Why Saving Trestles Still Matters

I still remember the first time I walked down the trail to Upper Trestles, on the western edge of San Onofre State Beach in Southern California, to compete in a NSSA high school contest. While the memories of the waves I caught that day 42 years ago in 1979 as a 15-year old have faded, I still vividly recall the green canopy of San Mateo Creek and our first glimpse of the dunes and breaking waves beyond the train tracks. It was magical.

The over 2,000 acres of San Onofre State Beach as well as the watershed of San Mateo Creek provides habitat for 11 endangered species. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

I’m not the only surfer who feels that way. Greg Long, who grew up riding the cobblestone A-frames of Trestles prior to embarking on his career as a professional big wave surfer, calls San Onofre State Beach a “real treasure.”

“San Mateo Creek is one of but a few remaining unadulterated and channelized watersheds in Southern California,” says Long. “When I walk down to the beach it’s like entering a time capsule, home to multiple endangered species and the cultural history of the Acjachemen people, offering a glimpse into what coastal Southern California may have been like once upon a time before all the development.”

Trestles is on the village site known as Panhe, which is known to archeologists to be at least 9,600 years old. Photo: Danny Hardesty

Greg’s sentiment is echoed by Dan Silver, CEO of the Endangered Habitats League who has worked tirelessly to protect the park and the San Mateo Creek watershed. “San Onofre State Beach and Trestles remain important for a rare confluence of values – cultural, biological, and recreational,” says Silver. “It is rich in Native American history. An estuary, stream, and uplands shelter an astonishing 11 endangered species.”

But, before it was ever a state park or a world famous surf spot, San Mateo Creek, was an Acjachemen village known as Pahne, or “place at the water.” According to Callie Shanafelt Wong, “Today the Acjachemen consider what is left of Panhe to be their most sacred site. Pre-contact, the village spanned the entire valley now occupied by the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, San Onofre State Beach and much of the town of San Clemente. To this day the tribe conducts ceremony and an Ancestor Walk on a small designated area within San Mateo campground, which is also a burial site.” To learn more about the cultural significance of Panhe and San Onofre State Beach through the lens of the Acjachemen, see The Indigenous Coastal Stewards Who Helped Save Trestles.

Greg Long at the California Coastal Commission Hearing on the proposed TCA Toll Road at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, February 7, 2008 with groms from Imperial Beach. With thousands in attendance, it was the largest public gathering at a Coastal Commission meeting in California history.

For the Acjachemen Nation and the more than 2.5 million annual visitors who enjoy the beaches, waves, trails, and campgrounds of San Onofre State Beach, making it one of the top five visited state parks in California, clearly, this iconic landscape is irreplaceable.

It is amazing to think that even with all the love for San Onofre State Beach, and especially Trestles, by the public and especially surfers, that the Transportation Corridor Agency or TCA had the audacity to propose building a toll road through the middle of the park. But that is exactly what happened. Starting in 2005, thousands of surfers came out to protest the TCA’s proposed highway project that would have torn apart one of California’s most beloved state parks.

Video of Lower Trestles by Danny Hardesty 

“‘Save Trestles’ became a rallying cry for surfers and environmentalists in Southern California,” says WILDCOAST Associate Director Zach Plopper. “It was really inspiring.”

A foundational element in the campaign, was, according to Shanaeflt Wong, the development of the “United Coalition to Protect Panhe (UPCC) to assert the importance of the area to the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians/Acjachemen Nation.” The UPCC involvement played a major role in the California Coastal Commission’s decision to deny the TCA a permit for the highway project.

At a February 7, 2008 Commission hearing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on the toll road project, Rebecca Robles, an Ajcachemem tribal member from San Clemente told the Coastal Commission, “I encourage you, I implore you to uphold the California Coastal Act. Panhe is one of the remaining sites where we can enjoy our spiritual individuality. I ask you to protect this sacred site.”

The fact that the first-ever winner-take-all Rip Curl WSL Finals is being held at Lower Trestles, highlights the importance of what the World Surf League calls one of the most high performance waves in the world. – Photo: Jeremiah Klein

As a conservationist who has been involved in multiple environmental campaigns in the U.S. and internationally, I was continually blown away by the ingenuity, creativity, diversity, and energy of one of the most groundbreaking and comprehensive movements to protect the coast in California history.

“The decades-long Save Trestle campaign has provided a treasure trove of lessons on how to save our beloved coastal places for everyone and forever,” says Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation.

“First lesson, perseverance pays off. We refused to give up for decades and we won. Second, people power matters. We were outspent one hundred to one, but we had thousands of people on our side who showed up when it mattered and that worked. Third, it takes a village. We had a strong, well-led coalition where everyone could focus on their strengths, whether that was grassroots organizing of surfers or political and legal strategy. We needed it all to win,” adds Nelsen.

