Why Marine Protected Areas Benefit Surfers

Cabrillo MPA in Point Loma, San Diego.

Any North County or southern Baja vet most likely has run into Garth Murphy intensely evaluating surf conditions from shore and gracefully riding the best waves of the season. A California icon who partnered with Mike Doyle and Rusty Miller in their infamous and pioneering Surf Research company, Garth is the author of the epic novel of California, The Indian Lover, and the son of noted fisheries biologist Garth I. Murphy, who was La Jolla’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography‘s first PhD, and a professor at the University of Hawaii.

Garth, who has lived, surfed and advocated for coastal and marine protection in Hawaii, Australia and Baja California, was a member of the California Department of Fish and Game‘s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) Regional Stakeholder Group.

As a result of that effort a new network of marine protected areas (MPAs) was established in Southern California with reserves at Swami’s, Black’s-Scripps, South La Jolla, Cabrillo-Point Loma and the Tijuana River Mouth. These MPAs conserve key marine ecosystems such as kelp beds, reefs, sea grass beds – the ecological features that provide the foundation for some of our very best waves.

Serge Dedina: Why should surfers care about marine conservation and creating MPAs in Southern California?

Garth Murphy: Because we have 300 wave-rich surf spots to choose from and over a million Southern California surfers average 20 surfs a year – for 20 million yearly immersions in what usually happens to be our ocean’s most bio-diverse coastal marine habitats. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes traditional surfing as a compatible recreational use of the ocean resource, permitted in protected areas except at mammal haul-outs, bird roosts and estuaries. A network of Marine Protected Areas, by protecting and conserving complete coastal ecosystems and habitat, enhances the biodiversity and abundance of marine life, enriching our experience, while minimizing and controlling potential habitat-destructive human activities, which directly affect us.

Looking toward the San Diego-Scripps MPA and Black’s Beach in La Jolla.

Dedina: Why is preserving marine ecosystems of Southern California so important for surfers?

Murphy: Southern California surfers and marine life share natural coastal ocean habitats of every important class: estuaries and river mouths, beaches and inter-tidal zones, surf grass and eel grass beds on composite reefs like Cardiff; rare cobble reefs like Trestles, Rincon and Malibu; rocky reefs like Windansea and Laguna; submarine canyons like Blacks, and sand bars at Newport and Pacific Beach; as well as man-made habitats like the Piers at Huntington and Imperial Beach, rock jetties like the Wedge and Hollywood by the Sea, and artificial reefs.

As a boon to surfers, thick coastal kelp forest canopies, which shelter the greatest biodiversity of coastal marine species, also protect us from the afternoon winds, refining ocean surface texture and grooming the swells to extend our surfing hours and the carrying capacity of affected surf spots. Habitat-based marine protected areas preserve everything within their boundaries, including our cherished surf spots.

Dedina: What about water quality? Would marine reserves help our efforts to keep beaches free from polluted runoff?

Murphy: Coastal ocean water quality is not just a function of land pollution runoff. Over-exploitation and depletion or collapse of important food web components causes imbalances that degrade marine ecosystems and make the ocean more vulnerable to disease outbreaks and opportunistic invasive species like stinging jellyfish, algae blooms and toxic red tides, diminishing water quality and habitat suitability for marine life and surfers.

On the contrary, robust, bio-diverse marine ecosystems with intact food webs are resilient, resisting and adapting to environmental change and pollution, maintaining water and habitat quality. Estuaries are marine life nurseries, fresh/salt water interfaces that empty into many of our finest surf spots. We absorb that same water through our eyes, ears, nose and mouths on duck-dives and wipeouts. Rebuilding and maintaining bio-diverse estuaries with a full range of marine life creates healthier nurseries, and encourages upstream compliance with pollution regulations. The result is better water quality for all of us.

Dedina: So in the end, how does preserving our marine heritage in Southern California benefit surfers?

Murphy: The California surfing style evolved in a unique marine environment of glassy peeling waves. Stylish surfing and our beach lifestyle have become an important part of California history and culture –and media focus – generating an endless wave of glossy-color surf magazines, surf videos and feature films. The success of the $7-plus billion surfing industry, centered in Southern California, depends on maintaining the high cultural value of the traditional California surfing experience: as exciting, invigorating exercise, as a get-away, as a sport, a meditation, a dance, a family get-together and photo opportunity –enhanced by a vibrantly alive and healthy ocean.

The ocean is Earth’s largest and most accessible enduring wilderness. Regular contact with wilderness is a human, and especially American, cultural value, manifested today in the ocean by the popularity of surfing. A full and abundant spectrum of marine species – from whales to hermit crabs to phytoplankton – is an integral part of our ocean-wilderness experience.

Marine Protected Areas enhance ecosystem awareness by exposing us to a broad diversity of marine life. They encourage monitoring of potential problems and upstream compliance with complementary air and water quality regulations. The positive water quality and life-giving effects of marine protected areas are a valuable gift to the surfers and marine species who share them.

Keeping the Stoke Alive

During a recent trip to Mexico, a hurricane that slammed the coast of Oaxaca a week before rearranged the sand banks at a remote point. I took a two-mile march up the coast, noticed a new post-hurricane wave spinning down the beach and paddled out.

Out in the lineup a set came. I caught the first wave and drove down a head-high wall that kept slightly open as it peeled along a narrow sandbar.

For me the essence of living a stoked life is being able to see and try new experiences and tap into the energy of the ocean.

I met my wife Emily in 1985 on my first day as a UCSD study abroad student in Lima, Peru. Emily, who is from Wisconsin, had just turned 20. I was 21.

