The Best Winter Surf Destinations

Serge Dedina during the recent Thanksgiving swell. Photo: Alan Jackson

From my Patch.com column this week.

This past Thanksgiving weekend swell—arguably the best run of clean waves and conditions we’ve had since Labor Day–was a great reminder why winter is the best time in California and much of the northern hemisphere to be a surfer.

Swells from the northern and western Pacific batter the coast. Offshore winds blow out of the canyons, creating perfect surfing conditions.

Although the water is cold, with a good wetsuit and attitude, you can surf for hours.

The winter surf season from November through March—is not only a great time to surf your homebreak and to visit nearby spots, it is also a great time to explore the California coastlline and the planet to catch great waves and visit beautiful beaches.

Serge Dedina surfing during the recent Thanksgiving swell. Photo: Alan Jackson.

Here are some winter destination spots in California and globally that are worth a visit.

Rincon: This Queen of the Coast that is located between Ventura and Santa Barbara and is California’s best point break, comes alive during the winter surf season. Best bet is to visit after a long run of swell midweek, when it will be less crowded. Be on the lookout for some of the world’s best surfers in the lineup including Kelly Slater, Tom Curren, Shaun Tomson and Bobby Martinez. And then explore the plethora of great surf spots and picturesque coastline from Ventura to Gaviota State Park.

Rincon fun. Photo: Jason Stutz.

Black’s: Located just north of La Jolla and south of Torrey Pines, Black’s sucks in north swells and spits out beautiful A-frames and shimmering walls. Although it is bound to be crowded with local surfers who rip, it is worth the walk down the trail to get a chance to catch a few of Black’s beautiful waves. Lookout for the resident peregrine falcons that inhabit the cliffs above the beach.

Santa Cruz: The next location for a World Surfing Reserve, Steamer Lane and the waves of Santa Cruz offer winter size, consistency and due to the plentiful kelp and prevailing winds, great conditions that making surfing all day a possibility. The crowds are fierce, the locals shred, but if you are lucky you’ll snag a few great point waves at our state’s true surf city.

Hawaii: Pick the west and north shores of Oahu, Kauai, and Maui and you are bound to find the biggest and most challenging waves of your life in warm tropical waters. There are probably no other locations to surf that are as majestic as Hanalei Bay on Kauai or Honalua Bay on Maui. Just remember to visit after the contest and holiday seasons are over.

Daniel Dedina surfing on Oahau.

Mexico: North and west swells can hit the coast from Nayarit down to northern Oaxaca. Winter is a great time to longboard the points or find great beachbreaks for shortboards and barrels. Expat surf villages such as Sayulita, Troncones and Saladita offer cool surf-style accommodations and a variety of waves. Exploring the coast and going off the beaten track is worth the effort.

The point at Saladita.

Peru. Legendary left points in northern Peru such as Mancora and Cabo Blanco turn on during north swells. The water is warm and there are plenty of places to find uncrowded waves. When I lived in Peru for a year in the mid-80s I spend a week in northern Peru in December and scored some of the best and most hollow waves of my life. Just don’t forget to take the time to visit Cuzco and Machu Pichu or the amazing Andean peaks of the Cordillera Blanca around Huaraz.

Serge Dedina surfing Cabo Blanco, Peru.

Morocco. The newest and hippest surf destination, the hollow right points north of Agadir are a lot like Baja’s north coast, with similar weather and water temps. Like Peru, this is a country where leaving the surf for a few days or more is worth it. Morocco is an amazing country, filled with stunning and historic cities such as Marrakech and Essaouira. Take the time to head east of Marrakech over the mountains to explore the Route of the Kasbahs and the Sahara.

Ocean Water Quality 101: Or Why You Shouldn’t Surf After it Rains

Tijuana River sewage plume.

With the recent storms that dropped more than an inch of rain along the coast in Southern California and more than an inch and a half in the mountains, rivers, gullies, streams and storm drains carried the runoff directly into the Pacific Ocean. Along most of our coast there is a significant risk associated with surfing after it has rained. Paloma Aguirre of WiLDCOAST, a longtime competitive bodyboarder, is working to clean up what is arguably the most polluted stretch of coastline in Southern California, the area around entrance to the Tijuana River just north of the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Paloma Aguirre of WiLDCOAST in the Tijuana River Valley.

However Paloma does not work alone to safeguard our coast. In San Diego she partners with the City of Imperial Beach, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, State of California, and the U.S. EPA, as well as organizations such as San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation-San Diego Chapter, I Love a Clean San Diego, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, and Heal the Bay, to stop polluters, clean up beaches and watersheds, and educate the public about how to reduce our ocean pollution footprint.

Patch: It rained more than an inch along the coast over the weekend and an inch and a half in the mountains over the weekend. How does all that rain end up causing water quality problems along the coast?

Urban runoff in the Tijuana River Valley.

Paloma Aguirre: Urban runoff is the number one cause of ocean pollution after a significant rainfall. Impervious surfaces can increase runoff that can contain gasoline, motor oil and other pollutants from roadways and parking lots, as well as fertilizers nd pesticides from lawns.

Patch: Specifically, what illnesses are associated with rain-related runoff in the ocean?

Aguirre: Runoff can cause a large number of illnesses ranging from gastrointestinal infections to ear, eye, and skin infections.

Patch: What should ocean users and especially surfers do to keep themselves healthy during the rainy season in Southern California?

Aguirre: Ocean users and surfers should avoid entering the ocean for at least 72 hours following a rainfall event.

Patch: What are the trouble spots along the coast that surfers should be looking out for in terms of avoiding problem areas?

