Upon reading Todd Prodanovich’s surf column about the inherent “weirdness” of Santa Cruz (“Birkenstocks and Banana Slugs,” Daily Nexus, Jan. 14), we were disheartened to realize how stereotypically he portrayed this unique community. Yes, Santa Cruz does have its share of tree-hugging hippies (who tend to chill at UCSC) and surfers whose every other word is either gnarly, gnar-gnar or dude. But it would be a mistake to assume that all people from Santa Cruz smoke pot and sport dreads.

The fundamental character of Santa Cruz is not that everyone fits the same hippie surfer mold; it is that we accept anyone and everyone just as they are. Something about our freezing, shark-infested waters and affinity for banana slugs enables everyone from Umbrella Man and the Great Morgani to surfers and potheads to walk down Pacific Avenue and barely warrant a second glance from their fellow open-minded citizens.

It’s a pity that tourists like Mr. Prodanovich fail to realize that these individuals flock to Santa Cruz not so they can lose their vocabulary skills, but so they can freely express themselves in whatever way they see fit.

There really is no reason for visitors to be afraid that the culture of Santa Cruz might somehow subtly change them for the worse. Instead, we would recommend that they look forward to all that Santa Cruz has to offer: beautiful beaches, great surfing, friendly locals and a vibrant, unique — okay, a little weird — atmosphere.