We immediately realized we shared a passion for adventure, the outdoors and the ability to laugh at our misfortunes. Soon we were clambering up rocks to reach 16,000-ft. alpine lakes in the Andes and exploring the culturally rich coast of northern Brazil.

A few years after our marriage in 1989, we found ourselves living in a 14-foot trailer in an off-the-grid fishing village in Baja with our Australian Shepherd Chip while we carried out graduate research on gray whales.

At the end of our two-year stay in Baja, Emily became pregnant with our oldest son Israel and we moved back to the U.S. Three years later my youngest son Daniel was born.

That is when life got really good.

Before my children were born I was pretty much over the marginal conditions of the beach break I grew up surfing. As soon as my two sons were old enough to enjoy the beach, all of a sudden the mundane became exceptional.

A normal day at the beach became the best day ever.

With kids you get to experience everything new again and again. Their laughter as they jump over waves holding my hand and their joy the first time they surf a real wave.

A few years ago, the boys and I hiked down to Black’s Beach on one of the best days of the winter. Normally I would have avoided the super-packed lineup of one of the world’s best beach breaks like the plague.

But whereas I was frustrated trying to compete with the likes of Jordy Smith for set waves, the boys were stoked to share waves with one of their heroes.

After a few waves I went in and found surf photographer Jeff Divine on the beach.

“You know, with kids, everything is an adventure,” he said.

Six months after that experience at Black’s, Emily was kind enough to let me take the boys to Australia for six weeks to live in a van while we chased cold and powerful winter surf along the New South Wales and Victoria coasts. Emily came over and spent an additional month with us, which included a trip to New Zealand.

The memories of our adventures—finding perfect, empty waves in Ulladulla, watching Daniel light up as we encountered a mob of kangaroos on a wild beach, surfing Bell’s Beach, hiking around glaciers in New Zealand and watching tiny penguins waddle up a beach on Phillip Island—will be embedded in my memory for the rest of my life.

I have never had much money, and I am not sure how to go about making much of it. My life is richer for all the experiences I have had and the family that is my greatest joy.

What has kept my stoke alive are those moments of transcendence in which something new brings my family together around shared adventures, experiences and making the world a better place.

Deep Design: Daniel Thomson on Surfboards, Physics and Simmons

Dan Thomson putting it on a rail. Photo courtesy of Tomo Surfboards.

Daniel Thomson of Tomo Surboards is a young and innovative surfer who is part of a core group of San Diego shapers pushing the edge of design and development to move surfing to the next level. He has been affiliated with Richard Kenvin’s Hydrodynamica project that is based on the influence and theories of San Diego’s legendary surfing innovator Bob Simmons.

Serge Dedina: Why did you starting shaping surfboards? And what is it about creating surfboards that you love?

Daniel Thomson: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a surfing family so I pretty much have been surfing since I can remember. My dad (Mark Thomson) is a respected shaper in Australia so ever since he made me my first board, I was involved in the shaping process. As I evolved as a surfer, my desire to shape more specialized equipment became apparent so I continued to follow my passion for exploring the connection between creative art specialized for performance surfing.

Dedina: Who are your shaping and surfing influences?

Thomson: My dad obviously. George Greenough was a family friend during my younger years so his work definitely made an imprint on me.  More recently the work of Bob Simmons uncovered by the research of Richard Kenvin has been inspiring. Also, I like to look outside of surfing for inspiration: modern aviation, quantum physics and the universe challenge the mind to think deeper for new ideas.

Carl Eckstrom and Daniel Thomson at the Hydronamica opening in San Diego earlier this year.

Dedina: How did you end up shaping and surfing in San Diego?

Thomson: After making a few trips out to San Diego from 2004-2010, I realized that the market for progressive designs was stronger in California. Also, I was ready for a change of pace in my life.

Dedina: Your boards have been associated with the hydrodynamic theory and movement espoused by Richard Kenvin that was directly influenced by the design of Bob Simmons? How did you interest in the legacy of Simmons and the partnership with Kenvin occur?

Thomson: Richard was visiting in Australia back in 2003 on one of his first Hydrodynamica missions. He was looking to connect with Dave Rastovich.

In hope that he would be able to film him riding some of the keel fin fish boards he had brought over, Richard tracked down my dad as a support filmer and naturally my dad suggested to Richard that ‘I give these fishes a go.’

A few sessions later, we had some awesome footage of Rasta and me riding these boards. After that I kept in close contact with RK and continued my natural progression in refining the fish design.

Dedina: What are the types of surfboards you are shaping now and specifically what are the designs that you see working best in Southern California?

Thomson: Generally all my boards are fairly suited to California because of the straighter curves and wider tails. The boards that I am currently most excited about are my new Next Generation Modern Planing Hulls (MPH).

They are basically 21st century adaptations of the original Bob Simmons plaining hulls mixed with wakeboards technology. They seem to be very functional designs with a whole bunch of potential to be seen as an apex high performance design in the future.

One of Dan’s Simmon’s inspired planing hulls.

Dedina: Explain what the hydrodynamic principle means for surfboard design and surfing in general?

Thomson: Broadly speaking, you can apply some sort of hydrodynamic principle to any surfboard. More specially describing a hydrodynamic planning hull is a board designed to minimize drag through several different streamlining methods including utilizing a parallel rail line from nose to tail with a wider nose tail profile and straight-line fin placements

Dedina: What materials are you working with right now?