Aguirre: River mouths, jetties, bays, storm drains or any area where water enters the ocean usually have higher levels of bacteria. The County of San Diego provides current information on beach closures that can be found here.

Sewage pipe in the Tijuana that directs sewage into the Tijuana River Valley.

Patch: What are the consistently most polluted surf spots in San Diego County?

Aguirre: The most impacted beaches in all of San Diego County are Border Field State Park, the Tijuana Sloughs and Imperial Beach due to sewage contaminated water from the Tijuana River. It accounts for 85% of all of San Diego County’s beach closures.

Patch: You’ve been working with researchers at San Diego State University to get a better understanding of the health implications with contact with polluted water along the U.S.-Mexico border. What were the findings? And what did you and WiLDCOAST do to prevent ocean-related illnesses?

Aguirre: The study showed that there is a 1 in 10 chance of contracting Hepatitis A (among many other viral and bacterial infections) when coming in contact with polluted water from the Tijuana River. WiLDCOAST partnered with the Imperial Beach Health Center to provide free Hepatitis A vaccinations to local ocean users. The program is still available to ocean users Please call (619) 429-3733 and ask for a “Hepatitis A Vaccination for Imperial Beach Ocean Users.”  (Available to adults only)

Patch: What are the key things that everyone can do to reduce ocean pollution?

Aguirre: There are many things people can do in their daily lives that can prevent ocean pollution. Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers on lawns and gardens. When it rains it washes out to the ocean. Dispose of chemicals such as motor oils, paint and chemicals adequately to avoid runoff. Avoid leaving pet waste on the street; it can carry bacteria and viruses that can harm human and wildlife health.

Volunteers from YMCA Camp Surf clean up the beach at Border Field State Park.

Patch: There has been a lot of awareness about the plague of plastic and debris in the ocean? What are the sources of the “plastic plague” and specifically what can people do to reduce their impact on the environment.

Aguirre: Disposable plastics are the greatest source of plastic pollution. Plastic bags, straws, bottles, utensils, lids, cups, and so many others offer a small convenience but remain forever. It is important to follow the “4 R’s: in our daily lives to ensure a sustainable future: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Patch: You have been working with WiLDCOAST over the past few years to reduce the amount of ocean pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and reduce the amount of plastic and waste tires flowing into the ocean from the Tijuana River. Talk about the extent of the problem and some of the solutions you have developed?

Cleaning up waste tires in Tijuana.

Aguirre: A recent report estimates that there are currently over 10 million plastic bottles and more than 5,000 ocean-bound waste tires in the Tijuana River Valley and Estuary. The City of Tijuana does not have enough resources to provide sufficient trash collection and sewage collection to unregulated urban developments. Because of the hydrology of the watershed, a lot of uncollected waste washes across the border when it rains. During the recent Tijuana River Action Month we worked to mobilize over 2,600 volunteers on the both sides of the border to clean up over 63,000 pounds of trash. And last week we collaborated with the City of Tijuana to remove 350 waste tires from Los Laureles Canyon before it rained.

Surf-O-Rama Doheny State Beach

On Saturday I had a table for my book, Wild Sea, at the Surf-O-Rama Surf Expo at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. It was a cool surf and beach culture event, all geared to benefit the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association. The best part was running into old friends, including Beto Bedole, Mike Broussard (my old State of CA lifeguard instructor) and Rick Wunderli (my old 7th grade PE coach who used to show us surf photos of epic Cardiff during the winter of 77-78).

The event took place at Doheny State Beach. This was the beginning of the Killer Dana reef and point that was destroyed by the placement of a marina. What a shame. It looks epic.

A photo of Phil Edwards surfing the wave destroyed by the marina. The area is now one of the most polluted beaches in California.

A Morris Minor surfmobile. These British cars never caught on in the U.S. but they made the coolest mini-woodies ever.

The Moondoggie Woodie.

The gray board is a Dick Brewer gun and the right board is a Gary Linden agave board. Both were going for about $9,000.

I really liked this 70's era "El Paipo" bellyboard.

Wild Sea in San Diego Magazine

Here is an article about my book Wild Sea in San Diego Magazine.

San Magazine article on Wild Sea

Taylor Jensen’s Professional Surfing Life

From my Coronado and Imperial Beach Patch Surfing Column of the week of March 16th:

Coronado’s Taylor Jensen is one of the most accomplished surfers to have come out of South County. Whether he is on a powering new school maneuvers on a longboard or ripping on his shortboard, Taylor, who holds 6 U.S. National longboard titles, mixes an impressive blend of athleticism, power and style into his surfing. He continues the long line of Coronado competitive new school longboarders including Mike and Terry Gillard and Dan Mann. When I caught up with Taylor, he was on his way to compete in the Noosa Festival of Surfing in Queensland, Australia.

When did you start surfing? And when did you get serious about professional surfing and why?

I started surfing at about 6yrs old. My Dad used to take me down to the beach and push me into waves on a blue body board. I was hooked from then on. I got serious about it when I got my first sponsor at 13. John Gillem hooked me up with Rusty Surfboards and that was it. I was sold on the idea of surfing for a living.

It seems as thought the Professional Longboard circuit is in a period of flux. To me you represent the best of “New School” longboarders carrying out high-performance maneuvers, but it seems as thought the sport is moving back to the traditionalist style as exemplified by the Vans Duct Tape Invitational that Joel Tudor organizes. Where is professional longboarding heading now?