The campaign, that included a lawsuit by the California Native Heritage Commission on behalf of the Acjachemen and another one by the Save San Onofre Coalition (disclosure- WILDCOAST, the organization I am the Executive Director of is a member of the coalition), ultimately culminated last year in the signing by California Governor Gavin Newsom of Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath’s Assembly Bill 1426.

Surfers, indigenous peoples, youth, businesses, and ocean lovers in Southern California teamed up to save Trestles and protect San Onofre State Beach from the building of road projects through the middle of the park. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

“AB 1426 permanently protects San Onofre State Beach,” explains Boerner Horvath, “which is home to the last remaining undeveloped watershed in Southern California – the San Mateo Creek – from road projects that would have cut through the creek bed, ruined the popular campground, and disturbed habitats of rare and endangered species. As a third-generation North San Diego County resident, I’m proud to say we saved Trestles for the generations to come and will continue to protect this coastal gem.”

Currently, efforts are underway to renew the San Onofre State Beach lease which is crucial for its long-term conservation and management. The park was created back in 1971 through an agreement between Governor Ronald Reagan and President Richard Nixon that established a 50-year lease with the U.S. Navy. That lease is up this year.

“After six years of working with Steve Long and the San Onofre Parks Foundation on the San Onofre State Beach lease renewal, on August 31, 2021 a three-year extension to the 50-year lease that was set to expire at midnight that same day was signed by the Navy and California State Parks,” says longtime Trestles surfer and San Onofre Parks Foundation Founding President Bob Mignogna. “The San Onofre Parks Foundation is committed to working with the Navy and the State of California on an affordable 50-year lease renewal, so that the pristine surf breaks in the park, including Lower Trestles, will continue to be open to the public for generations to come. The three-year extension gives all parties the opportunity to prepare that contract thoughtfully.”

As a uniquely intact coastal ecosystem, Trestles is a constant reminder of why protecting and conserving our coast and ocean is so imperative to our sport. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

“If we learned anything from COVID, it’s that we love to recreate outdoors,” says Nelsen. “Our surf spots and coastal state parks in California are recreational gems that are more popular today than ever. We must protect these amazing resources for today, tomorrow and future generations.”

As a reminder, WILDCOAST, the World Surf League, and a coalition of over 90 NGOs and businesses are calling on world leaders to adopt a target at the 2021 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of the global ocean, including international waters, by 2030. We urge world leaders to be driven by science, and led by an inclusive process that embraces all stakeholder communities and considers the ocean’s value to the peoples of every nation.

For more details and to sign and share the petition, visit weareoneocean.org

A version of this article was originally posted on World Surf League.

Coastal Conservation in Barra de la Cruz, Oaxaca

(Originally published by the World Surf League) From the lineup at Barra de la Cruz, located in Oaxaca, Mexico, the next stop on the World Surf League’s professional surf tour (August 10-20), you would be forgiven for thinking you are in Hawaii. After the rainy season starts, the mountains shimmer endlessly under the green wave of tropical forest.

Barra de la Cruz. Photo: Miguel Angel de la Cueva

The pristine beaches that extend for miles southeastward from the point at “Barra,” like much of this part of Oaxaca’s coastline, include some of the world’s most important nesting sites for sea turtles, including the globally endangered leatherback, ancient behemoths that only come ashore to lay their eggs and travels thousands of miles of ocean to arrive there.

Barra is the most important leatherback nesting beach in Mexico, a species that faces extinction due to industrial and commercial fishing gear entanglements, poaching, coastal development, and other threats.WILDCOAST GranteeDuring the nesting season, 100,000 olive ridley sea turtles can arrive at Playa Morro Ayuta in Oaxaca to lay their eggs in a single day. – CLAUDIO CONTRERAS KOOB

“There are few places in the world that are home to such unique wildlife and pristine coastline as Oaxaca. Barra de la Cruz is no exception,” explains Luis Angel Rojas Cruz, WILDCOAST’s Oaxaca Program Manager. WILDCOAST is working with communities and Mexico’s National Protected Area Commission along this coastline to protect its nesting beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs.

“It is really extraordinary to witness the miracle of Oaxaca’s protected and gorgeous coastline,” adds Rojas Cruz. “The fact that this globally important coastal zone is still relatively pristine is due to the conservation focus and commitment of the coastal indigenous communities of Oaxaca. The indigenous residents of Barra de la Cruz deserve global recognition for their heroic and successful initiatives to protect the world-class wildlife and ecosystems within their community.”WILDCOAST GranteeBirds of a feather taking advantage of their natural feeding grounds. – CLAUDIO CONTRERAS KOOB

Over the past 15 years Barra de la Cruz has become a model for how communities can proactively protect natural resources they depend on for their livelihoods. “The combination of the importance of our beaches for surfing, leatherback sea turtles, and as a hot spot for migratory and resident birds is what makes Barra so special,” says Pablo Narvaez, a Barra resident, eco-guide, and environmental activist.