Thomson: I have always been a firm believer in epoxy resin for its strength, durabilty and flex memory. I am currently working with XTR (closed cell styrofoam) Epoxy and several applications of vacuum bag carbon fiber.

Dedina: You are shaping boards for WQS surfer Stu Kennedy. How did that relationship come about and how do you work with him in terms of giving and receiving feedback?

Stu Kennedy with his Tomo quiver. Photo courtesy Tomo Surfboards.

Thomson: Stu has been a close friend from my hometown of Lennox Head so I have shaped for him quite a bit in the past. When I was home visiting in March, I showed Stu some of the latest boards. He was pretty blown away on how they surfed, and he has barely set foot on a regular short board since he tried one.

Since I shaped him a new quiver of the MPH’s he has been dedicated to riding them in high-level completion as he feels he can achieve his best performances on these boards. He recently placed 9th in the 6 star WQS in England and a 17th in the U.S Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

Dedina: Are most pro surfers too conservative with the boards they are riding?

Thomson: Most definitely. The cutthroat nature of competition doesn’t nurture experimentation. Most elite surfers have grown up there whole lives riding one style of design and is not confident riding something unorthodox. Most are jaded to the fact that there could be a left field design out there capable of performing better, so they tend not to have faith in something new. Things are changing though.

Dedina: There’s a photo with Kelly Slater and you when you were a grom and more recently Kelly commented on the boards you shape for Kennedy. How has Kelly’s surfing and his own departure from pro surfing surfboard orthodoxy influenced your own career as a shaper and a surfer?

Thomson: I have always been experimental in nature with my equipment so I haven’t so much been following Kelly design wise. However his surfing is what inspires me most to figure out ways to improve my design to allow me to surf at higher levels.

Dedina: Where do you see yourself going with your shaping career? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Thomson: I would obviously like to be successful. I am more of a surfer/designer than a ‘shaper’ so hopefully I will be surfing more and not be a slave to the shaping room. I have always done it for the love of surfing and a healthy creative outlet. So as long as I am doing that, I will be happy.

Sliding the Glide with Shaper Josh Hall

Josh Hall, 31, the president of the Pacific Beach Surf Club  is one of the San Diego’s core shapers and surfers.

His innovative and stylish shapes and surfing directly connect him to his mentor and surfing legend Skip Frye. On clean fall days I often catch up with Josh in the lineup at La Jolla Shores where we swap stories about Baja and Spain.

Dedina: When did you start surfing and why? Do you remember your first surf session?

Josh: I started surfing toward the end of 8th grade and beginning of high school. Kind of late by today’s standards. Growing up, my family was always at the beach. We’d go to south Carlsbad every summer for two weeks from when I was born until now, so I was always in the water. My grandfather boogied almost until he was 80! And my half brother was a big surfer, but being ten years older we weren’t real close when I was young so it was up to my friends and I to get it going on our own.

Serge: When and where did you decided to get into shaping?

Hall: Once I got the full addiction of surfing, I knew I wanted to build boards. More as a way of being able to stay in surfing and surf forever. I grew up surfing on Felspar St. in Pacific Beach, right next to the Crystal Pier. There was always a heavy group of older locals that were all in the board building business–Joe Roper, Bird Huffman, Larry Mabile, Hank Warner, Glenn Horn. All those guys checked the pier every day so being around them was a huge influence on me. And of course, everyone’s hero Skip Frye had Harry’s Surf Shop with his wife Donna and great friend Hank right there, a half block from the sand.

Serge: How did your relationship with Skip Frye develop?

Hall: Well surfing Felspar everyday, you’d see Skip in the mornings cleaning up trash around the cul-de-sac and then you’d see him later surfing. But it really started when I was 18-19 and ordered my first board from him.

Dedina: Is the role of a mentor critical in producing good surfers and shapers?

Hall: Absolutely. Skip has taught me everything I know about both surfing and shaping–weather, tides, swell directions, periods, everything to do with waves. And of course over the last ten years, he has bequeathed to me a lot of his design theory and his evolution as a shaper/surfer.

It is critical to spend time paying dues, working from the ground floor up, starting at sweeping and packing, then maybe to fins, then maybe other glassing things.

Too many people nowadays just pop up and go, “I’m a shaper,” and they might not even surf. It takes time, and lots and lots of practice. I am just really fortunate to have started with the right person to follow. It is important to ride the boards your are building and watch boards be built. That helps build your overall design knowledge every day. I just happened to be (and still) learning from someone who has 50 years of experience.

Dedina: You and Skip seem to represent San Diego and California’s forgotten art of style and soul. Do you see the need for style once again being recognized or has it been lost with the rise in more technical and aerial surfing maneuvers?

Hall: I think style is important, for sure. For me, hanging around those older guys when I was a grommet, it was for sure all about style. They could pick out any surfer in the line-up from their style, from the pier to the point. As much as big industry seems to be taking over, in my opinion, there’s a HUGE movement of individuals right now, whether surfers or shapers or both, creating their own identities and I think its a far better picture of what’s really going on right now.

Dedina: With the rise of machine-produced surfboards and mass production in China, you’ve made a commitment to creating handcrafted surfboards. Do you regret becoming a shaper? Is it still really possible to make a living as a shaper anymore in the U.S.?

Hall:  I don’t regret at all becoming a shaper. Surfing and shaping has given me everything I have. Now some shapers have been able to turn it in to a bigger-than-hobby business, which is possible still, but for me it’s all so I can surf.