Longboarding is sort of at a crossroads now. There has always been this divide between the traditional single fin side of things and the high performance side. There is no use trying to argue for one side or the other. That’s like someone who rides a twin fin telling someone who rides a thruster that they are wrong. It is surfing no matter what you ride. Longboarding, from a marketing standpoint, needs to head in the traditional direction. We need to differentiate from the shortboard side of things. People see me as the high performance guy, and yes I love riding a high performance longboard when the waves are good, but I also love riding a traditional single fin and noseriding.  Joel’s Duct Tape tour is a great thing for the sport. I’m heading to Spain later this year to be a part of it and am really looking forward to it.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Australia. Why does it seem that surfing and especially professional surfing is taken much more seriously Down Under than in California?

Just about everyone lives on the coast in Australia. Surfing is a part of everyone’s life here, whether they realize it or not. Surfing in Australia is a sport in which training facilities are dedicated to. Guys are signing multi million dollar deals at the age of 16 now. It is a great thing to see.

With the rise in retro shortboads that are wider and thicker than modern shortboards and allow high-performance surfing in small waves, is longboarding really even valid anymore?

Longboarding is a preference. There is no need to validate it. Ride whatever you have the most fun on. That is the whole reason any of us ever started surfing. Everyone should have as many boards as they can fit in their garage and ride them all. Every craft brings a different feeling of stoke. That is what we are looking for every time we enter the water. Longboarding, either high performance or traditional, is something different and it is where surfing started.

Taylor's Quiver

What types of boards are you riding, and who is shaping them? And how do you work with your shaper to obtain the shapes and boards that work for you?

I’m currently riding Firewire Surfboards. And I have almost every board in their range. Dan Mann shaped my longboard model. The relationship between a shaper and a rider is key to getting the best result. I always looked up to Dan’s surfing as a kid and he has seen me grow up so we have that hometown bond that allows us to create a great board.

You are one of the more athletic surfers on the professional circuit at any level. How are you staying in shape for surfing? And do you think most surfers are ignoring the importance of working out and diet to stay fit for surfing?

I had a severe ankle injury for the past three months so I got really out of shape. Getting back into peak performance is a lot harder than I remember. I’m getting into yoga and stretching a lot. Eating really healthy and taking care of your body is critical for surfing. Surfers are fit because of the exercise they do while surfing. If you combine that with stretching and eating right you’ll be looking at a new you.

Who are the surfers who have influenced you? And who is moving surfing forward today?

I have never really looked towards longboarding for influence. They guys who are pushing shortboarding are who influence me. Guys like Christian Wach have taken noseriding to a whole new level? The stuff he is doing on the front of his board is amazing! Also I like to see people who ride everything and who just don’t conform to some BS image for the media. Be you and do what you want to do, have fun with it!

One of the things that I admire most about your surfing is your ability to absolutely rip in any medium on shortboards and longboards? Do you find it hard to go back and forth? Is there a period of adjustment you have to make to surf well when go from a longboard to a shortboard?

I love shortboarding. That’s a huge part of my enjoyment in surfing. I’ll generally go weeks without riding a longboard and when I go back I surf better than ever before. Taking time to ride different boards is a huge part of developing your surfing. It is how you learn to get speed from different sections of waves and its how you find your own style. That’s a quest that never stops in your surfing, that journey to find your own style is something you can always work on and refine.

Where is your absolute favorite place to surf?

A certain place in Australia. It is the most magical place I have ever been. The waves are amazing, the people are wonderful, and the whole vibe is so laid back. I’m in love with this place. It is what California would have been like if we didn’t stuff it up with all the concrete, freeways, and pollution.

Best surf trip ever?

Two years ago I ended up on a trip to Micronesia with Mick Fanning, Beau Young, and Steph Gilmore. I have no idea why but it was amazing. You learn a lot by watching people like that. I took a lot of knowledge away from that and I gained some great new friends!

Who sponsors you and how do you work with your sponsors to have a long-term mutually productive professional relationship?

Currently my sponsors include Firewire Surfboards, Ocean Current Clothing, On A Mission, Kicker Audio, Coral Reef Wetsuits, and Surfride Boardshop. The relationships differ from sponsor to sponsor but all of them are like family to me. We have lunches, go for surfs, hang out and chat. But at the end of the day I am not employed to just surf. I get photos in magazines, go on editorial trips, shot videos for sections in movies, write a blog, test out future designs and give them feedback from an athlete’s point of view. There really is a lot involved in it but its always going to be better than sitting behind a desk.

What advice would you give a young surfer thinking about making the leap into professional surfing?

If you are really serious about it, take the time to test out the different career paths within the sport. There is always the chance to be a free surfer if contest aren’t your thing. And focus on having fun, as long as you are having fun it is worth it. The minute you stop having fun is when it turns from a job you love into the job you hate and then there is no point doing it. Get out there and go for it!

Wild Sea Review: WiLDCOAST founder’s inspiring book celebrates miracle of our coasts

A review from the Southwestern College Sun

Surfers are a hardy bunch, as Dr. Serge Dedina makes clear in his fascinating mew book. Even a bad shark bite cannot deter a dedicated surfer from entering the ocean-or loving it.

Daniel Dedina surfing the Imperial Beach Pier-the setting for some of Wild Sea.

Dedina, the brilliant and maverick surfer-philosopher-environmentalist from Imperial Beach, captures the majesty and mystery of our oceans in, “Wild Sea: Eco Wars and Surf Stories From The Coast of The Californias.”

He challenges people to be active by touching their hearts with personal stories from an array of people who live off and love the oceans of the Californias.

