John Nolan: The Dude Who’s Always at Swami’s Café (with the baseball hat)

December 13, 2011, Judd

Swami’s Cafe is like the Cheers of Encinitas. It’s a place where everybody knows your name and you’re always glad you came.

People love Swami’s for the food, smoothies, surf videos, laid-back ambiance and good vibes.

You could call John Nolan the Facilitator of Good Vibes at Swami’s. John has been making sure that every black bean burrito and shot of wheatgrass is served with love for the last seven years. Now that Swami’s is open unitl 8 p.m. on summer evenings for dinner, John typically puts in over 12 hour days.

Some people call John the Zen Master, though he would be the first to tell you he’s not. John has his off days like everybody else, but considering that he’s at Swami’s at least six days a week, arriving just after dawn and leaving after sunset, it takes a special person like him to emanate positive vibes and make customers laugh with a quick wit day after day.

Born in Long Beach and raised in Huntington and Newport Beach, John has been living in Encinitas since 1985. He started surfing regularly when he was 18.

Many Swami’s Cafe regulars have noticed that John hasn’t taken his longboard out in the water for several months. Even though John has new love-a horse that he purchased-it’s unsettling to know that a soul surfer like John has quit the ocean for a while.

“I don’t want to be negative,” said John, “but Encinitas is starting to slightly resemble Orange County.”

John laments the fact that the Encinitas city council has taken a probusiness approach to running city hall. As a result, Encinitas is irresponsibly overdeveloping the land. And onshore, the health of the environment has suffered as more people have moved here.

“There’s a lot more pollution on the beach than 10 years ago,” said John. “The water color is rarely clear. We don’t have nearly as consistently clear skies and water that we did a decade ago.”

So what has John done about the environment?

“I’m not doing enough. Nobody is doing enough,” he said. For his part, John distributes articles on the environment on hot-topic Encinitas issues like the Ecke family ranch controversy.

“Personally, I don’t pollute,” said John. “Whenever I walk across the 101 and l see a piece of trash, I pick it up. I don’t deserve a reward for that, but if everybody treated the environment like it’s our collective problem rather than an individual problem, our community would be a lot better off.” Hopefully this summer, we’ll see John back in the water.

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.