These days I think it is really important that your shaper be a good surfer. You are going to want to be able to talk to them about certain waves or how you’d like to surf, and the guys that just design on the computer might not be able to fulfill what your looking for. Now don’t get me wrong, the machine is another tool, and has a place in the business, its just different from my philosophy for why I shape.

Dedina: What is it that you love most about creating surfboards?

Hall: Well, without getting too romantic about it all, you take this fairly crude foam core and literally sculpt it with various tools by hand in to this visually pleasing foil, that is actually beyond super functional in a really inconsistent medium. And the phone calls you get from a customer right after that first session on a new board. The stoke in their voice is extremely satisfying.

Dedina: What kind of shapes do you see working the best in San Diego and Southern California?

Hall: Well, I’m a fish guy. In the various lengths, forms and fins set up, a fish can be the most versatile shape in the universe. My other creed is that everyone in San Diego should own an 8-foot egg. It’s the panacea of surfing. A short board for a long boarder and a long board for a short boarder!

Dedina: In your role as the President of the Pacific Beach Surf Club you’ve helped to continue the club’s role in coastal stewardship and giving back. Why is it important for surfers to take responsibility for safeguarding the beaches we use?

Hall: Well first off the ocean is the biggest resource we have in the entire world, and if we continue to treat it the way we have been IT WONT BE HERE for future generations. So part of the goal of the club is to help further along that thought.

We need to do everything we can to help keep it clean. We do about four annual beach cleanups a year and donate to organizations who are able to do more with it than just our little club in PB. Raising awareness is something I learned from Donna and Skip back in the Harry’s days.

Dedina: You have spent a lot of time in Spain, studying and now surfing and shaping. How did your interest in Spain develop and what is it about northern Spain that has you spending so much time there?

Hall: Well I got a degree in Spanish Literature from SDSU in 2003, and lived in Salamanca, Spain for one year during my undergrad. The love for Spain first came about because my best friend and my former Coronado High School Spanish teacher Smoky Bayless took a group of us kids to Spain. That trip changed my whole life.

Besides many other reasons (friends, family, food, wine, surf, culture) the Basque Region is where the majority of the Spanish and French surf industry lives. So that’s why I stay there so often. My friend Peta has a factory in Irun that I shape at and then the boards get glassed in Soustons, France.

Josh and surfing innovator Carl Eckstrom at last year’s Sacred Craft Expo

Dedina: : You also spend a lot of quality time off the grid in deep Baja. How does the wildness of surfing in Baja contribute to your evolution as a shaper and surfer?

Hall: Baja brings to me a peace of mind. It is paradise down there. As far as shaping goes, depending on the swell and spot, you can have more actual time surfing on a wave in one trip then you do here for an entire season. That alone is worth gold for R&D purposes.

Dedina: Anything else you want to add?

Hall: I’ve only been able to get here with the help of a whole heap of different people and so for that I am humbled and appreciative. I just hope that I am but a small reflection of all those influences. Slide the glide!

The Five Best Surf Movies of All Time

Teahupoo, Papeete, Tahiti

Let’s face it–most surf movies are incredibly boring.

Surf “porn” with repeated barrels, aerial maneuvers, tropical locales and hipster soundtracks.

That’s perfect for groms or big screens at beach eateries and bars, but fail to live up to any basic cinematic story-telling standards.

A few filmmakers have done their best to introduce audiences to the themes that make surfing a truly original sport. These directors, Bruce Brown, Stacy Peralta, John Milius and Jeremy Gosch all made great films first and surfing films second.

All touch on themes rarely examined by everyday surfers and involve some of the sport’s brightest stars, writers, and most iconoclastic and idiosyncratic surfers. If I had to add a sixth film here it would definitely be Sunny Abberton’s fascinating and original Bra Boys.

1. The Endless Summer (1964)

In the early 1960s, pioneer surf filmmaker Bruce Brown set off on a trip around the world with Mike Hynson and Robert August, two young surfers from Southern California on a quest for an “endless” summer. They scored waves in Senegal, roamed across apartheid-era South Africa, rode endless peelers at Cape St. Francis and surfed backwash in Tahiti.

The sense of humor and sympathetic and silent performances of Hynson and August, combined with the deadpan narration of Brown made this a national hit in 1966 and a groundbreaking adventure film.

Endless Summer has defined surf travel for generations, and still holds up as a timeless narrative on the innocence of surfing and the friendship that still link surfing and surfers around the globe. If you haven’t yet embarked yet on your own Endless Summer, free of surf camps and a calendar, then watch the film and find your dream.

2. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

A decade after clean cut Hyson and August traipsed around the world in mod suits and Ray Bans, a collection of scruffy kids from the wrong side of the tracks in Santa Monica and Venice or Dogtown took the radical Hawaiian vertical surfing style epitomized by Larry Bertleman, Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Mark Liddel and applied it to the waves of Venice, and the streets, banks and pools of Southern California.

Dogtown and Z-Boys is Stacy Perralta’s brilliant homage to his youth in which he digs deep and comes up with a stunning deconstruction of the ill

usion of the Ho

llywood glitter surrounding the surf and skate culture of Southern California.

Brilliantly written and directed, everything is pitch perfect in this documentary that sheds light on 1970s-era surf and skate culture that until recently was really a lost decade.

As someone who learned to surf and skate in Imperial Beach, a U.S.-Mexico border version of Dogtown during the same era, this movie draws you in and makes you think about the social forces that brings surfers together in a state of joy, and at the same time, as in the case of Jay Adams, spit them out into the street.

The fictional version, The Lords of Dogtown was filmed in Imperial Beach and is an admirable attempt to convey the era, but falls way short of Peralta’s original.