“In the case of Barra,” according to Zach Plopper, Associate Director of WILDCOAST, “we have a great example of a proactive community that recognizes the importance of protecting their most important and vulnerable ecosystems and wildlife as well as a world-class wave.”https://www.worldsurfleague.com/socialembed?embedId=HNt2D6g_yFI&embedType=youtube

“By not developing the coastal zone and using surfing to provide collective economic benefits for the locals, the community of Barra has set a sustainable example of effective ecosystem conservation,” continues Plopper.

In Barra de la Cruz the community decided to prohibit coastal development, with the exception of a collectively managed restaurant.

“What also makes Barra so unique is that we can promote ecotourism activities that benefit local residents, without ruining the natural resources that make Barra de la Cruz such a world-class surf spot and wildlife habitat,” adds Narvaez.WILD COASTThe coral reefs of nearby Huatulco National Park are among the most well preserved in southern Mexico. – CLAUDIO CONTRERAS KOOB

“What now also makes conservation efforts like these so globally important is that the tropical forest and wetland and mangrove ecosystems that are being conserved along the Oaxacan coast, and especially in Barra de la Cruz, sequester carbon and helps in the fight against climate change,” echoes Rojas Cruz.

Down the coast in Playa Morro Ayuta, a globally important olive ridley sea turtle nesting beach and world-class surf spot, indigenous Chontal community leaders have also committed to protecting their 16-kilometer-long coastline, as well as safeguarding nesting sea turtles and the hatchlings that emerge by the millions. In contrast, further south in Punta Conejo, a major development proposal by the government has once again threatened a surf spot and an important coastal ecosystem.The watersheds and tropical forests in the mountains above Barra de la Cruz and Huatulco, Oaxaca help to store water and atmospheric carbon and are critical in the fight against climate change.  Photo: MIguel Angel de la CuevaThe watersheds and tropical forests in the mountains above Barra de la Cruz and Huatulco, Oaxaca help to store water and atmospheric carbon and are critical in the fight against climate change. – MIGUEL ANGEL DE LA CUEVA

Places like Barra, that are trying to protect their resources including waves, and benefit the local economy, “just need some help with a sustainability model that can benefit everyone in the community and continue to respect the natural environment. That’s really our challenge,” says Narvaez.

In the case of Oaxaca and Barra de la Cruz, these extraordinarily successful locally driven coastal conservation initiatives provide a hopeful template for how we can protect world-class waves and wildlife while saving the planet.

How the ‘Save Trestles’ Campaign Advanced Coastal Protection Efforts Everywhere

(Originally published in The Inertia) On September 14, the eyes of the surfing world were focused on Lower Trestles and the 2021 Rip Curl WSL Finals. WSL commentator Peter Mel dropped a nugget of wisdom when he described the overhead waves and incredible conditions as a “beautiful swell that traveled thousands of miles and focused on (the) cobblestone reef.”

The waves that produced a riveting day of professional surfing at Lowers were a product of distant storms meeting coastal ecosystems protected by the 2,000-acre San Onofre State Beach, which includes surf breaks from Trails in the south to Cottons on the north. 

There is no more intensely surfed zone in all of Southern California, which is why San Onofre State Beach is one of the most popular state parks in the Golden State. ADVERTISEMENThttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.480.1_en.html#goog_386882260 

In her UC San Diego dissertation, Briana Marie Iatarola described the area as, “Two cobble deltas, as well as substrate and sediment transport (that), play critical roles in the formation of Trestles’ reef and waves. The large cobbles produce two fan-shaped deltas on the seafloor. The first, which is fed by the Cristianitos and San Mateo Creeks. The other is located south of Lowers at Church and sustained by the San Onofre Creek. The creeks’ circulation and transport of sediment coupled with cobble substrate help produce Trestles’ sandbars, which affect the shape of waves.” 

Likewise, the ecological importance of San Onofre State Beach cannot be overlooked. “The San Mateo Creek watershed is a remarkable microcosm of vanishing Southern California biodiversity,” says Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League. 

“Its estuary, wetlands, creeks, and uplands shelter an astonishing 11 federally listed endangered species. It is the only coastal watershed south of Ventura which is un-dammed. This natural hydrology is essential for many plants and animals that depend on periodic flooding and dry spells. At San Onofre State Beach, visitors can access this unique, pristine, and nearby wilderness, and experience what our world used to be like.”

Greg Long with groms from Imperial Beach during the February 2008 Coastal Commission hearing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The affection for Trestles and the fabled waves, trails, and campgrounds of San Onofre by surfers and the general public alike are why a proposal to build a highway through the middle of San Onofre State Beach was met by such incredulity and outrage. The political power of the Transportation Corridor Agency to push its “highway from hell” by lobbying agencies, cities, and top government officials in Southern California, Sacramento, and Washington D.C. meant that coastal protectors had to up their game to protect a globally recognized surf spot, a popular state park, and what big wave surfer Greg Long calls “an ecological treasure.”

