Superbowl Surf Weekend.

The weather and surf were great over the Superbowl Weekend in Southern California. In Imperial Beach, the groms were having a great time.

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Surfing at its Best: Katy’s Endless Summer Surf Contest

Katy Fallon of Katy's Cafe with a local grom and my son Daniel on the right.

Katy Fallon of Katy’s Cafe in my hometown of Imperial Beach is one of the nicest and community-minded surfers around. On Sunday she held her second free surf contest for children, Katy’s Endless Summer Surf Contest. More than 75 groms (boys and girls) surfed fun 2-4′ waves at the north end of Imperial Beach. For a while the waves were fun and offshore. Then the tide dropped and a wicked south wind hit. But the conditions were surfable to the end and everyone had a great time. My longtime friend Manny Vargas was the contest Director, with a great crew of hardcore IB surfers acting as judges.

Since the month before I had been immersed in the WiLDCOAST Dempsey Holder Surf Contest and Ocean Festival, this was a great opportunity just to watch my sons and surf and hang out with longtime friends and my family.

Longtime IB surfer Manny Vargas who was the contest director.

I was really proud of both my sons who won wetsuits as prizes for winning and quickly donated them to other kids. This event is all about giving back. And I am thankful that Katy and Manny set the right tone for this gem of an event.

My son Daniel in his first heat when the waves were fun and offshore. Before the south wind and then later a huge strorm hit San Diego.

There is a nice tradition of free events for kids in San Diego. The Dempsey is free to any child who can’t afford to pay. And the Jetty Kids Contest in Mission Beach is the same.

Thankfully there are lots of surfers out there who have remembered that our sport and lifestyle are about giving back and working with the next generation of surfers.

Mahalo to Katy and Manny!!

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Waterman: Dempsey Holder and the Tijuana Sloughs

Dempsey Holder. Photo courtesy of John Elwell.

This is from my column of October 5, 2011. This is excerpted from my book, Wild Sea. It originally appeared in Longboard Magazine in the fall of 1993 and helped to inspire the Surhenge Monument at the Imperial Beach Pier.

With the upcoming 8th Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest (there is still space avaialable so register now!) scheduled for Oct. 16 at the Imperial Beach Pier, I thought it was important to remind readers what a legendary surfer Allen “Dempsey” Holder was.

A California ocean lifeguard and big wave surfer, Dempsey was among the elite club of surfing pioneers that included such men as Don Oakey, Lorrin Harrison, and Pete Peterson who were protype watermen.

I first met Dempsey when I was a kid and got to know him better in 1981, when I became an Imperial Beach lifeguard at the age of seventeen. Retired, Dempsey lived in a huge wooden white house on the beach (appropriately called “The White House”) a couple of doors down from the old Imperial Beach Lifeguard Station at the end of Palm Avenue.

One summer Dempsey cleared out the laundry room and charged me a dollar a day to stay there.

In 1984, I interviewed Dempsey for an oral history project while an undergraduate at UC San Diego. By listening to his stories for hours, I uncovered Dempsey’s remarkable history of athletic prowess and his unique depression-era way of looking at and respecting the ocean.

Surfing a small day at the Sloughs in December 1967. Photo courtesy of Bill Gove.

To gather material on the Sloughs, I spent a summer interviewed surfing pioneers and legends such as Peter Cole, Lorrin Harrison, Flippy Hoffman, Dorian Paskowitz, Ron Drummond, and others who had surfed with Dempsey. I was impressed by their admiration for Dempsey’s surfing skills and ocean prowess. Dempsey, who was a generous and kind man, died in 1997 at the age of 77.


Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz: There are two kinds of surfers. There’s the Buzzy Trent type who surf big waves but aren’t really into walking the nose. Then there’s the Phil Edwards types who are blessed with amazing ability. Their surfing is like ballet. Dempsey was a big wave surfer. A big solid guy. Low-key. Not much for bragging.

Dempsey Holder: Back in West Texas where I was raised there were lots of cowboys, but that didn’t mean too much. The thing that was a real compliment was to be a stockman. That’s like a waterman—somebody that can handle themselves in the water. Emergency come along—you can take care of yourself.