3. Big Wednesday (1978)

I still remember watching this John Milius-directed film when it first came out in at the Vogue Theater in Chula Vista. My grom buddies and I laughed at all the right moments, were in awe of the surfing finale, loved the style and were lucky enough to understand the Changing of the Guard storyline.

Co-writers Milius and Denny Aaberg were Malibu surfers from the early 60s who in Big Wednesday managed to capture the end of the longboard era, Vietnam, big-wave surfing, professionalism and the essence of surfing and style.

Originally written off by surfers and critics, Big Wednesday ultimately earned the respect it deserves. The classic lines, fight scenes, Tijuana trip, epic draft registration set piece and the surfing all make this a fun and required family surf movie.

Gary Busey’s Leroy “The Masochist” combing his hair with a fish was also epic

The surfing and water cinematography are absolutely top notch. Water stunt doubles included Peter “P.T.” Townend, Bill Hamilton, Bruce Raymond, Jackie Dunn, J Riddle, Ian Cairns and Gerry Lopez playing himself

The group were captured on film by legendary cameramen Dan Merkel, Bud Browne, George Greenough and Greg MacGillivray. Big Wednesday is the Casablanca of surf films: timeless, beautifully conceived and executed classic American cinema.

4. Bustin’ Down the Door (2009)

In the early to mid 70s a small group of feral but extremely talented Australian and South African surfers—Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Michael Tomson, Peter Townend and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, among others, assembled each winter on Oahu’s North Shore to surf the best waves and fight tooth and nail to become the world’s best surfers.

In the process they invented the modern era of professional surfing and managed to disrespect Hawaiian culture. Hawaiian surfers brilliant but more staid surfing epitomized power, style, flow, speed, courage and honor. This brilliant and moving unflinchingly film tells that story–no holds barred.

With the help of an insightful and contemplative Barry “B.K.” Kanaiaupuni (who is the lead storyteller on the Hawaiian side as well as Jeff Hackman and other North Shore stalwarts), Bustin’ Down the Door portrays the compelling and emotional tale of how surfing’s pro pioneers became victims of their own hubris and end up finding their own humility and humanity.

Surfers are generally unable to examine themselves honestly, but watching Rabbit discuss his childhood poverty is stirring. Combined with the observations by Hawaiian surf veterans of this tale, Bustin’ Down the Door is great and essential filmmaking. As a grom in the 70s all these guys were my heroes (they still are) and the surfing itself still holds up for its timeless beauty, radicalism, originality and precision.

5. Riding Giants (2004)

Riding Giants, Bustin’ Down the Door and Dogtown are about as close to the definitive historical and social texts on surfing as you’ll find. In Riding Giants, Stacy Peralta shows what it is like to be in a wild ocean and more importantly it goes deep into two of surfing’s legends and heroes–Greg Noll and Laird Hamilton, as well as Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark, and Hamilton’s tow partner Dave Kalama (a great surfer in his own right).

The footage is incredible, the personalities, stories and histories are compelling and the film once again benefits from Peralta’s expert direction and production value. If you can find and read William Finnegan’s amazing “Playing Doc’s Games” from The New Yorker”, after you see this, Bustin Down the Door and Dogtown, then you’ve hit the surfing trifecta.

A Day at Trestles

We had a surfing “exchange” student spent a few weeks with us this summer. Eneko, 16, hails from the Spanish-French border city of Hendaye and thoroughly enjoyed his time in California. On his last afternoon we hustled up to Trestles to catch a new southwest swell. While Imperial Beach was small, blown out and closed out, Lowers was firing, with a bevy of pros to inspire the boys. It was a fitting end to Eneko’s trip that he called, “The best experience of my life.”

They surfed hard.

Daniel on a left. The waves were perfect A-frames.


Pro surfer and Trestles local Tanner Gudauskas was shredding.


Josh puts it on a rail.

WCT surfer Heitor Alves was ripping. He made this.

Alves couldn’t have been nicer. Eneko (left) and Israel (right) were stoked. There are very few sports in which boys can compete in the same venue as their heroes.

The 5 Best Worst Summer Beach Movies of All Time

For my generation, summer evenings were often spent at the local drive-in watching whatever blockbuster or B-movie that happened to be on the marquis.

If we were lucky, we might have caught a masterpiece like Godfather II (as I did in 1975 while my family was passing through New Mexico) or Jaws, the best summer beach movie of all time.

More than likely however the fare were B-movies and cult favorites such as Women in Cages, Malibu Beach, Foxy Brown, and Macon County Line.

For surfers of course nothing was better than catching a beach flick that was so bad it was good—a flick like Muscle Beach Party—that made surfers look like the idiots everyone thinks we are.

Muscle Beach Party

Starting with the release of Gidget, starring Sandra Dee and La Jolla’s Cliff Robertson in 1959, the summer beach movie has been a Hollywood B-movie staple. Here are the best worst summer beach movies of all time.

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5. Point Break (1991)

This 1991 surf action flick should have been the best surfing movie ever made. Directed by up-and-coming action director Kathryn Bigelow (who went on to win an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker), and with Patrick Swayze as Bodhi and Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, with stand-in surfing by Dino Andino, it was the film that made us all embarrassed to be surfers.

With a story set in Huntington Beach that echoes some of the scenes in Kem Nunn’s novel Tapping the Source, Swayze plays an undercover cop whose boss Gary Busey (before he was sideswiped by his motorcycle and suffered permanent foggy brain), figures out that a string of bank robberies must be perpetuated by surfers since the robbers have tan lines!!