As executive director of WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, Dedina’s outside the box approaches to multi national environmentalism has helped save beaches, wildlife, and people. His book has a similar mission.

Dedina’s ability to conduct intimate interviews helps establish a relationship with environmental concerns. In one portion of the 168-page book, he interviews local fishermen who live near Magdalena Bay, the famous grey whale breeding ground. Through their stories, the reader can see the bay through the fishermen’s eyes. An ocean is a way of life.

Dedina successfully gets his message across with assertiveness and urgency, but without coming off as preachy. This makes the reader more open to hearing what he has to say and taking a real interest in the issues he promotes.

He warns us about the subtle and overt destruction of the coasts and the repercussions through the personal stories of people who live and work on the ocean and shoreline of the California and Baja. Baja’s fishermen agree they also care about the coast, and want to save it for their children and grandchildren.

Serge Dedina surfing Imperial Beach.

Dedina grew up in Imperial Beach, and spent many days with his family out on the ocean, surfing the sunlight away. Now he fights to preserve the coast for future his two sons. He was honored last year as the Southwestern College honorary degree recipient.

Dedina used many clever and ingenious tactics to get his message across. He has involved the local punk scene, was an advisor on the HBO show, “John From Cincinnati,” and teaming up with a popular luchador, El Hijo del Santo, to make videos that promote saving our coastal regions. WiLDCOAST is known for its proactive campaigns to save sea turtles and sharks.

The Lucha Libre El Hijo del Santo appears in m...

El Hijo del Santo, star of WiLDCOAST campaigns.

Dedina tells a story of hope and continued ambition to protect and preserve, not just the coastlines of California, but also the natural beauty of the world. “Wild Sea,” is an important and thought-provoking book. Best of all, it is a fun read.

 

Got Sand? A Brief History of Sand Projects in Imperial Beach

A boy who was almost impaled by metal dumped on Imperial Beach in 2004.

Sometime this week the Scows DS5, Harold M and Clarence D and tugs Katha C and Killeen will transport barges filled with 33,000 cubic yards of sediment dredged up from the Ballast Point Coast Guard Station in San Diego Bay by the vessel DB Palomar.

 

Rather than dump the dredge spoils that contain cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls  (PCBs) at an existing dumpsite off of Point Loma, the toxic sediment will be placed just offshore from the terminus of Imperial Beach Boulevard in Imperial Beach. The placement of this toxic material will be carried out with the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Imperial Beach.

The history of Imperial Beach is rife with a parade of badly executed “beach replenishment” projects that have failed to actually do much to protect our coastline. The problem of our receding shoreline is the result of the combination of sea level rise, the construction of the Rodriguez Dam, and the armoring of our coast.

Here is a brief history of the mostly unsuccessful and fatally flawed sand projects carried out by federal agencies at the urging of the City of Imperial Beach. Only one agency, SANDAG has been able to carry out a successful beach project—primarily due to its commitment to using clean large grain sand for its projects.

1976-77: The most toxic areas of South San Diego Bay are dredged and the spoils are dumped on Imperial Beach killing benthic life (e.g. sand crabs) for more than a decade. Local surfers still tell stories about the skin rashes they received from contact with the filthy sediment.

1977-1984: The Army Corps attempts to build a mile-long breakwater in Imperial Beach. The fledgling Surfrider Foundation and local surfer Jim Knox stop the project at the last minute. The breakwater would have forever destroyed surfing and wave action in most of Imperial Beach.

2000-2009: Army Corps and the City of Imperial Beach plan a $75 million long-term project involving dredging an area near the border sewage outfall pipe that was used as a WWI gunnery and bombing area. WiLDCOAST, Imperial Beach surfers, the Surfrider Foundation, Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama White House kill the project that the City of Imperial Beach spent more than $250,000 lobbying for.

2001: SANDAG carries out a project with clean sand, which helps to create great sandbars for surfing and clearly increases the size of our beach.

2004: Army Corps dredges area near the Bay Bridge. Barges then dump toxic sediment in the surf zone including thousands of rocks and pieces of garbage, dangerous rebar and metal onto beach and in surf zone. Surfers call the dump area “Toxics”. One child is almost impaled by a piece of rebar that is hidden in the surf zone. The City initially denies that the garbage and rocks are from the project. No measurable benefit to beach.

On of the thousands of shell/rock conglomerate dumped on Imperial Beach in 2004. These can still be found all over the beach.

2007: Army Corps permits the dredging of a toxic hot spot in San Diego Bay’s Shelter Island. Dredge spoils are dumped with no notice to Imperial Beach residents. Barge is initially turned away by Imperial Beach Lifeguards. The barge subsequently works in the middle of the night to avoid public scrutiny. No measurable benefit to beach.

2010: SANDAG once again proposes “best practices” sand project to be carried out in 2012 involving clean large grain sand. The agency works extensively with local surfers and stakeholders to plan the project.

Rather than focus on a coastal zone management plan that proactively seeks to enhance our coastline by addressing sea level rise, ocean pollution and beach management, unfortunately the City of Imperial Beach continues to seeks the placement of any type of “sand” on our beach, regardless of the potential threats to our children.

It will be important for the community to monitor the current project to identify any impacts and threats to public safety. In a communication on Tuesday with the EPA I wrote that, “Unfortunately during all of the San Diego Bay projects in which dirty and toxic sediment is dumped on our beach—federal agencies have either not informed local agencies at all, or involved almost minimal notification or no stakeholder involvement at all. These are examples of the worst type of coastal zone management practices.”