Given the TCA’s strong political connections that almost allowed the toll road agency to plow a highway through a San Onofre State Beach, a coalition of environmentalists, surfers, and indigenous peoples joined together to “Save Trestles.” In the process, they advanced how surfers and coastal defenders go about protecting our shorelines and surf spots. ADVERTISEMENT

Just as the everyday cutting-edge and innovative surfing at Lowers is advancing the technical side of the sport, the innovative and cutting-edge tools and techniques used in the effort to stop the TCA Toll Road furthered the coastal environmental movement.  Here are a few ways in which the Save Trestles campaign and movement helped to transform efforts to forever protect surf spots and the coastal ecosystems that house them. 

Protected Areas Need Protection

When I first heard of the TCA’s proposal to build a large highway project that was slated to plow through the existing San Mateo Campground in the San Mateo Creek Watershed just upstream of Upper Trestles, I was outraged.

 “How can anyone build a highway within a state park,” I remember asking during the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation-organized lobbying trip to Sacramento in 2005. “Isn’t the park already supposed to be protected?”

Ben McCue at the 2008 Coastal Commission Hearing on the proposed TCA toll road at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Photo: WILDCOAST

It turns out there were no laws on the books in California that stopped anyone from proposing to build road projects within California’s state parks. 

Getting state legislators to take action and pass a law that prohibited the construction of the TCA toll road project within San Onofre State Beach would take another 15 years. That is when North San Diego County Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath sponsored Assembly Bill 1426 that specifically prohibits road projects from being built within San Onofre State Beach.  California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law last year. 

“One of the key lessons from the Save Trestles movement and Save San Onofre Coalition,” says WILDCOAST Associate Director Zach Plopper, “is that we need to embed every park or protected area with multiple layers of legal safeguards, stewardship, and enforcement programs — so it can’t be ruined by a development project, poaching and pollution and is actually protected.” 

No surf spot is 100 percent protected forever. We can’t become complacent. We need to continually evolve our tools and strategies to conserve our waves and breaks.  ADVERTISEMENT

Surfonomics is Smart Stuff 

Long-held stereotypes about cheap surfers by municipal and tourism authorities pretty much everywhere have hurt our ability to use economic arguments to advance surf protection initiatives. That is until Surfrider CEO Chad Nelsen and other surf economists developed the field of surfonomics to evaluate the economic impact surf spots have on local economies.

“For decades surfers have been ignored as an important part of the coastal tourism economy, but it turns out they are actually significant contributors to local businesses in surf towns,” Nelsen says. 

“Surfers are avid – many surf over 100 days a year – and they travel to adjacent towns for waves, year round and at all times of day, and spend money in local communities when they visit,” he says. “In many ways, they are perfect visitors. Surfonomics measured this at Trestles and found that surfers spend between $8-13 million dollars a year in San Clemente when visiting Trestles. When making the argument that the toll road should be denied, the Coastal Commission staff referenced my research to demonstrate the importance of the recreational resources found at Trestles and San Onofre State Beach.”

Since then, the global appreciation of the economic power of surfing has really advanced efforts to identify the value of saving our natural wave-riding venues. And forums like the Global Wave Conference have done a lot to promote the global movement to use a variety of tools including economics to protect surf spots around the world. 

Cultural Resources and Indigenous Peoples Count

Until recently, very little attention was paid to the value of Southern California’s indigenous peoples, who were unjustly forced into inland settlements and reservations away from their ancestral and coastal homelands and villages. 

This was especially the case for Panhe, a close to 10,000-year old Acjachemen village that was located within San Mateo Creek throughout what is now San Onofre State Beach. Acjachemen leaders such as Rebecca Robles made a convincing case to California Coastal Commissioners back in 2008 that the cultural and religious significance of Panhe, or San Mateo Creek, merited permanent protection. ADVERTISEMENT

The advocacy of the Acjachemen over the potential destruction of Panhe played a key role in helping convince state agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission, to deny a Coastal Permit to the TCA for its toll road project. 

Since then, organizations like the Sacred Land Institute, Native Like Water, as well as the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association among many others, have done an outstanding job of communicating the value of cultural landscapes for conservation and the importance of connecting Native American communities, especially youth, to their ancestral lands and waters in Southern California. But there is much more to do to recognize the value of cultural coastal landscapes that are key ecosystems as well as important areas for indigenous peoples worldwide. 