Although the action set pieces are truly spectacular (Bigelow is an action genius), the dialogue is wooden and everyone is a drug dealer, machine-gun salesmen and or bikini model-philosopher. Oh and the surf always seems to be blown out and everyone mostly surfs only at night. Point Break manages to make Bell’s Beach, arguably one of the world’s most visually stunning surf spots, look ugly.

4. The Van (1977)

This low-budget lackluster B-movie could have been one of the great time teen exploitation films of all time (along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but the forgettable cast (except for the inclusion of Danny Devito in a role replay of his Taxi casting), killed its chances. The plot goes something like this: a bro named Bobby graduatess from high school, spends the summer cruising for chicks, working at a car wash (apparently this was the last time in history that car washes weren’t staffed by ex-cons), and finally buying and driving his killer custom van (think 70’s dream machine–waterbed and shag carpeting).

Unfortunately Bobby can’t get the stuck-up valedictorian to like him, but after scoring with beach babes, he and the smart chick hit it off while cruising a custom van gathering at an L.A. County beach parking lot where they meet all kinds of groovy 70s van people–including the obligatory black guys in fedora hats– and fall in love. You couldn’t make this stuff up, so sit through The Van because you’ll laugh for all the right reasons.

3. Beach Blanket Bingo and all the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movies:

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This is what you’d get if a retro version of Jersey Shores were reimagined as Laguna Hills but with dancing and dumber stars. That pretty much sums up all the Beach Party movies of the mid-60s. All are terrible enough to qualify as essential cult favorites. The only problem is that you have to be really drunk to enjoy watching them.

2. In God’s Hands (1998)

Arguably one of the worst movies ever made and definitely the worst surfing movie ever made (and that’s saying a lot given the plethora of awful surf movies out there). I’m not even sure what the plot is supposed to be about and more than likely the screenplay consisted of endless pages of undecipherable scribbles. Ironically sexploitation director Zalman King  made this straight so Matt George and Shane Dorian spend the movie  mumbling incoherently as they traipse around the tropics. Apparently the movie is supposed to be about something meaningful but only in a faux Euro-serious way. Even the surfing sucks.

1. Roller Boogie (1979)

Cover of

Hands down Roller Boogie is the best worst beach picture of all time. Who could have imagined that at the same time Tony Alva and his gang were in the midst of the gritty skateboard explosion in Venice Beach or Dogtown, legions of gay roller skaters were cruising the boardwalk in spandex short shorts and rainbow suspenders.

Dude, this is the funniest, campiest teen exploitation film ever! Linda Blair is so bad, the plot so preposterous, that Roller Boogie actually works as contemporary Will Ferrell-style 70s exploitation film remake.

The hero dreams of becoming an Olympic gold medalist in roller dancing! He is championed by Linda Blair (who can’t act) and at some point the plot goes Andy Hardy but with a skate competition instead of a dance. A crooked developer and his goons are thrown in towards the end to give the film some social redemption.

There is even a chubby beach beat cop who channels the Village People’s Victor Willis in short-shorts and a tight white t-shirt. The best part is the chase scene on roller skates in which the good guys (the skaters) pelt the bad buys with fruit (wink-wink) and then skate through a skateboard park that is only inhabited by the already mentioned spandex wearing roller skaters. The best part of the Roller Boogie experience was watching it along with my 13-year old son who laughed in amazement right along with me. So parents feel free to boost your core score by watching Roller Boogie with your teens. And since this disaster is filled with buxom Farrah-hair roller boogie hotties in French-cut bikinis, my son asked, “Dad were all the girls like that in the 70s?”

Next week I’ll look at the best summer beach and surfing movies of all time and look forward to hearing about your favorites as well.

Beach Party (1963)

Beach Party (1963) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enjoying Summer Beach Fun in Southern California

Summer is beach and family time. Summer is time to surf, explore the coast, swim, bodysurf, and celebrate our communion with the ocean.

Here are some places and things to do this summer in Southern California to make it a season worthy of remembrance.

Leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) at the A...

Swim with Leopard Sharks: La Jolla Shores is arguably the best place to see and swim with docile schools of friendly and harmless leopard sharks. Little is known about these unusual sharks except for the fact that they find a safe haven in La Jolla’s warm and tranquil waters before they swim south to Mexico and north beyond Orange County.

Crystal Cove State Park

Relive California’s Golden Age: Crystal Cove State Park is a step back in time to an era when California families congregated on unspoiled beaches and spent balmy nights in cool little cabins. Located on the northern edge of Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove is a great place for family reunions, surfing, tide pooling and taking in a seaside gourmet meal.

Surf Trestles and San Onofre: Sure the lineup here is crowded. But the waves are awesome, there are lots of smiles, and it is still one of the prettiest and coolest state parks on the planet. Take the groms to surf Lowers or Uppers and to see some of the world’s best surfers taking our sport to new heights. Or take your longboard to Church’s and San Onofre for mellow noseriding and a beach barbecue.

Visit the Sierra Nevadas: This isn’t a beach activity, but it is a fact that the Sierra Nevada

English: Yosemite valley, Yosemite National Pa...

is one of the most beautiful and iconic mountain ranges in the world. The towering Sequoias provide a refuge for urban visitors and wildlife that are really only a few hours from the sweltering suburbs of Southern California. I’m always shocked by the number of surfers who don’t take the time to visit our beautiful natural attraction and the Sierras which includes Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Park.

English: Bodysurfing in La Jolla California.