Flippy Hoffman: Dempsey was the guru down there.

John Elwell: Around ’47, ’48, we met a guy named Storm Surf Taylor. He said, “Go down there and see Dempsey if you want to start surfing.” Dempsey was known as the guy who takes off on big waves. He’d been down at the Sloughs since 1939.

John Blankenship: Dempsey was just unbelievable. There wasn’t anybody else for sheer guts. He was the ultimate big wave rider. No fancy moves. He caught the biggest waves and went surfing. The closest guy to Dempsey was Gard Chapin, although Gard never tackled waves as big as Dempsey.

Bobby Goldsmith: Dempsey was an iron man. He was fearless and brave and he had the guts. He took off on anything and could push through anything in any kind of surf.

Chuck Quinn: Dempsey rode the biggest waves back further than anybody.

Buddy Hull: He’d take off even if he only had a 20 percent chance of making it. Dempsey would take off on anything, always deeper than he should have.

Jack “Woody” Eckstrom: I remember him saying, “If you make every wave you’re not calling it close enough.”

Dempsey's lifeguard truck at the Sloughs either in the 1940s or early 1950s.


Dempsey Holder: In the summer of ’37 I went down to the Sloughs and camped with my family. Well, I saw big waves breaking out at outside shorebreak and went bodysurfing. I never did get out to the outside of it. A big set came and I was still inside of it. Well, I sort of made note of that. Boy, you know surf breaking out that far.

Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison: Back in the early ’40s, I surfed the Sloughs when it was huge. It was all you could do to get out. Really big. We were way the hell out there. Canoe Drummond came down.

Ron “Canoe” Drummond: We pulled out and the surf was probably about twenty feet high or so. I looked out about a mile and there where some tremendously big waves were breaking. I asked if anybody wanted to go out there with me, but nobody did. So I went in my canoe and paddled out there.

Jim “Burrhead” Drever: One time about 1947, I was sleeping in my ’39 convertible right on the beach at Windansea, and I heard these guys pounding on the car. I’d heard about the Sloughs and they were going, so I followed them. It was pretty damn big. This was before I went over to the Hawaiian Islands, and I’d never seen waves that big around here.

Peter Cole: I was out there surfing with Chuck Quinn and Dempsey Holder in the ’50s. The surf was about 15 foot, Hawaiian size. Chuck and Dempsey went out and got stuck in the shorebreak, but I managed to paddle out in the rip. I was out riding the smaller waves, when I heard someone yell, “Outside.” I looked out and all I saw was whitewater everywhere. I lost my board and had to swim in.

Chuck Quinn: We were out there surfing on a big day and Pat Curren lost his board. Pat was frustrated and feeling lousy. He didn’t have any money and it wasn’t like today when they break a board and go buy another one. We all looked for Pat’s board, but that board just disappeared.

Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest

On October 16th, 2011 WiLDCOAST will hold the 8th Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest in Imperial Beach, California from 7am-3pm at the Imperial Beach Pier. This annual family friendly charity event has become the largest surf contest in south San Diego County with over 120 competitors in ten different divisions and hundreds of spectators as well as music, prizes and other entertainment.

Proceeds from the event support WiLDCOAST’s efforts to protect the most threatened and ecologically important coastal areas and wildlife in Southern California and Mexico.  Since 2,000 WiLDCOAST has helped to conserve over two million acres of beautiful bays, beaches, islands and lagoons.

In 2011, the Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest will expand internationally. WiLDCOAST is partnering with the United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO), a bi-national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide surfing youths in Mexico and the United States opportunities in competitive surfing and cultural exchange.

Imperial Beach, California The symbol of this ...

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Generous Dempsey sponsors include Billabong, County of San Diego, Pacific Realty, REI, Emerald City the Boarding Source, Oakley, Southwest Airlines, URT, Ocean Minded, The Surfer’s Journal, Pacifica Companies, Alan Cunniff Construction, APS Marine Services and Equipment, Firewire, Matuse, and PAWA. Additionally Cowabunga and Katy’s Café will be providing support and treats for the contestants. Jay Novak of Novak Surf Designs and Brett Bender of Natural Selection Surfboards have shaped boards especially for the junior winners.