People go to the beach to swim in clean water.  The City of Imperial Beach should focus on reducing ocean pollution—the main deterrent to tourism—rather than  placing toxic sediment on our beaches in a misguided attempt to promote economic development.

See you in the water.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

Serge Dedina and Wild Sea on KPBS-These Days

On January 24th, I appeared on KBPS Radio’s These Days to discuss Wild Sea and a large sewage spill that impacted water quality in South San diego

CAVANAUGH: Which did the recent big sewage spill start in Mexico and why wasn’t it reported to U.S. authorities? I’m Maureen Cavanaugh, coming up on These Days, are there are many questions arising from the sewage pipe collapse in Tijuana. It spilled an estimates tens of thousands of gallons into the ocean and led to beach closures both in Tijuana and San Diego’s south bay. But beyond this incident, sewage spill res main a continual hazard for swimmers, surfers and coastal residents on both sides of the border. We’ll examine how effective our efforts have been to keep San Diego’s coastal waters clean. First ahead this hour on These Days. First the news.

I’m Maureen Cavanaugh and you’re listening to These Days on KPBS. San Diego County beaches got a belated and unwanted new year’s clever from Mexico. A massive sewage spill has fell beaches from pray playa de Tijuana to skeg’s south bay. One of the most disturbing features about this spill is that it apparently went unreported to American authorities for weeks. This morning, we’ll talk about where we stand in efforts to protect the quality of California’s coastline. Efforts have been under way for years to clean up the coast and coastal waters seven. Are they working? I’d like to introduce my guests, Serge Dedina is executive director of wild cost, and author of the new book, wild sea, eco wars and surf stories from the coast of a California. Serge, are good morning, welcome to These Days.

Serge, can you give us first of all, an update on where we are in this spill? First of all has the pipe been repaired? Has it topped.

DEDINA: Yeah, last night, I received an e-mail from a residence debt of playa de Tijuana, and he actually talked to the work crews working on really what is a block long sewage pipe break down, and apparently they’re putting a rubber — some rubber material 32 the existing pipe that’s about a block long. So he thinks it’ll take some time. Apparently some of the rains caused some of the erosion which caused the pipe diagonal. So hopefully those crews are working seven days a week to get that up. So we’ll see. Luckily the beach was open this morning in Imperial Beach, so that’s good news for surfers and beach users everywhere in the south bay.

CAVANAUGH: Now, why, if indeed the sewage pipe hasn’t necessarily been repaired yet, we don’t know, why is the beach open?

DEDINA: Well, unfortunately, imperial beach is a function of swell and wind conditions. So we had a beach closure notification last week and we could really smell the sewage precisely because we had a lot bit of a south swell, and a little bit of a south wind. And that pushes up from playa de Tijuana, the Tijuana River, and sometimes from six miles south of the boarder, and a sewage river called Punta Bandera, so that’s something that worries my team and I at wild coast, and we’ve really been working hard to deal with.

CAVANAUGH: So however north do the beach closures go.

DEDINA: Well, the beach closures were going as far as — really the north end of imperial beach, but that doesn’t mean it goes into the Coronado. Really, what happens, is there’s sewage moving so quickly that oftentimes county authorities don’t always catch the sewage when it hits the beach. But the county has been doing a great job along with my colleagues at wild coast at really documenting what’s happening, and really trying to be proactive about closing the beach as soon as we know about sewage contamination. But in this case, only, we didn’t know until — about a sewage spill until haft week that had been happening since December 23rdrd.

CAVANAUGH: So when did you first become aware that this sewage spill had occurred.

DEDINA: Well, last Tuesday — the surf has been really good. Surfers have known in San Diego for the last three weeks. And I got up really early in the morning, had my wet suit on, literally jumped out of my car with my board at 6:30 in the morning, and the stench of sewage was absolutely overpowering. This was about 6:30 in the morning. So I called my colleagues at wild coast Paloma, and Paloma actually went across the boarder and found the sewage spill, another environmentalist in Tijuana had known about it as well, but we immediately contacted the authorities and the San Diego media who really jumped on the for. The next day, Wednesday morning, when it appeared in the front page of the San Diego union, work crews had already started working Tijuana. We really got their attention.

CAVANAUGH: I want to remind our listeners that we’re inviting you to join this conversation at 1-888-895-5727. What is the best guess of when this sewage spill actually started?

DEDINA: Really, I think, from talking to residents, we’ve got a good YouTube video on our website at wild coast dot net, it sounds like it was before Christmas. From talking to different residents, what they’re saying is there’s a continual plethora of sewage pump station breakdowns in Playas. That really upon has a lot with the rape, you get these sewage stations, pump stations that are over loaded. So a lot of sewage flows into the ocean of that’s something that we expected. But you have to give credit to the city of Tijuana, over all, they have been doing a great job in improving their sewage collection system. But really these issues show there’s a lot of breakdown of communication, and really that’s why organization like wild coast and my colleague at San Diego coast keeper and people like Bruce exist because we know that it really isn’t a job of all notorieties this monitor the coastline, but it’s really our job to make sure they do their job, and we can all enjoy the ocean.

CAVANAUGH: And what’s the submit of how much sewage has actually spilled?

DEDINA: The city of Tijuana estimates it’s about a half a million gallons a day, other estimates came in at a million gallons. The bottom line is, whether it’s between half a million gallons and a million gallons a day, the video shows a large pipe spewing sewage right into the surf line which gets carried north very easily. It’s way too much. And probably over 30 million gallons since before Christmas, and ultimately, my kids and I and lots of other people in Imperial Beach and Coronado and south San Diego have been suffering in that. And one Kay I came out of the water, and actually my entire wet suit just stunk. So it’s naturalistic pretty, it’s not pleasant. But it’s something we need to work together on both sides of the boarder to really fix.