English: Bodysurfing in La Jolla California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bodysurf: For some reason, bodysurfing has become a cool and trendy sport. Of course real bodysurfers know they are about the least trendy and or cool people anywhere. But they are experts at feeling the incredible glide and power of the ocean that bodysurfing permits. So grab a pair of fins and head to the beach and feel the glide. If you are a novice by all means avoid the Wedge. But if you find yourself in Newport Beach during a big south swell, check out the best show in Southern California.

Family Beach Time: For those of us raised in Southern California our memories are chock full of beach scenes—mom drying us off after a cold plunge into the Pacific, setting up our tents with dad at a coastal state park campground, and sipping hot cocoa and singing songs around a beachside campfire. We are lucky to be blessed with hundreds of miles of coastline that are free to use, ours to enjoy, and our responsibility to take are of. So don’t wait—make our coast your priority this summer and all year-round.

Padding the Loop

“In 16 years, this was the best Loop ever,” said Dan Mann, of Mannkine Surfboardsand organizer of the annual Memorial Day weekend 11.4-mile paddleboard race around Coronado Island.

More than 70 paddlers enjoyed the finest ocean and weather conditions in more than two weeks with light winds, sunny skies and calm ocean conditions.

The ocean athletes paddled from Gator Beach at the south end of the Coronado Shores out to Zuñiga Jetty at the entrance to San Diego Bay. They then headed back down around the Naval ships docked at the North Island Naval Air Station, past the bayside homes and restaurants of Coronado, and the high rises of downtown San Diego.

The last leg of the endurance race had them pass through the Coronado Bay Bridge before arriving at Glorietta Bay, a grassy beach park, ringed by awaiting family members and friends.

Back in the 1940 and 1950s many surfers who competed in surfing competitions also raced paddleboards. Tom Blake is credited with developing the sport back in 1926 when he built a redwood board for the Bishop Museum that was a replica and ode to ancient Hawaiian “olo” surfboards.

Along with Blake, watermen such as George Downing, Pete Peterson, and Mike Doyle were as accomplished on paddleboards as they were on surfboards.

Today, the popularity of prone paddleboarding has been eclipsed by the trendier and more female-friendly sport of stand-up-paddling (both are great workouts).

Elite paddelboarders such as Jamie Mitchell and Kyle Daniels are famed for their athletic prowess and dominance of the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race and the Catalina Classic. Both 32-mile events require ocean crossings in rough conditions and are the ultimate ocean endurance paddle test.

Moloka‘i Paddleboard race

Additionally the Hennessey’s SUP and Paddle Board Racing Series offers up the U.S. Championships in Dana Point on June 2nd.

Paddleboards are long, sleek and built with traditional fiberglass or lighter carbon fiber or epoxy. A new custom board unlimited class board (over 18’) can cost over well over two thousand dollars and are outfitted with tillers, and small racks that hold water bottles and waterproof GPS devices. Shorter boards (12’ and 14’) are also raced.

Roch Frey of Encinitas dominated the Loop field winning overall and the unlimited division by more than three minutes. Sean Richardson and Dan VanDyck followed him.

Event winner Roche Frey.

Geoffrey Page of Imperial Beach placed first in the 50 and Over division with a time of 2.00.06. “I actually didn’t train enough for the race,” said Geoff. “I just had a good start and tried to hang on until the finish. I was really struggling at the end.”

Big wave charger Jim Montalbano, also of Imperial Beach, placed third in the Stock class. “I’m training for the Molokai to Oahu race,” he said before the race commenced. The Hawaiian event takes places on July 29.

My eldest son Israel, 16, entered the race the morning of the event. Borrowing a 12’ custom stock board from Jeff Knox, he started out the race fast ignoring dad’s advice to start slow and carry food and water.

Israel at the finish.

“Halfway through the race I began to fully realize my mistake,” wrote Israel. “My arms became harder and harder to move and I began to fantasize about fast food. I still had six miles to go. The only thing in my mind was the thought of eating incredibly large amounts of food that were waiting for me at the finish line. I passed the finish line and immediately started eating.”

The Loop perpetual trophy.

Coronado’s Dougie Mann of clothing company URT has competed in the Loop since its inception back when he was 12. “It is always worth getting in the ocean. It always makes your day better,” he said.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

The Loop 2012 Results


  1. Roch Frey, 1.51.17
  2. Sean Richardson, 1.54.35
  3. Dan VanDyck, 1.58.13


  1. Shannon Delaney, 2.19.14
  2. Aimee Spector, 2.22.35
  3. Kristin Thomas, 2.32.52

50 and Over

  1. Geoffrey Page, 2.00.06
  2. Ron Nelson, 2.03.42
  3. Wally Buckingham, 2.05.04


  1. Jay Scheckman, 2.04.40
  2. Reno Caldwell, 2.06.34
  3. Brant Bingham, 2.13.07


  1. Steve Schlens, `2.02.01
  2. Rodney Ellis, 2.05.27
  3. Jimmy Montalbano, 2.07.12

IB’s Mark “Kiwi” Fields. Kiwi had never raced a prone paddleboard event. He typically races SUPs.

Why Saving Trestles Matters

Pat Gauduskas at the recent Nike Lowers Pro

With an estimated six million people around the world watching the recent webcast of the Nike Lowers Pro ASP Prime surf contest daily at Lower Trestles last week, the eyes of the surfing world were literally on Trestles.

That is why the proposal by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) to build a toll road through San Onofre State Beach in northern San Diego County has received so much attention. Because Trestles, in the words of Surfline’s Mike Cianciulli, “Is the apex of everything surf in Southern California.”

