championships, will be held this weekend, on July 4, 2016. The address is, Venice Beach Recreational Center, 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291.

See you there!

MB Poster

Editor’s note. Find information on the Muscle Beach Venice competitions at