Community residents can also sponsor a child for the Dempsey. This helps to provide scholarships for local needy children to participate. Over the past eight years hundreds of children have participated in the Dempsey thanks to the support of community supporters and sponsors.

Registration is still open but filling up fast. The event once again includes the popular menehune division in which every child receives a medal. This year surfers such as Kyle Knox, Sean Malabanan, Keith McCloskey, Sean Fowler, Josh Johnson, and Terry Gillard among others are expected to compete. Heats will be carried out on the south and north sides of the Imperial Beach pier providing maximum shredding and viewing opportunities.

Registration for the Dempsey can be done at or email or call 619.423.8665 ext. 200 for more information. For information on sponsoring a child contact Lenise Andrade at 619.423.8665 ext. 201 or via

WiLDCOAST is an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife.

Tim Townsley and the Business of Crafting Surfboards

From my September 14, 2011, Imperial Beach Patch Column:

Back in 1993, Imperial Beach surfer Tim Townsley set up a surfboard factory, TNT Surfboards, in a big empty warehouse at the northern end of 13th Street, next to San Diego Bay. Back in the 1990s TNT was producing between 8-10 surfboards a day according to Imperial Beach Patch. Faced with an economic downturn, dramatic changes in the surfboard industry due to globalization and offshore production, and the development of the Bayshore Bike Village, Tim is closing the 13th Street factory down and looking for new space. The TNT factory has employed some of San Diego County’s elite surfboard shapers including Dave Craig, Jay Novak and Brett Bender. Tim still runs the TNT Surfboard Shop at 206 Palm Ave in Imperial Beach and is shaping boards through his own Townsley label.

Patch: How did you start TNT?

Tim Townsley: I started TNT Surfboards in the 1980’s. My employer at the time Tony Daleo of Star Glassing ran one of the original San Diego surfboard factories and decided to call it quits. When Tony dropped out I started a small glass shop in my mother-in-law’s garage on Ebony Avenue in Imperial Beach. I built boards for locals but other shapers from throughout San Diego County started contracting me to build for them well. Things just kind of blew up from there.

Patch: Who influenced you to get into the surfboard industry and start shaping?

Townsley: I started at the Star factory that was the starting point for many San Diego surfboard makers. Local shaper Brett Bender worked at the Star factory and he encouraged me to apply for an open position. A great deal of what I learned there is what made it possible to start my own shop.

Patch: Do you remember the first board you shaped?

Townsley: Over the years I’ve made thousands of surfboards for some of the world’s most well known shapers and some of the top surfing professionals. When I look back on it I’m astound by the numbers I’ve produced over the years. There were far too many to remember the first one I shaped.

Patch: How did the demise of Clark Foam in 2006 impact your business?

Townsley: TNT was producing thousands of surfboards a year when (Grubby) Clark quit.  Man, what a blow that was. If you can imagine trying to build a car without tires, that is what we were up against. We made it through that hard time.

Surfboard building has never been the same since.  Grubby Clark saw something coming the rest of us didn¹t. It has been a tough go ever since that day

Patch: How has the surfboard industry changed over the past few years?

Townsley: The industry has shrunk today compared to the heyday of the 80’s.The bigger shops have all quit or sold out to larger corporations who quickly moved their operations offshore to China

Patch: Why should surfers work with a local shaper?

Townsley: Buying local is important no matter what you purchase. Buying local stimulates the local economy.  When it comes to surfboards sure you can by a pop-out brand, but in my experience cheaper price usually means lower quality. Buying from your local board maker is going to typically yield a higher quality surfboard that will last and will perform better than your typical mass-produced import model. Board builders are not getting rich at this. It is hard work and you pour a lot of yourself into it both physically and mentally so when we see someone on a board made in China it is heartbreaking.

Patch: You are currently shaping under your own Townsley label. What types of boards are you shaping right now?

Townsley: I¹m going back to basics with the Townsley line–low entry rocker, flat bottom, with vee off the tail. This design is proven to be fast, responsive and it will hold in a tight spot. It worked for Tommy Curren in the 80’s and it works now. I think there are a lot of progressive designs out there but also a lot of gimmicks. It is important for surfers to develop a relationship with their local shaper and work with them over the long term.

Massive Swell Pounds California: An Interview with Surfline Forecaster Sean Collins

From a Patch article I published on Friday September 2, 2011.

Waves from a storm that originated off of Antarctica have pounded Southern California beaches since Wednesday resulting in at least one drowning in Orange County and resulting in broken surfboards up and down the coast and epic rides for the region’s best surfers.

Beaches that saw larger than usual surf with sets up between 8-10 feet included Imperial Beach, Coronado, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Trestles, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach among others.

“Yesterday, one reef in La Jolla was breaking with eight wave sets and was at least triple overhead,” said marine biologist and surfer David Kacev.

According to Surfline, the size of the sets breaking at Newport Beach’s infamous Wedge, were between 15-20’ yesterday.

Image representing Surfline as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Lifeguards from Imperial Beach to Zuma are patrolling beaches to make sure inexperienced surfers and swimmers stay out of the water and out of trouble.

The drowning victim, Jowayne Binford of Long Beach, was an inexperienced ocean swimmer according to his mother, Gail Binford, in an interview with KABC-7.

On Tuesday, Sean Collins, Chief Forecaster and President of Surfline, alerted Southern California authorities about the dangers posed by the swell. In a press release he stated that, “Extra caution is urged to keep the public aware and safe from these large waves and associated rip currents.”

Sean Collins at work. Photo courtesy of Surfline.

Collins was the first person to accurately forecast swells on a regular basis in the ’70s and early ’80s. He pioneered and created the first ongoing surf forecast available to the surfing public via Surfline and 976-SURF in 1985.

From his coastal headquarters in Huntington Beach, Collins and his Surfline team provide surf-related weather and forecasting services to lifeguard agencies in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, and surf companies.

Surfer Magazine named Sean one of the “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century”. In 2008, he was inducted to the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. He is the author of California Surf Guide: The Secrets to Finding the Best Waves.

Sean acted as Chief Forecaster for last week’s Billabong Pro Tahiti surf contest at Teahupoo, in which the same swell that is now pounding Southern California resulted in 40-foot waves and closed harbors throughout the island chain.

When I caught up with Sean, he was on his way to New York City to act as Chief Forecaster for the $1 million Quiksilver Pro New York surf contest, that will be held on Long Beach, New York from September 4-15.

Q. When was the last time we had a southern hemisphere swell this big hit California.

A. Actually this is the biggest out of the southwest for quite a while, I think that last one like this was April 2004. The swell in July 2009 that hit the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach was actually a little bigger, but not as long period. Depending on the swell period some areas will focus the swell energy better like on Wednesday. The 20-22” periods were really focusing into some areas but completely missing others. Once the period dropped on Thursday most other areas began to see the swell.

Q. It seems like the swell hit earlier than forecast and the estimate of its duration is now longer than originally forecast?

A. Only because the spots that focus the longer periods picked up earlier. If we forecasted for that, most spots and surfers would have said we were wrong. We did say that the swell would be filling in Wednesday afternoon. Longer periods travel faster than shorter periods so that is why the long period spots flared up first. Longer swell periods also help the swell to wrap into San Diego County where spots need more southwest in the direction, or longer periods to feel the ocean floor to wrap in.

Q. Is it hard to predict the surf that is generated from southern hemisphere storms?

A. It’s the most difficult because there is so little data in the middle of the ocean to validate the models, and the models are off all the time. A difference of 5 knots of wind speed between 40 knots to 45 knots in a storm off New Zealand will result in a 24-hour difference in arrival time here in California and a difference of 4-feet in surf face height.

Q. These large storms off of Antarctica that produce massive swells are pretty unique. Generally how often receive southern hemisphere swells?

A. On the long term average we receive about 50 swells a year from storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of those swells create surf of 3 feet on the wave face, 40% of those swells are over 5 feet, 10% are over 8 feet. This swell is obviously in the top 10% and we usually receive about 5 major overhead southern hemisphere swells a year. But this swell is definitely at the top of the best swells and will probably be the largest southern hemisphere swell we’ve received in the past few years since the July 2009 swell. Again, most of San Diego County is not exposed to all of the southerly directions like other areas in Southern California so you may not see as many there.

Q. When large sets hit one location are they hitting different areas around the same time?

A. Powerful long crested swell like this one do have sets that arrive at the same time along a few miles of beach. And the swell energy travels in these big patches through the ocean with big lulls in between.

Q. Besides the Wedge in Newport Beach, what locations in Southern California Cal received the brunt of the swell?

A. La Jolla wrapped in it great. And then everywhere from Oceanside up to Huntington Pier was solid. North of there was shadowed behind the Islands (Catalina and Channel Islands). The LA County South Bay around El Porto, north to Ventura was also very solid. Malibu was epic Thursday but saw very little of the swell on Wednesday, due to the swell period and island shadowing issues.

Master Craftsman: Jay Novak and the Art of Surfboard Shaping

From my Imperial Beach Patch column of July 13, 2011.

Jay Novak at work.

When I first started surfing in 1977, I immediately became aware of Jay Novak of Novak Surfboard Designs through his incredibly stylish and tube-savvy surfing and the fact that he along with Mike Richardson and Dave Craig was part of IB’s elite group of master surfboard shapers. Jay is still shaping and surfing in IB and around the world. I’m lucky to have him shape my surfboards, which are among the best I’ve ever surfed. Jay’s innovative and groundbreaking quad surfboard from 1980 is on display at the Imperial Beach Surfboard Museum at Dempsey Holder Surfboard Safety Center. Jay recently also had one of his surfboards featured on the cover of Surfer Magazine.

Patch: When did you start shaping?

Jay Novak surfing in Imperial Beach

Jay Novak: I started shaping in high school in the 1970’s. At that time surfboard design was going through a major period of change. In 1968 the first shortboards were used, all but replacing 9-foot and longer boards. But the issue with the new more sensitive and maneuverable boards was that no one had figured out exactly what design features made a board surf well. Therefore many different shapes and sizes of boards were used. Anything from 8-foot V bottoms ( they looked like cut off 9 footers) to 7 1/2 foot by 18″ Hawaiian influenced single fins to 5 1/2 foot  twin fins with wide tails.  And everything in between. It took years and many different ideas to reach a bit of a design standard.

Patch: What is the history of the quad you shaped that is on display at the Dempsey Holder Safety Center?

Novak quiver.

Novak: The quad board in the IB Surf Museum is my personal board from 1980. It was one of my favorite boards ever. This board was also the model for the Imperial Beach Outdoor Surfboard Museum – the red metal outline sculptures- at Seacoast and Palm. I was surfing pretty well at the time, at least surfing pretty often. Most of my customers wanted twin fins, although maybe 25 % of my orders were quads . The 3-fin Simon Anderson era was right around the corner. I thought the twins were a little too sensitive and harder to control backside.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Wallis.

Changing to 4-fins seemed to correct these issues. I was one of the last to switch to 3-fins as I thought they were slower and not as free to turn as the twins or quads. Remember the boards of this era were thick and had less rocker. It would be quite a few years until boards thinned out and performance took a leap forward. I also remember I could tell how many fins were on a board by the way it worked in the water.

Patch: What is your relationship with AKA Surfboards?

Novak: I have been shaping for AKA (based in Encinitas) for 6 years now. The company has shown quite a bit of growth to the point now where we send boards all over the world, have high profile team riders and are known throughout the world.

Peter Devries on the June 2011 cover of Surfer Magazine surfing a Jay Novak AKA surfboard

The June issue of Surfer Magazine featured Peter Devries one of the AKA crew on the cover. This is a big deal in the surf industry! I have been shaping for Peter for five years. He is Canada’s best known pro surfer (Serge’s note: I surfed with Peter in Canada-he shreds!). Working with surfers like Peter to get boards “just right” forces me to keep current, lose any complacency and the end result is a better board for all my customers.

Patch: How do you use computers in your shaping?

Novak:I shape about 75% of the AKA boards with computer assistance, versus maybe 50/50 of my total workload. The computer allows an exact duplicate of a board to be shaped. Besides saving time, we are increasingly asked to shape a particular “model” of board, moving away from a custom shape for an individual.

For example AKA has 18 models and I can change size and dimensions on all of these models up or down for each customer’s needs and get a perfect result. Although I really feel creative when I hand shape a board from start to finish there is a place for both and the end result should be the same. I have always kept detailed records of the boards I have shaped.

Patch: What is the state of surfing in Southern California today?

Me on my 6'6" Novak quad at Barra de la Cruz in Oaxaca. One of the best surfboards I've ever owned.

Novak: I think that surfing today in Southern California has progressed greatly in the past few years. I am nothing if not a surf observer. About 350 days a year I start my day by walking to the beach and looking at the waves, hoping it will be good enough to motivate me.

About 10 years ago I observed that surfers were using boards that were either too small or too big. The 9-foot longboards had become popular but these boards were not meant to be used everyday. Especially here in IB where the waves can on occasion break shallow and hard. Better to use them when the surf is head high or less. The short boards of the time were narrow and had low volume, making them suited for larger waves with more power.

Patch: What kind of surfboards work for IB?

Novak: Things to consider when surfing in IB. What kind of surf do we have in this area? Average size shoulder high? Not particularly good? Something inbetween the 2 extremes of long and short should work when surfing in IB.

I am glad that it has again become fashionable to ride short boards that have added width and thickness. This has certainly helped the average surfer to get more rides with better results. I personally enjoy egg shapes in the 6 1/2 to 8 foot size and small 4-fin fish shapes. Of course I will ride my 9-footer often and my short board when the conditions are better.

In the last three weeks I have surfed a different board each time I went in the water, hoping to choose the right one for each different day. The surfboards of today are better than ever. It is easier to learn as well as quicker to become an accomplished rider. Perhaps that is why there are so many good surfers now.

Remembering Gromhood

I started surfing at the age of 13 in 1977. My Hemlock Avenue neighbor Harry Hildebrand hooked me up with Radical Roy who sold me a 6’11 no-name winger-rounded pin single fin for thirteen dollars. Harry sold me a beavertail wetsuit for four dollars.

Seventeen dollars was a lot of money back then.

After I bought my board, I would ride my bike down to the beach and spend the day off of Elm Street. There I met Donny Dominguez who seemed to know more about surfing than I did and was the proud owner of an electric purple Richard Jolie pintail.

Everyday at the beach was an adventure.

When school started I stared surfing with Jim Dodds, Marty Stone, Bobby Maupin, Chris Patterson, Tim Hannan, Greg Parman, Larry Crauswell, Tim Sweeney, John Arnold, and Dan Mehlos as well as with Donny.

My first trip to real Baja with my dad and Tim Hannan back in the epic X-mas break of 1978.

Greg, who was in the ninth grade, was a real surfer. He had an effortless style, could pull of laybacks at the snap of a finger, and was one of San Diego County’s best groms. He had a Christmas color winger swallow single-fin (a Sunset?).

Greg was cool and we were all trying to be cool. But the minute we hit the water, none of that mattered. All we wanted to do was surf. Every day. All day.

I still do.

Later in high school I met the real surfers-Tim Decker, Barry Palmatier, Lindy Dalmas, Bill Johnson, Mark Ganderton, and Randy Garvin–who all ripped and seemed to know everything about surfing. They manned the surfer bench that freshman were not allowed to sit at.

If we were lucky they found a place in their surfmobiles for us on surf trips to Baja and the Cliffs. It seemed like sometimes half of the IB surfer population could be found at Baja Malibu or the K-38’s parking lot.

Back in the late 70s, there was no surf forecast. No one had a clue when waves were coming. We just showed up at the beach everyday and hoped for the best.

Of course my first years of surfing were epic El Nino surf years. In 77-78 the surf pumped non-stop. So did 79-80 when the giant surf destroyed the Imperial Beach Pier. The Sloughs broke way outside.

On my first outing there with the grom squad we got pushed south of the rivermouth, but somehow scratched back to the outside.

Out in the IB lineup I met the guys who defined IB surfing—Mark and Glen Gould, Kelly Kraus, Dave Parra, Radical Roy, Randy Coutts, Aaron Chang, Mark Stone, Jim Sullivan, the Carroll brothers, Jim and Bobby Barber, Richard Abrams, Pat McClosky, Coco, Bobby Spitzer, the Smith brothers, and Richard Cacnindin among other. Dempsey Holder was always around the beach. Dave Craig, Mike Richardson and Jay Novak were the shapers of choice for IB surfers (back when IB surfers only rode boards shaped by local shapers). Aaron Chang was just starting his career as a surf photographer (I remember his first slideshow at the IB library where his mom was a librarian).

Occassionally a surf movie–Going Surfing, Five Summer Stories—would play at the Palm Theater and the entire South Bay surfing population would turn out.

It was awesome.

Jim Knox was our first high school surf coach and took us to Baja on surf trips. His brother Jeff had just finished grad school at UCLA and moved back to IB. I met Jeff and his wife Mercedes on my second surf to Baja back in 1979 with my dad and Jim Dodds.

Back then no one had any money. All we had was stoke.

Today everything has changed. But the most important things haven’t.

We are still lucky that we get to surf and share the stoke with lifelong friends and all the groms who are just like we were.

Perpetually stoked.

Celebrating a New Sewage Plant on the U.S.-Mexico Border

From my Southwest Surf Column of May 18, 2011:

Last Friday I attended the inauguration of the new upgrade of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Ysidro.

This ribbon-cutting event marked the end of a decade-long effort to have the plant, which discharges treated sewage into the Pacific Ocean, meet Clean Water Act standards. In accordance with a binational treaty, the plant treats 25 million gallons a day of sewage collected in Tijuana and treated less than a mile north of the border.

Image via Wikipedia

The new plant will mean that the ocean outfall pipe located more than three miles from shore just north of the U.S.-Mexico border will discharge considerably cleaner water for Imperial Beach and Coronado.

For years, a lack of adequate sewage infrastructure in the border region has posed a serious environmental and health threat to the communities of San Diego and Tijuana. This problem has gradually worsened over the years with the substantial growth of Tijuana’s population and industrial sector.

Large volumes of untreated wastewater still flow into the Tijuana River valley today and into the ocean just south of the border.

In July 1990 the U.S. and Mexico agreed to build an International Wastewater Treatment Plant (IWTP) on the U.S. side of the border as part of a regional solution. This facility is now treating sewage flows that exceed the capacity of the existing Tijuana sewage treatment system. In doing so, it plays a key role in restoring the environmental quality of the Tijuana River valley and safeguarding the health of border region residents.

The U.S. wastewater plant is run by the International Boundary and Water Commission, which operates sewage and flood control projects all along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A small fence separates densely populated Tiju...

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The San Ysidro facility never met the “secondary treatment” standards in U.S. law until just recently. That’s partly because the commission couldn’t afford to complete all of the necessary infrastructure within its initial budget of $239 million.

For much of the past decade, treatment upgrades were on hold while a San Diego County company called Bajagua lobbied for a federal contract to build and operate a separate plant in Mexico. That effort fell apart in May 2008, when thanks to the advocacy work by the residents of Imperial Beach and Coronado, the city of Imperial Beach and WiLDCOAST, the U.S. government decided to upgrade the San Ysidro facility rather than build a new plant in Tijuana. That decision saved American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

On hand to celebrate the new treatment plant were Baja California Governor Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, International Boundary and Water Commissioner Commissioner Edward Drusina, CILA Commissioner Roberto Salmon, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams, WiLDCOAST’s Ben McCue and many other officials and community members. Two prominent IB surfers who attended the event included, Katy Fallon and Kristy Murphy.

I made a point of thanking officials from both the U.S. and Mexico, including Governor Osuna, on finally finishing the plant.

While much work remains to be done, it is important to recognize the substantial progress that has been made.

More progress will only come when IB and Coronado surfers continue to constructively  lobby elected officials and agencies to allocate funding to systematically deal with binational water quality problems.

Since it is our coastline, we have to be the ones taking the lead on identifying problems and working with agencies to implement solutions.

That is the only way we can reclaim our beaches and our coast.

The beach on the Pacific Ocean at the U.S.-Mex...

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Ben McCue contributed to this article.

A-Frames and Ice Cream Headaches

My Imperial Beach Patch column of March 9th.

Like most of you I haven’t been able to keep track of the the non-stop weekend rain storms followed by Santa Ana conditions with good clean surf.

IB in the winter. Photo: Rob Hurlbut,

“After such a great January and first half of February, the rest of 2011 thus far wasn’t quite so epic,” said Wildcoaster, IB surfer, and Matuse team member Zach Plopper. “Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the south side of the pier finally lit up providing tube time and ice-cream headaches all around.”

I dawn patrolled with the groms on Tuesday morning at 5:50. Alex Yepis soon followed. I scored a few hollow rights and a cool barrel. Dave Thomas was of course ripping. I caught a wave in at about 7:30. It was cold and I was cold. Later I watched Zach and Kyle Knox rip it up when the tide got higher and the offshore wind cleaned it up.

By the way check out Zach’s cool new video with Matuse family members Chris Del Moro and Luke Rife ripping it up in North County.

Despite the odd conditions, IB locals are keeping fit and preparing for the OAKLEY Surf Shop Team Challenge on Friday March 11th at Seaside Reef in Solana Beach.

“I have been training for the Challenge,” said Sean Malabanan. “I will represent The SurfHut and surf with Sean Fowler, Matt Field, Keith McCloskey who will represent our hometown shop.”

On Tuesday Sean and Matt Field were getting familiar with Seaside.  Friday’s event is the Southwest Regional Qualifier, winning team to compete at H.B. for $10,000 purse.

“Wish us luck,” said Sean.

Luckily a few surfers are traveling and meeting up with their IB bretheren around the globe. “Mercedes and I had a wonderful time on the North Shore last month visiting IBer’s Kim and Lynn Dodds at their Sunset Beach home,” recounted Jeff. “They are the most incredible hosts. The surfing highlight of our trip was a go-out at Leftovers with Terry Gillard Kim, A.J. Hubbard, Javier Mata, and Kristyan Stjerne. We spent another week on Kauai at Abram and Jenine’s coffee farm in Kona, helping out with coffee production from picking to roasting. I caught some classic overhead waves at Lymans, a great left in Kailua.”

Terry Gillard, Kim Dodds and Jeff Knox on the North Shore. Photo: Jeff Knox

When you stop by Katy’s Café ask Katy about her epic trip to surf the secret spots of Guerrero, Mexico with Cat and Kristy of Siren Surf Adventures.

“I had one of the best days  in my life surfing a left until I couldn’t surf anymore,” said Katy. “I saw whales, watched sea turtles swim under me, and even saw a shark. The wildlife was abundant, and the water was about 90 degrees in the shallows.”

Ben McCue and I will be hosted by Cat Slatinsky and Kristy Murphy next week as we tour the coast of Guerrero with the WiLDCOAST team that is based out of Acapulco. Lots of swell is on the way and according to Cat, “The surf is firing right now.”

I can’t wait to surf and hang out with two of my favorite and most stoked and positive IB locals. Cat and Kristy never seem to tire of doing good things and connecting people to look on the bright side of life.

I’ll be at Coronado’s Bay Books on Thursday March 10th from 6:30-8:00 PM talking about my book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias. Hope to see you there.

And thanks to all the IB locals and good friends who lent their support at my mother’s wonderful and laughter filled memorial service at the Dempsey Center last Sunday.

See you in the water.

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