Mark Rauscher, Preservation Manager for the Surfrider Foundation has been on the frontlines of the effort to “Save Trestles” for more than seven years. I caught up with him while the Nike Lowers Pro was underway.

Mark Rauscher

Patch: Last year you and and I shared an epic session at Uppers on the first swell of the season and it was pretty obvious that you just love the place. What makes Trestles and the entire San Onofre State Beach complex so special?

Mark Rauscher: That was a great swell! What’s so amazing about the Trestles area is that there are so many high-quality surf spots in such a small area.  Whether you want to rip it up at Lowers, get long lined-up waves at Uppers, Cottons or Church, or even cruise on your longboard at Old Man’s, there’s a wave inside the state beach for everyone. The natural beach and clean water only add value to this treasure we have in the middle of crowded, urbanized Southern California.

Patch: I know that Trestles is famed for its surf, but for me and others, walking the trail along San Mateo Creek is an integral part of the Trestles experience. What is so unique about the San Mateo Creek watershed?

Rauscher: It’s really great that you can take the trail down to the beach, leaving the parking lot and freeway behind and listening to the birds chirping. The natural creek and surrounding wetlands and woods really top off the experience of the place, letting you unwind and decompress as you make your way to the beach.

Patch: What is it exactly that the TCA is proposing and how would that proposal impact the San Onofre State Beach and San Mateo Creek watershed?

Rauscher: The TCA originally proposed extending a major toll highway from where it currently ends 16 miles inland to connect with I-5 at Trestles. This road would bisect the inland three-mile portion of San Onofre State Beach, paving over critical habitat for endangered species and running nearly on top of the San Mateo Campground. Right now most of the land around the San Mateo Creek is still undeveloped, helping to keep the water in the creek (and the surf) super clean. All of the pollution from the road would go into the creek, fouling the lineup. This project has been called one of the worst threats to the California coast in decades.

Patch: Back in 2008, you and the Surfrider Foundation worked with the Save San Onofre Coalition to defeat the proposal by the TCA to build a toll road through San Mateo Creek watershed and San Onofre State Beach. That effort included a public meeting at the Del Mar Fairgounds, the largest in the history of the California Coastal Commission. Why did more than 6,000 people attend public meetings on the TCA toll road proposal?

President Richard Nixon celebrating the establishment of San Onofre State Beach.

Rauscher: Clearly Trestles and San Onofre are hugely popular and treasured by many people throughout the state. We put in a huge effort to get the word out so that everyone in the region knew what was at risk and asked them to come speak out. I think that when decisions are being made that are so obviously out of sync with the public’s desires, they get angry and want to have their voices heard. We’ve seen that a lot in the last few years with the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. In this case the massive turnout and outcry was critically important to getting the decision we wanted.

Patch: Trestles is arguably ground zero for modern professional surfing and surf culture. On any given day there are surfers from all over Southern California, the United State and often from abroad surfing Trestles. What was the role of the surf industry and pro surfers in helping to defeat the toll road proposal?

Rauscher: The industry did a great job helping us get the word out to rally the troops. Between the magazines writing articles and promoting on their website, to a few companies closing their offices to bus in their employees, we had tons of support.

Patch: Was it just surfers who opposed the toll road project or were there other groups involved too?

Rauscher: We had a bunch of great partners, each of whom brought their own strengths to bear. Attorneys, policy experts, wildlife scientists, water quality specialists, outdoor advocates, Native Americans and of course lots of surfers all came together to fight this horrible project. It was truly inspiring to get to work with such a great group of people.

Patch: Surfrider has carried out research on the economic impact of Trestles on businesses in San Clemente—how much do surfers who use Trestles put into the local economy of San Clemente?

Rauscher: The waves at Trestles attract surfers from throughout Southern California who contribute to San Clemente’s local economy by spending money in town when they visit. They buy gas, eat at local restaurants, and shop in local stores. The state park keeps careful counts of visitation at Trestles and estimates that over 300,000 surfers visit Trestles each year. Based on a study by Dr. Chad Nelsen, we know that 83 percent of the surfers visit Trestles come from outside the city of San Clemente and contribute between 8 and 13 million dollars a year to the local economy. These surfers have a lot of choices about where to surf but they are drawn to Trestles for the natural setting and the high quality waves.

Patch: Like me, most of the general public assumed that the TCA’s toll road proposal was dead. So what is the status of the project now?

Rauscher: The TCA has been back at the drawing board for the last couple years. Their latest plan is to get started and build the first five miles of the road, the section that is furthest from the beach. Unfortunately they still say this is just the beginning and they plan to connect it the rest of the way to I-5 in the future. We’ll know more about the specifics of this plan in the fall when they release more details.

Patch: How can the TCA expect to reverse such an overwhelming defeat in the court of public opinion and by the Coastal Commission and a rejection by the Department of Commerce during the final days of the Bush administration? Is the TCA trying to exempt itself from Coastal Commission oversight?

Rauscher: In order to build the road all the way to Trestles they would definitely have to overcome a lot of resistance the Coastal Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce. Both of those agencies made it very clear that their road would violate multiple laws, not to mention destroy a large portion of the state park. Of course the TCA has a lot of resources and highly paid attorneys so we’re definitely watching them closely.

Patch: What motivates you to continue your efforts to “Save Trestles” and other surf breaks around the country?

Rauscher: Surf spots are limited resources and they all need to be treasured and protected. A perfect wave is a very special thing and when you find one you want to hang on to it. Each of us has our own favorite break and it’s up to us to watch out for it. When threats arise we must speak out.

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