CAVANAUGH: We’re talking about this most recent sewage spill that fouled beaches in Tijuana and San Diego’s South Bay. Taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 let’s take a call. Dave is calling from Ocean Beach. Good morning, Dave, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. Thank you having me. I have a question for Serge, actually. Given the — given this recent spill south of the border, I’m wondering if you could clarify why wild coast was opposed to the Bahama project, which would have created up to 50 million gallons per day of sewage on the Mexican side of the border, which I think is twice the capacity of the international treatment plant on our side, which is the capacity of 25 MGD or so. And I’ll take my answer off the air. Thanks very much.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you, Dave. And of course the Bajagua plant was big news several years ago. A lot of debate about that. Perhaps can you give us a thumbnail version to bring our listeners up to speed?

DEDINA: Yeah, in my book, Wild Sea, I talked specifically about the Bajagua project. And really, it really isn’t about Bajagua. Bajagua consumed a lot of news. We argued it wasn’t a good cost effective way for U.S. taxpayers to fund work in Mexico. Since the Bajagua project was canceled, we’ve got a new border plant being built on the north side of the US/Mexico boarder, very and $10 million a piece. So it’s a much more cost effective way of dealing with this 11issue. And really I’ve learned a lot from Bruce, and I think Bruce and his colleagues at coast keeper have really argued in San Diego, you have to look at the big and small solutions to these issues. And wale when wee looking at this specific sewage spill, whether or not we have a sewage plant in eastern Tijuana or western Tijuana, this is a specific infrastructure breakdown, a pipe breakdown. Sewage plants don’t fix old pipes. And this where we’ve argued at wild coast in my book, wild sea, is that we’ve gotta think big and small, tackle the small problems that result in beach closures in IB, and some of the larger issues.

CAVANAUGH: Sure, yes: But some of these wounds are still there. I think we ail really need to come together and think about the big comprehensive solution to the border sewage issue. It’s gonna be a challenging one over the next couple decades. Just one quick last question about the Bajagua project, what I have heard from people, and I want to see if you b Serge, in if that plant had been in place, that this spill would have been as bad as it was. Do you agree?

DEDINA: Absolutely not. This was completely independent of sewage treatment plants, which was the an example of an old pipe that broke because of erosion and rain on a sort of a cliff near the ocean. Anybody who knows Playas of Tijuana knows that literally the entire slope is eroding downhill. And that was the argument we made, whether or not you have centralized sewage plants issue you’re gotta think big and small in Tijuana. A lot of these gullies that flow into the beach, sewage pump stations break down and specifically to tell you how you can address it at no cost, the Otay water strict, and thanks guy, donated a generator to the city of Tijuana to make sure that when pump cities break down, they can get the electricity on and keep pumping the station. I’m sorry. A blackout. So it’s not just spending five hundred million on a sewage plant, it’s thinking big and small, getting into the colonias, and really making sure these small spills don’t close beaches.

CAVANAUGH: And I just want too to make the point, my producer, Hank Crook, has told me that a sewage spill that closed a half mile of ocean beach shore line happened around Christmas time. It was caused by a flooded pump station in Santee, the sewage flowed down San Diego river out into the ocean at Dog Beach. So we still have spills on our side of the boarder as well.

DEDINA: Exactly. I think that’s why it’s important not to point fingers and say that Mexico’s western the United States or that we just gotta focus on these giant issues,  You upon, what are the comprehensive ways we need to do things? But also to make sure that every agency is doing their job, and more importantly that citizens and environmental groups, like coast keeper and wild coast, are out monitoring every day to make sure that people aren’t affected. And of course dogs at Ocean Beach aren’t affected by renegade sewage spills.

NEW SPEAKER: I work in La Jolla, and I work in plain view of the ocean, and I can say that a number of times in recent years, I’ve seen visually what’s sometimes referred to as the brown tide, meaning a sewage spill in Tijuana has washed up along the shore of the San Diego beaches. Including in La Jolla, La Jolla shores beach. I’m wondering — well, heme just preface my question with a comment that obviously we’re in a period of tight budgets and the — any solution that’s proposed is gonna cost money. So one of the issues you have to grapple with is how are you gonna raise funds to potentially come up with the money needed to technologically fix this problem in Tijuana. And I’m just wondering about the value to the San Diego tourism industry, better water quality. And whether you might think about tying a mechanism for improving water quality to some kind of tax or other fundraising on the tourism industry instead of trying to dip into already strained government budgets.

CAVANAUGH: Serge, any chance of a beach tax.

DEDINA: Well, I’m not sure that in Mexico that’s really the solution. But one of the things we talk about at wild coast, [CHECK] reframe the debate in Mexico so it’s not just about dirty beaches but about quality of life in Tijuana so that kids aren’t literally playing in sewage in if every colonia in Tijuana, and that really means supporting the Mexican government’s efforts to look for Japanese development funds, which they used to build three new sewage treatment plants, to go after north American bank funds, and then also to really tap people like senator Diane Feinstein who got about a hundred million to upgrade the sewage plant on the border to secondary treatment. So we’ve been really proactive at looking at a diverse source of funding, and really working proactively with Baja California and Tijuana officials and officials from Mexico City to really target the problem and come up with concrete solutions. And I have to get Tijuana credit. They’ve done a great job in moving forward in the last three years. [CHECK] by working proactively with Mexico and being really, really, I guess, entrepreneurial in how we identify multilateral funding, woo we can make a big step in dealing with this issue.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, good morning. I just wanted to make a comment how something that really frustrates me is that — when we get into these debates, whether it’s an oil spill or a sewage spill, I get really frustrated that it doesn’t seem that there’s enough emphasis placed on the fact that it’s our marine life or wildlife’s home. The conversation seems to always go right back to human impact only. And I feel that in people don’t really realize the delicate, you know, balance of life, and that we’re all part of a circle that I don’t know that there’s ever gonna be enough care to really take on these issues and say no and prioritize projects like this to get them done because it affects our earth, it affects our whole circle of life. So if you’d like to comment on, I’d like to hear what you have to say about that. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Joan, thanks very much.

DEDINA: Well, you know, first of all, I love the ocean, I love wildlife, and that’s something I really talk about in my book, wild sea. But the fact is, whether or not I can surf with a beautiful pod of dolphins, [CHECK] any traction on the border sewage issue until we reframed the debate to really be about children’s health, whether there were children swimming in Tijuana, and more personal in the U.S., [CHECK] are boarder patrol agents who are getting sick from contact with polluted water, our friends in the U.S. Navy seals who had to stop training because they were getting so sick. So we really changed the debate. In fact my favorite person who’s been our biggest activist, is Dick Tynan, who’s a cowboy. And Dick and I, appear on TV together, he’s got a big cowboy hat, so cowboys and surfers and border parole agents and kids working together on both sides of the border talking about the impact on public health, and our friendly dolphins and leopard sharks is the only way we can really move this debate forward.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you though, when there is a big sewage spill, like the one we have contended with in the last few week, and there have been great surf, surfers wanting to go out and get in on that, I’m wondering, some surfers disregard beach closures, what kind of health risks are they actually putting themselves in danger of?

DEDINA: Well, at wild coast, we worked with Rick Gerzberg [CHECK] on the impacts of Oceanside pollution on public health, the study that we actually did with him showed that 75 percent of the people who come in contact with the Oceanside water in Imperial Beach every week have gotten sick. I know I just talked to one person who got really significant ear aches, I’ve been sent to the emergency room with ear infections of so the risks are really high. At least in south county, that you can really get sick. I think if extends on your own immune system. I know at coast keeper and with the county department of environmental health, you’re not gonna stop the idiots who want to surf in really polluted water, we real estate really Mike sure that a guy who’s just gotten back from Iraq, and wants to take his family to Beach in OB and IB, he doesn’t step in polluted water. There’s always going to be a group of hardcore surfers who actually seem to really thrive in surfing in polluted water.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I used to many years ago, friends of mine and I used to crack dawn before school and high school and go down to Baja, Malibu, Rosarito, the waves down there are as good as anywhere in the world. And I refuse to surf there now. It is — it has gotten so bad. And I’m really alarmed by the amount of development that’s gone on there. I mean, Donald Trump had some huge development going on there. I don’t know if it’s stopped in its tracks due to the economy. But there’s a lot of high rise development. And targeting, you know, U.S. people to buy a vacation, you know, retreat or whatever, weekend apartment or condo.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

NEW SPEAKER: And there’s just — I’m alarmed at the amount of development. And I wonder, you know, I can imagine what’s happening with the sewage from all these new resorts. I don’t think they’re pumping it back up the hill away from the beach. They’re all right on the cliff at the ocean.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Let’s get a — Dave, let’s get a comment on that. And Serge?

DEDINA: Yeah, in my book, wild sea, I really talk about the whole Baja boom to Baja bust. Right now on the coast between Tijuana and Ensenada, I counted just republic 24 empty high rise buildings, Dave, and you’re absolutely right. It’s Baja Malibu, just north of Baja Malibu, there’s 30 million gallons of sewage discharged every day right on the beach, which has a huge impact [CHECK] Baja Malibu, which we all know is one of the big beach rigs on the planet. Some guys still surf there, and a lot of guys get really sick. But the plethora, [CHECK] Ensenada has had a significant impact on tourism, and frankly, some of the largest developers in Mexico aren’t doing what they should to really make that coast attractive to tourists. And that’s where I really — what developers and tourism officials called the gold coast has really turned into the ghost town coast. Because that coast is absolutely empty. [CHECK] and second, if you go to the beaches that are good for suffering, a lot of them like rosarita and Baja Malibu are super polluted. So that’s something that Mexican officials have started to look at. But really the private sector and the government need to work hand in hand with citizens to address that issue because people are just voting with their feet and not going to northern Baja because of the pollution and lack of public access.

CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you both, if I may, one aspect of this Christmas sewage spill that really, really has annoyed and, alarmed people and that is the fact that the American authorities aren’t notified of this sewage spill for weeks. And I’m wondering issue since people have been working on this kind of communication for years now, what broke down?

DEDINA: Well, I’m not sure what broke down. I think it was before Christmas of I’m not sure what happened in Tijuana. Maybe people didn’t alert the proper authorities of but as produce and I know, there’s always gonna be a problem with agencies and with governments. What Bruce and I at coast keeper and wild coast have worked on really for the most of our lives is the fact that you need the public sector or the public involved, you need citizens monitoring our beaches and coastline [CHECK] in suing people to make sure they do their job, changing our regulatory framework to make sure that we have better legislation and [CHECK] in place, these sewage spills aren’t happening and then alerting authorities. That the process broke down right before Christmas, a really busy time in Mexico for vacations. And so, you know, it was a step back. But I’m confident that by getting more citizen capacity in place in Tijuana and on the rest of the Mexican coast as well as in San Diego, we can make sure we prevent those spills or at least alert authorities the minute they happen.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to add a couple comments on the notification aspect of beach water quality. And I thought one of the things that was coming up as a result of the spill down at the border at the end of 2010 was some type of an amendment to the IBWC discharge permits that would require notification to the health agency department of environmental health in San Diego during those events. And the second thing I wanted to bring up was when I was — before I left coast keeper, there was discussion with Doug Lyden at USEPA to extend public notification that’s shown on SD water sheds.org that would include enormous Baja beaches.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, clay, let me take that. I think you want to take that, Serge.

DEDINA: Yeah, specifically, clay, thanks for bringing that up. And what we found when we look at all these sewage spills is that agencies — it turns out that agencies that work on the boarders like the IBWC aren’t actually required to inform San Diego County agencies when sewage is discharged into the ocean. If it’s into the Tijuana river, they’re required by law to inform other agencies that this happens. And so we’ve gotta go back and get a minute put into U.S. treaty so that the IDWC can notify the county of san diego and the regional board, that’s a really great policy recommendation. Soap those are the really big and small things to really improve this stuff. But clay is actually the guy that really talked to me with the small things that go into creating beach closures in.

CAVANAUGH: And Serge Dedina, I want to mention that your new book, wild sea, eco wars and surf stories from the coast of the Californias, you’re gonna be reading from that at the Tijuana estuary this Saturday; is that right?

DEDINA: That’s right, from 6 to 8:00 PM, you can find out more information on wild sea book.com, or wild coast dot net. And I want to thank Bruce for his work [CHECK] drives the work that we do, making sure that all those little groms in the water and on the beach, and everybody there with their dogs, and everybody loves the beach and can continue doing that. Because that’s who makes San Diego San Diego.

Wild Sea Review: New Book Explores Beach Culture, Conservation in California and Mexico


In “Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias,”Serge Dedina tells the real-life story of struggles, blockades and the loss of rich biodiverse land in California and the Baja California peninsula.

“Wild Sea” will host a book-launch party at the Tijuana Estuary Training Center Saturday from 6-8 p.m.

Dedina’s passion for the land started as a kid growing up in Imperial Beach, surfing the Tijuana Sloughs. Making his way up and down the coast for most of his life, this book chronicles surf culture, the elimination of native habitats, and the evolution of organized grassroots efforts to preserve what is left of one of the world’s largest and most diverse coastal ecosystems.

It is a journey into Magdalena Bay, the habitat of precious gray whale breeding habitats, sensitive fisheries and the quickly disappearing sea turtle and includes the stories of surfers, birdwatchers, fishermen, scientists, surfers and environmentalists, who all come together for a common cause.

The book gives a shoreline a view of the history of great wave riders and their evolution from surfers to activists.

It’s also a first-hand account of battles won and lost against poachers, politicians, private companies and government agencies.

Dedina holds nothing back in his judgment of bureaucratic and corporate interests that he believes can pose a threat to these habitats as they search for fossil fuels or mega tourism hotspots. He documents the damage done and pleas for global community involvement.

With strong conviction, Dedina takes a look at problems the region faces today and the decades-long struggle to fight river and ocean pollution from both sides of the border.

Dedina became a co-founder and Executive Director of WiLDCOAST in 2000. Collaborating with Mexico’s government officials, biological specialists and environmental groups, WiLDCOAST expanded its vision in Mexico, creating Costasalvaje in Ensenada. Globally his organization and its partners fight together to protect what is left of the wild sea.

“Wild Sea” is a fantastic read for all ages.

Underwater Parks and the Tijuana Sloughs

Surfing the Sloughs 1967. Photo: Bill Gove

Underwater Parks Approved for Southern California Coast

Back in 1980 when I was 16 I sat in front of bulldozers and was beat up by thugs  to stop them from damming up the Tijuana river mouth and build a marina in the Tijuana Estuary.

But we won and 30 years later I surf the offshore reefs of the now Federally protected Estuary that are an MPA with my sons –and you can see waves breaking on cobble reefs that are now protected.

Serge Dedina and his son Israel surfing the Tijuana Sloughs, now protected as a Marine Protected Area.

It was only until the MPA process that this amazing reef—home to our resident pod of bottlenose dolphins and probably the most important leopard shark spawning site in So Cal– were officially recognized as a real ecosystem.

More recently we stopped a $75 million Army corps dredging project that would have destroyed the reef—and used its nomination as an MPA to justify our efforts.

Doing the right thing for the Ocean is always the right thing!!!

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Public News Service


Underwater Parks Created for Southern California

December 16, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The southern California coastline is getting some underwater protection. The state Fish and Game Commission voted late Wednesday to approve a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that will stretch from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

Marcela Gutierrez with Wildcoast says a variety of groups and the public have been working for two years on plans to create the underwater parks.

“This is a trailblazing effort. It’s one of the first of its kind in the world. The whole conservation community is watching, and it’s great for our coastal oceans going forward.”

Gutierrez says the MPAs ultimately will become fish nurseries that will benefit fishermen.

“They basically spill over, and then you have this phenomenon, which we’ve had already in the Channel Islands. People are already fishing the line because they know these are the areas where fish are more abundant.”

The compromise plan approved by the Fish and Game Commission will protect sea life and habitats at biodiversity hot spots, Gutierrez says, while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing.

Gutierrez points out that a healthy ocean and the recreational uses it supports are a major economic engine for California. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of coastal recreation in southern California is non-consumptive, and the area generates $22 billion in revenue and more than 350,000 jobs each year.

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