The Save Trestles movement and the ongoing Save San Onofre Coalition brought people from all walks of life together to preserve surf spots, watersheds, campgrounds, and a beloved state park. It illustrates that preserving our coast is a team effort. Saving waves requires constant vigilance and the combined energy of surfers and coastal conservationists, indigenous peoples, as well as the beach-going public. If we are to continue to fight for the places we love and give us meaning and joy, we need to broaden our coalition to protect the coast so we can preserve our surf spots, protected areas, cultural landscapes, and natural ecosystems for generations to come. 

San Mateo Creek in San Onofre State Beach. Photo: Danny Hardesty

My New Book, Surfing the Border

I will launch the tour for my new book, Surfing the Border, on Saturday January 24th in Coronado and Imperial Beach. I will be speaking and signing books at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 2-3pm and then from 5-6:30 pm I’ll be at the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach. Should be a blast!!

bookcover

4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest in San Miguel Day 1

On Saturday March 22, 2014  young surfers from Mexico and the U.S. gathered in San Miguel, Baja California to participate in the 4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest. Organized by Alfredo Ramirez and United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) with the help of Zach Plopper and WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE, the event provided a forum for young surfers to rip 2-4′ waves and celebrate international friendships. Additionally, Day 1, included the SUP and bodyboard divisions.

It was a great day. Day 2 on March 23, is the open event. The photos here are all from Day 1.

Imprimir

Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

DSC_1105

Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

DSC_1307

Girls contestants.

DSC_1313

Daniel Dedina, Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz from IB.

DSC_1315

Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Cameron Bartz.

Cameron Bartz.

Lance Mann

Lance Mann

Paul Stewart.

Paul Stewart.

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

Dakotah Hooker

Dakotah Hooker

Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

DSC_1020 DSC_1060

Dakotah Hooker.

Dakotah Hooker.

DSC_1135

Paul Stewart.

DSC_1329

Javi Meza

Javi Meza

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

SUP finalists.

SUP finalists.

Grom finalists.

Grom finalists.

Girls finalists.

Girls finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Junior finalists.

Junior finalists.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina. It is great to see so many young surfers surfing and making friends south of the border. It is great for them to travel and make lots of friends up and down the coast. That is the true spirit of surfing.

Surfing the Supermoon in Cabo

DSC_1182

Let’s dawn patrol tomorrow morning,” I told my son Daniel, 15, as we watched sets pound Zippers and The Rock as the sun set behind us and the supermoon rose over the ocean.

We were in San Jose del Cabo at the southern tip of Baja California to attend a wedding during the same weekend as the Los Cabos Open of Surf. The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) contest meant lineups throughout southern Baja were full of talented surfers.

DSC_1155_2

Since surfers party hard in Cabo, most aren’t awake at the crack of dawn. So dawn patrolling was our only way to escape the aggressive crowds.

The next day Daniel and I slipped into the ocean at 5:30 in the morning. We could see sets hitting the reefs. With the supermoon illuminating the lineup, I spotted many rocks sticking out of the water I wish I hadn’t been able to see.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize that the super high tide the night before was followed by a very low tide the following morning. As we navigated the boils and rocks in the lineup, our dawn patrol was looking more and more like a bad idea.

DSC_1101

After we reached the outside Daniel quickly caught a head-high wave. He kicked out at the last minute to avoid an inside exposed rock.

“It’s pretty sketchy out here,” said Daniel, who wasn’t happy about being woken up so early.

“But think of all the street cred you’ll have by being able to tell everyone about your low-tide nighttime session at the Rock in overhead waves,” I replied.

Matt Banting in action.

Matt Banting in action.

Daniel wasn’t convinced.

After we both caught a few set waves he said, “It is way too shallow out here. Let’s paddle down to Zippers.”

Zippers, once a Trestles-like wave that is still the epicenter of the Cabo surf scene, has been vastly reduced in scope due to the loss of sand from its once large beach.

Garrett Parkes somewhere in southern Baja.

Garrett Parkes somewhere in southern Baja.

Adjacent development projects with their intrusive seawalls and what many surfers believe is the loss of sand from the San Jose Estuary due to the presence of a marina there, has turned what was the Queen of the Cabo Coast into a hit or miss wave at best.

As we paddled south the sun began to emerge in the eastern sky along with dreaded southeasterly winds. After catching a few bumpy rights and saying hello to shark researcher and La Jolla surfer David “Dovi’ Kacev and his friends (also there for the wedding), we paddled in.

That's me--my sons are coaching me on how to get more vertical--at this point I'm a work in progress.

That’s me–my sons are coaching me on how to get more vertical–at this point I’m a work in progress.

Daniel returned to our condo and promptly fell asleep.

Later that morning the wind died and The Rock fired. And pretty much everyone stayed away due to wind and the fact that they had apparently partied until dawn.

So Daniel and I paddled out and caught tons of waves with almost no crowd. We finally scored in San Jose.

Up until the wedding, we had spent a few days out on the East Cape, sampling a variety of no-name spots that are rarely surfed but offered up clean, fun waves.

Siesta time for burros in Baja.

