Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Andrew Luster

Surf Bum

Drew Luster had a privileged upbringing, needless to say.

His father, a psychiatrist, had died of lung cancer the year before the Max Factor company sale.

Drew and a younger sister were raised by their mother and a nanny in Malibu, Calif., where his neighbors included Barbra Streisand. He attended Windward, an exclusive West Los Angeles day school tucked between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

But studying was secondary to his other pursuits: skiing, surfing and skateboarding. He later attended Santa Barbara City College but left without earning a degree.

In 1981, his mother paid $170,000 to buy Drew a small house on the beach in Mussel Shoals, a tiny surfside community just off the Pacific Coast Highway south of Santa Barbara.

Mussel Shoals
Mussel Shoals

The house was far from ostentatious — a flat-top, one-story bungalow with a square footage not much bigger than a double-wide trailer.

But it suited Luster, and there he became a full-time surf bum, living primarily off his trust fund allowance of $55,000 a year. He dabbled in real estate and played the stock market, but Luster never had to be bothered with a real job.

He could walk out of his oceanside house and be surfing in minutes at Mussel Shoals, where the Pacific produces reliable if not spectacular waves. But Rincon Point, a California surfing Mecca, is just minutes away, and Luster became a regular among the men and woman who gathered there to hang ten or simply hang out.

Rincon Beach
Rincon Beach

He regarded surfing as a form of creative expression. "It's an artistic form, like a dance," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Elizabeth Luster didn't get it. Luster's slacking was a longtime source of conflict with his mother, who for years dedicated her time and money to a charitable foundation focused on animal rights. 

Even fatherhood did not put a crimp in Drew's surfer-dude lifestyle.

He and a girlfriend, Valerie Balderama, had two children, a son, Connor, born in 1991, and daughter Quinn, born three years later.

The couple broke up, but Drew Luster supported his offspring and was involved in the children's lives.

So was Luster's mother. She bought Balderama and her grandchildren a home in pricey Pacific Palisades, where $1 million gets you two bedrooms and one bath.

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