Siesta time for burros in Baja.

At one spot we spent the afternoon sharing waves with Garrett Parkes and Matt Banting, two Australian pros in town for the Cabo Open.

“We’ve never even surfed out here on the East Cape before,” said Garrett.

For two hours Daniel shared rippable 2-4’ rights with traveling Aussie pros who gave Daniel a clinic in modern surfing. What more could a grom ask for?

Daniel was elated.

“Those guys really know how to ride these waves,” he said.

Indeed they did.

Daniel

Daniel

Surf Dad: My Father’s Journey from Paris to the U.S. Mexico Border

IMG_1303

Guatemala 1974. My little brother Nicky on the left and me on the right.

There was never a time when my father, who immigrated to America to escape the Nazi occupation of Europe, wasn’t loading up our Ford station wagon and taking us to the beach.

In 1939, at the age of six, my father traveled to the United States from France with my grandma Lotti and his brother Roland.

“In France as a little tyke, I played on a beach covered by pebbles and round pieces of wine bottles rounded by the surf,” my dad Michel Dedina recalled from his home near the Tijuana Estuary in Imperial Beach.

“I was scared when we came to America because my big brother Roland told me America had skyscrapers and one would collapse on me,” he said.

“In New York we visited the beach at Coney Island. It was crowded. Wall to wall people. But there was great corn on the cob.”

After the war my father moved back to Paris. Some of his family had been sent to concentration camps or killed by the Gestapo.

“Everyone was tired of the war and nobody wanted to talk about air raids, combat and concentration camps. There were no medals for those who suffered,” he said.

Later my father joined the American Air Force during the Korean War and met my mother in London while he was stationed in England. They married in New York City where my father published two novels. Mom and dad eventually made their way to California and settled in Los Angeles.

dadmom

My mother and father in the 1950s.

“Your mom and I had visited and liked California. Liked the beach, but found the water cold,” Dedina said.

My parents never camped in Europe but discovered the value of outings at California State Parks. On our first camping trip in the late 1960s we pitched a borrowed Korean War-era military surplus tent at Carlsbad State Beach.

Mom and dad were cold and miserable in their homemade sleeping bags stitched together from old blankets but my little brother and I were in heaven and never wanted the trip to end.

We lugged that tent up and down the coast of California, giving rides to hitchhiking hippies while enjoying coastal campgrounds from San Diego to Big Sur.

In 1971 we moved to Imperial Beach where life revolved around weekends at the beach and picnics in the Tijuana Estuary.

Meanwhile dad earned his Masters Degree in television and Film at SDSU where he studied with Desi Arnaz.

After grad school dad purchased a 1974 Ford Econoline van, loaded it up with camping gear and our clothes, and we drove south to El Salvador where he had a job with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

guatemala2

Lake Antigua, Guatemala, 1974. My little brother Nicky is in front, I am peeking out behind my dad.

“I should have been more scared than I was during our trip,” he recalled. We had to deal with crooked customs and immigration officers. I learned to pay the bribes. There were more honest officers than crooks.”

It was during our year in El Salvador that I first wanted to be surfer. The Californians I watched strolling down the beach to surf tropical waves looked incredibly cool. I wanted to be just like them.

That year we camped on white sand beaches and explored indigenous villages and jungle ruins in Guatemala, Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Belize.

guatemala1

Somewhere in Mexico with my dad 1974-1975.

I started surfing after our return to Imperial Beach and convinced Dad to take me and my friends to Baja California in our rusty 1964 VW Van. In Baja we surfed perfect point waves while Dad cooked up pots of spaghetti with lobster sauce.

With my dad in central Baja in 1979.

With my dad in central Baja in 1979.

In the early 1990s, when my wife Emily and I lived in a 14-foot trailer in Baja’s San Ignacio Lagoon to study gray whales, Dad drove down with my mother to visit.

Dad was in heaven when the local fishermen called him, “Don Miguel.”

“I’d been waiting my entire life to be called ‘Don Miguel,’” he said.

With my dad and my sons more recently.

With my dad and my sons more recently.

Later when Emily and I had our own two sons, Israel and Daniel, Dad foraged the streets for old surfboards and wetsuits and took our kids to the beach to surf.

“I stood Daniel on a wide, long surfboard on tiny waves,” said my father. “He surfed and remained standing.  A guy came over and asked, ‘Who is that kid?’ Nonchalantly I replied ‘My grandson.’ Guy asked, ‘How old is he?’

I replied, ‘Four.’ The guy said, ‘Wow. Four years old.’”

Despite a good life in America, dad never forgot what the Nazi’s and their French collaborators had stolen from his family. He applied for a settlement from the French Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation [because of] anti-Semitic Legislation in Force During the Occupation.

“I could not have lived with myself if I had not tried to fight for what we had lost. The first verdict was against us. So we appealed. I went to the appeals tribunal in Paris. There were five judges one of whom it turned out was against us when they deliberated some weeks later. I can only guess why or how we won.”

At the tribunal, dad’s cousin Lisette corroborated my father’s testimony. The Nazi’s murdered her parents. Her brother Bernard Fall fought in the Resistance and later worked at the Nuremberg Trials.

“Our award was small which was shared by Roland’s family. It wasn’t about the money.”

After more than fifty years of marriage, dad lost my mother to cancer a few years back. Today at the age of 80, he maneuvers his three-wheel electric bicycle around Imperial Beach and religiously attends the surf competitions, water polo games, and swim meets of his grandsons. He also enjoys long visits with my brother Nick and his family in San Francisco.

Dad occasionally speaks out at local City Council meetings about preserving local beaches and parks.

I owe my sense of adventure to my father along with my determination to never waiver in the pursuit of justice.

After all, that is what my father taught me being an American means.

Raising Groms: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Kid Surfers

DSC_0137

While many surfers consider the option of raising a grom, until you are immersed in this lifelong activity, you might not realize the responsibilities and challenges that await you. As the father of two groms, 15 and 17, I have provided some tips to help you manage this laborious, costly and time-intensive process.

The first issue with groms is that they are expensive. That is because after you feed them (more on this later) they grow.

Groms grow quickly out of wetsuits, surfboards, board shorts, and shoes. Due to the high cost of boards and wetsuits, you must train your groms to raise funds to pay for their own surfing expenses.

As soon as your groms can walk, take them to the beach and teach them to search garbage cans for leftover redemption bottles and cans. You can train them to do this while they are still in their crib.

You can also make the rounds of your neighborhood and or city on garbage collection day to search for discarded boards and wetsuits. When your groms are young there is no need to purchase new gear when you can scrounge from the street.

The surfed hard.

Parents should become as proficient in ding repair as possible. That is because as soon your groms learn to surf, they will return home on almost a daily basis with a dinged or broken board. If you lack a garage or workshop, feel free to turn your grom’s bedroom into a combo ding repair workshop/bedroom. Just make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

Of course, groms must also learn the art of ding repair. Just remove all carpeting from your home. You can be assured that the groms will track resin and fiberglass (in addition to sand and surf wax) in every nook and cranny of your house. Don’t worry: The sand is organic and provides extra nutrients and sodium when mixed with your food.

After your youngsters begin to surf, consider giving up any other formal hobbies or activities or even a social life that doesn’t revolve around the beach or surfing. That is because you will be required to drive them to the beach and dawn patrol on the weekends or even before school. Consider obtaining your chauffeurs license as well, since most likely you will be transporting a pack of groms on most of your surf trips.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Groms must be trained to pack surf gear in the car for their entire family. Just don’t be surprised to open the car to find the groms waiting inside without having packed anything, or arriving at the beach and having them be surprised that they were expected to pack mom or dad’s gear too. Also always check to make sure boards have been strapped to the car properly.

When they are young, don’t expect your groms to get dressed and ready to depart the beach when you are ready to leave. Invariably, they will disappear only to be found back on the beach eating kelp, rolling around on a dead sea lion or playing with bird or dog poop.

Feeding groms is the greatest challenge you will face as a surf parent. Many groms surf for extended periods of time and forget their feeding times. They will then invariably complain to their mothers that, “dad starved me” in order to secure a breakfast of homemade pancakes and waffles.

gromcrew2

As mom is ready to serve her own groms their food, she will be surprised by the plethora of extra hands reaching out to grab whatever she is serving. The extra hands belong to neighborhood groms who were invited over to eat without informing mom.

Beware that during their teen years, groms move in large packs from house to house on a daily basis devouring all available food in fridges and cupboards. This will require you to make several grocery store trips each week. Don’t worry; this will only last until they move out of the house. Consider obtaining a second job to pay for your grocery bill.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

Groms need to swim well. Very well.

The ocean if a powerful force and it can swallow your groms. If your groms want to surf with you in critical conditions they have to be physically prepared. Swim team, water polo and/or junior lifeguard programs should follow extensive swim lessons. Ocean safe groms make for happy parents and ocean lifeguards.

Your groms will eventually surf way better than you do and go off to college and move away from home. Don’t worry. At some point they will get a job (hopefully), marry and have their own groms. Then you will get to relive the best days of your life by teaching a new generation to love the ocean and surfing as much as you do.

DSC_2512

Surfers Unite to Save Waves: The Global Wave Conference 3

DSC_1868

On the first ever Global Wave Wednesday, a report on how surfers from ten countries came together May 5-8, 2013, in Rosarito Beach at the Third Annual Global Wave Conference to talk about strategies to preserve waves and beaches.

 “We are more than a wave,” Pablo Narvaez of Barra de la Cruz told me last week while we ate lunch at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

 Barra de la Cruz, considered one of the world’s best waves by Surfer Magazine, is an indigenous coastal village in Mexico where surfing is the main source of tourist revenues. “We have sea turtles, a mangrove lagoon and a beautiful village filled with culture,” said Pablo.

Pablo was among the surf conservationists from 19 organizations representing ten countries who came together in Rosarito Beach at the world’s largest gathering dedicated to global wave protection in Rosarito Beach for the for the 3rd Global Wave Conference to discuss experiences and strategies to protect coastal ecosystems and resources.

DSC_1875

Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO and Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach.

“Over the last decade the surf conservation movement has blossomed but until recently the world’s surf protection groups have been working in isolation,” said Surfrider Foundation Environmental Director Dr. Chad Nelsen. “The Global Wave Conference is designed to change that and promote exchange of knowledge and programs, information sharing and collaboration, with the larger goal to establish a unified front for global wave protection.”

 The conference represents a growing understanding that the world’s coastlines, and more specifically its surf spots, are important economical, ecological, cultural and recreational resources that must be protected.

 “The GWC was a really productive and amazing conference. From local fisherman in Baja, to non-profit leaders in the UK, to representatives from the UNDP in Costa Rica; The true strength of the conference was to create new and innovative partnerships among all surf users,” said Save the Waves Executive Director Nik Strong-Cvetich.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

In Rosarito Beach, a number of the attendees represented communities throughout Mexico and Latin America who are striving to conserve their waves, beaches, and way of life through surfing tourism and conservation.

Local conference participants discussed strategies to protect coastal access and surf spots.  According to Dr. Eduardo Najera, Director of COSTASALVAJE, “Surfing provides a unique way to get in contact with nature and can increase people’s awareness about coastal conservation and sustainable use of the coastline.”

 Fernando Marvan from Surf Ens presented on the recently established Bahia Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve. Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach and Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO discussed youth surfing in the region and the future of the sport in Baja California.

 “Waves are natural resources, it is up to us to protect them. As ocean lovers we need to spread the love and also educate young surfers about our environment,” said Alfredo who organizes youth surfing contests and lessons in both the U.S. and Mexico. “They are the next generation that will take care of our coasts.”

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

 Artemio Murillo and Jaime Villavicencio travelled all of the way from the fishing village of Bahia Asuncion in Baja California Sur to present on how surfing has been a catalyst for coastal stewardship. Jaime helps fix up old surfboards in his remote village to make sure that local kids have access to surfing.

 One of the most moving presentations was by Pablo Narvaez who discussed how his tiny Oaxaca community of 800 people is effectively managing their coastal resources and offered a model that can be replicated in many areas around the world. “We charge a fee to use our beach services. Those monies in turn fund community projects and medical care for every member of our village,” said Pablo.

 Presentations were also given by Surfers Against Sewage from the UK, Save the Waves, Salvem o Surf from Portugal, Surfrider Europe, Surfers Environmental Alliance, the Canary Island Surfing Federation, Desarrollo y Gestion Costera from Peru and Oso and Golfito Initiative from Costa Rica.

 “Every wave is unique. Every beach is important for the community,” said Carlo Grigoletto, Executive Director, Desarrollo y Gestión Costera (DGCOSTERA) of Peru.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

 For Brad Former of the Gold Coast Surf Council in Australia, “There’s no reason why all major surf cities internationally can’t adopt a Surf Management Plan to extend beyond National and World Surfing Reserves models.”

 The conference concluded with a field trip to Ensenada to show some of the exceptional efforts being carried out by local community groups and NGOs and the location of what will be Mexico’s first World Surfing Reserve in Bahia Todos Santos. The reserve that will be launched sometime in the fall, will include San Miguel, Tres Emes, Salsipuedes and Todos Santos Island.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

 “The conference also delivered the first ever united global action for wave protection through Global Wave Wednesday. A great template for working together.” Hugo Tagholm, Director, Surfers Against Sewage.

 As an act of solidarity the groups attending the Global Wave Conference agreed to support Surfers Against Sewage’s Protect Our Wave campaign, which is designed to increase legal protection for surfing in the UK.

 “It was great to see the commitment, tenacity and innovative approaches surfers are using to protect the waves they love all over the planet,” said Surfrider Foundation Executive Director Jim Moriarty.

 

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Global Wave Wednesday-Save Waves Today!

 

globalwavvewed

Today surfers and coastal conservcationists around the world are helping our friends at Surfers Against Sewage in the UK develop some of the world’s first surf-conservation legislation (I think maybe Peru was first).

So please help us save the waves and sign the petition.

Mysto waves north of San Miguel.

Mysto waves north of San Miguel are in need of protection. This is now a World Surfing Reserve.

 

DSC_0591

Me surfing another great wave we need to preserve–Barra de la Cruz in Mexico.

 

%d bloggers like this: