Imperial Beach 1989

English: Imperial Beach, California The symbol...

Imperial Beach, California The symbol of this surfers’ community south of San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imperial Beach Needs to Look Beyond the Beach

July 09, 1989|SERGE DEDINA | Serge Dedina is a lifelong Imperial Beach resident and a member of the city’s beach area and water-oriented facilities advisory committee

‘The budget crisis in Imperial Beach is temporarily over, and plans to disincorporate the city are on hold. City Manager Ron Jack has managed to raise revenues and cut Sheriff’s Department services to balance the budget. What promised to be a fiscal disaster turned into a rather routine budget-cutting operation for a city government that has been strapped financially for most of the 1980s.

The recent problems, however, have opened debate on the future of Imperial Beach and the development strategy that will allow the city to avoid recurring financial crises.

The situation in Imperial Beach is similar to what happens to Third World nations that take out loans to finance large development projects that international experts assure will lead the countries to salvation. If the project is a failure, basic public services are cut to pay off the loans. In the case of Imperial Beach, basic public services have been cut so that the city can pay off the loan to rebuild its fishing pier. However, unlike the Third World, the International Monetary Fund does not bail out small American cities for the bad decisions of their elected officials.

City officials in Imperial Beach historically have complained about their inability to develop a community surrounded by open space–while blaming environmentalists for stalling development projects–without realizing that what has defined the character of Imperial Beach is its open space. Instead of planning a strategy that integrates the natural setting with its small-town character, the city, in effect, has attempted to ruin the two factors that make Imperial Beach unique among Southern California beach communities.

A comprehensive planning study conducted by the Graduate School of Urban Planning at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo concluded that Imperial Beach should not concentrate all its development efforts along the beachfront, which it said has a limited potential for revenue generation. Instead, the city should concentrate on its commercial core along Palm Avenue where there is room for enhancement. The study, financed by a grant from the city, has been ignored by Imperial Beach officials, who keep insisting that the beachfront development is the key to economic revitalization.

There is no indication that officials have learned anything from the recent crisis. City officials want the San Diego Unified Port District to assume control of the oceanfront tidelands to reduce city costs and to speed beachfront development. Mayor Henry Smith envisions an oceanfront marina alongside a mile-long ocean platform for hotels and restaurants in an area in which some of the largest waves in Southern California break during periods of heavy surf. Apparently the loss of almost $1 million during the attempt to construct a submerged breakwater along the beachfront has not deterred the mayor.

A strategy that concentrates on developing publicly owned areas that are open to the forces of nature and protected by state and federal regulations that require lengthy environmental review is bound to fail.

The city has neither the resources to pursue projects that end up in court, as in the case of the breakwater, nor the foresight to reject those projects when they are presented to the council for preliminary review.

English: The pier in Imperial Beach, Southern ...

The pier in Imperial Beach, Southern California. South of San Diego, very close to the Mexican border. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, a strategy that uses the natural setting and community character of the city as its focus should be welcomed. With the population of the South Bay expected to grow by more than 200,000 residents by the year 2010, the city will become a magnet for South Bay residents seeking a well-maintained beachfront removed from the congestion encountered in most Southern California beach communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dadmom

My mother and father in the 1950s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

guatemala2

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

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

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

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

guatemala1

Somewhere in Mexico with my dad 1974-1975.

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

With my dad in central Baja in 1979.

With my dad in central Baja in 1979.

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

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

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

With my dad and my sons more recently.

With my dad and my sons more recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperial Beach at a Crossroads

Note: I first published my first op-ed  about Imperial Beach and its contentious politics in the Los Angeles Times about 25 years ago. I wrote this recent piece that was published in Imperial Beach Patch after being dsmayed by the anti-community sentiment and policies (that are often very environmentally destructive)  enacted by City Hall.

English: Imperial Beach, California The symbol...

English: Imperial Beach, California The symbol of this surfers’ community south of San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the recent effort by the City of Imperial Beach to give up management of its Sports Park complex that includes a skate park and hallowed Little League fields that have nurtured thousands of Imperial Beach children over the past 50 years, the tolerance of residents for the inexpert way the city and especially Mayor Jim Janney, manage civic affairs, has officially ended.

At a March 20City Council meeting, more than 140 residents angrily denounced the attempt to turn over ball fields and a free skate park to the South Bay Family YMCA (which unfortunately has been caught in the crossfire).

The City Council wisely delayed the Sports Park and Little League proposal and approved holding a public workshop on the issue on April 11. However, public rancor over the Sports Park is a manifestation of the larger issue of the lack of civic infrastructure and trust in government in Imperial Beach and the urgent need for political reform.

Imperial Beach has always been a rough and tumble town with a long history of contentious politics. But long time observers of City Hall cannot remember a time when our local government has been as out of sync with the community as it is now.

The past six months has been as tumultuous as any in Imperial Beach’s history due to the alienation by the City of just about almost every major constituency group in town. Beachfront property owners and surfers protested the failings of a SANDAG and city beach replenishment project that flooded beachfront residences and ruined surfing conditions.

Business owners were frustrated over the city’s attempt to prevent the installation of new streetlights along Seacoast Drive. Residents throughout Imperial Beach were up in arms over a proposal to charge residents and visitors alike to park in the coastal zone.

English: The pier in Imperial Beach, Southern ...

For longtime residents like me who were raised in Imperial Beach during the 1970s when biker gangs held sway on the old Imperial Beach Pier, our decision to remain and raise our families here has been a good one.

Once you get to know Imperial Beach with its unpretentious and affordable neighborhoods, endless beach with great surf, wildlife filled estuaries, and its diverse and generous residents, you find that it is hard to ever leave.

With beachfront investments made by the Port of San Diego under the leadership of Mayors Mike Bixler and Diane Rose during the 1990s, Imperial Beach is a vastly safer and more visitor-friendly town than it was when I was a kid.

With the upcoming opening of the Pier South Hotel later this year, Imperial Beach will have an opportunity to showcase its new face to tourists that city officials are praying will turn out in droves.

For most Imperial Beach residents however, City Hall, like the DMV, is an institution with an inexplicably inert bureaucracy that is best to be avoided at all costs.

As a result, residents have kept their distance from a local government that provides few services and has slowly dismantled its once robust citizen advisory boards that historically provided a participatory platform for policy making and citizen engagement (I was appointed to the Youth Commission as an 8th grader in 1978 by then Mayor Brian Bilbray). Currently Imperial Beach only has only two citizen advisory boards, unlike neighboring Chula Vista with 22 and Coronado with 15.

Developing a new set of citizen commissions as well as improving government openness, accountability and transparency is the only way out of the current political impasse.

English: Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach

The City of Imperial Beach must reform so that it can be viewed as an honest broker that can help the community develop a vision that is about improving the quality of life for residents throughout the city, rather than only improving the beachfront and filling city coffers.

For the residents of Imperial Beach to prosper, the city must ensure that the community comes first and is not just viewed as an asset to be divested.

Because for the people of Imperial Beach, our children are the city’s greatest resource and its future.

Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change and Sand Replenishment

As I watch the news reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, I think of the south county coastal area where I live and surf.

Imperial Beach is a low-lying coastal city connected to Coronado by a thin strip of sand. Any storm with a potent tidal surge would immediately obliterate the homes, dunes and streets of my coastal backyard.

Understanding the the impact of Sandy on the beaches, barrier islands and cities of the East Coast is critical for the residents of Southern California in order to evaluate the costly efforts to preserve local beaches.

Now that SANDAG is finishing up its $28 million regional sand replenishment project, we need to ask if having government agencies continue to spend billions of dollars nationally dumping sand on our beaches to forestall the inevitable reduction in size due to man-made erosion, violent storms and sea level rise, is really worth it.

That is especially true in light of new proposals by the Army Corps of Engineers to spend $261 million on sand projects just for Encinitas, Solana Beach and San Clemente.

Beach replenishment and beach nourishment are euphemisms for what are really beach dredge and fill that turns the beach into an industrial site during construction,” said Surfider Foundation Environmental Director Chad Nelsen. “They should be designed to minimize impacts to nearshore reefs that are important recreational (surfing, diving, etc.)  and ecological resources.”

Terry Gibson, a longtime surfer and fisherman from Florida who is the Senior Editor of Fly & Light Tackle Angler, has spent a considerable amount of effort evaluating the impacts of badly managed sand replenishment projects on the East Coast.

“Near shore reefs or other types of essential fish habitat are typically buried or silted over, without adequate much less kind-for-kind mitigation,” he said.

According to Gibson, “Chronic turbidity is often a problem. The entire slope of the near shore environment typically changes so that wave quality from a surfer’s perspective is degraded or destroyed. And you often lose the qualities that make a beach attractive to sea turtles, not to mention the impacts to the invertebrates that live in the beach and are a requisite forage source for fish and birds.”

The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is currently monitoring the impacts to surf throughout San Diego from the current SANDAG regional effort via video monitoring. In Imperial Beach the SANDAG project has shut down the surf for about 75 percent of our beachfront.

“At IB we’ve been seeing a trend towards decreasing surfer counts and decreasing ride length,” said Tom Cook of San Diego Surfrider.

According to Julia Chunn of San Diego Surfrider, “We hope that video-based monitoring, similar to our current Surf Monitoring Study, will be required of all large beach nourishment project in the future.”

For this reason, it is my view that the current SANDAG project is preferable to the incredibly expensive projects the Army Corps has slated for Solana Beach, Encinitas and San Clemente. Those proposed federal projects come with a price tag that in light of the cost of Sandy’s storm damage and federal fiscal woes, seems obscene.

Additionally, the federal project planned for Solana Beach-Encinitas, that in the long-term is designed only to protect 300 feet of beach, would involve more than double the amount of sand SANDAG deposited on beaches throughout the entire county. These Army Corps projects are relics of the past that do not reflect our climate-contorted and fiscally prudent future.

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

Clearly we are going to have be smarter and more resourceful with our tax dollars when it comes to conserving our beaches. The process works best when all stakeholders as well as scientists can come to the table with local agencies and evaluate the most cost effective and sensible solutions to coastal erosion, rather than when Army Corps push through massive dredge and fill projects with little public oversight and accountability.

“These projects should be considered temporary solutions that buy us time to find sustainable long term solutions to our coastal erosion problems because they are expensive, short lived and will not be sustainable in the face of sea level rise,” said Nelsen.

Beaches, Sand and Money

Photo: Chris Patterson

As I watch shorebreak bombs explode at the Quiksilver Pro Francevia webcast, one thing that stands out besides the crazy hollow shorebreak is the brown large grain sand local beaches are made of.

The beaches and sandbars of southwest France, that result some of the world’s best beach breaks for surfing, are filled with large grain brown sand that flows out of the estuaries and rivers of the region.

Because much of the coastal zone along the southwestern coast of France remains free of development, with extensive barrier dunes still in place, the beaches aren’t subject to the same process of erosion as our beaches are (but there is extensive erosion in coastal cities there).

Imperial Beach, Sept. 25th,Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In San Diego in contrast we have channelized and dammed our rivers and thrown up rocks, seawalls and structures along most of our coast.

In short we have done everything possible to obstruct natural sand flow and enhance the non-stop cycle of beach erosion.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the prescription for our own coastal erosion mess in Southern California was for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a historically inept and mismanaged agency, to build large jetties along the shoreline and even more destructive breakwaters.

Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

Later the Army Corps carried out massive dredge and fill projects to replace lost sand. In 1977 the Army Corps dumped massive amounts of toxic sediment and sludge from San Diego Bay on the beach in Imperial Beach.

Later the City of Imperial Beach and the Army Corps proposed the construction of a mile-long rock breakwater. Thanks to local surfers and the then fledgling Surfrider Foundation, we stopped that crazy scheme just as the Corps was ready to dump the rocks in the ocean.

More recently the Army Corps in partnership with the City of Imperial Beach, once again dredged the most toxic and  garbage ridden sites in San Diego Bay and dumped the garbage, rocks, and rebar in Imperial Beach along with toxic sediment.

This boy was almost impaled by this piece of metal left on the beach by the Army Corps of Engineers in Imperial Beach. Photo: Daren Johnson

A few years ago WiLDCOAST worked with Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama Administration a few years ago to stop a planed $50 million projectslated for Imperial Beach that proposed dredging an area near a sewage outfall pipe and WWI aerial bombing range. That project involved no public consultation, the involvement of secretive and highly paid sand lobbyists and PR films, millions spent on badly written environmental documents, and no effort to work with the public and or use clean sand.

So dredge and fill projects have largely been a mess in San Diego County. However, of all the projects that have been carried out those managed by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) have been managed in the most sensible way.

The 2001 regional beach replenishment effort by SANDAG resulted in the deposition of clean high quality large grain sand, extensive public consultation, and the involvement of locally-based project managers who work with local stakeholders—something the Army Corps of Engineers has no interest in doing.

On Thursday, SANDAG will finish up its sand replenishment operations for Imperial Beach after having placed more than 300,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project is massive and has been well managed. For many surfers and beachgoers the current sand project has been a field course in coastal geomorphology and engineering.

After finishing in Imperial Beach this week, SANDAG moves the project to Oceanside, Moonlight Beach, Cardiff State Beach, Batiquitos, and North and South Carlsbad. In total SANDAG will place more than 1.4 million cubic yards of sand on county beaches.

Photo Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In Imperial Beach the new sand has temporarily wiped out rideable surf over much of the beach (note to surfers—don’t waste your time coming down to IB—the entire beach is a closed out shorebreak), but I expect the sand to level out over the next few months.

As the project moves to Oceanside and the rest of North County, it will be critical for surfers and other stakeholders to monitor the project and evaluate its impacts.

As a surfer, coastal conservationist, and dedicated beachgoer, I know that having a local agency like SANDAG carry out these projects is a million times more preferable to having ecological and economic coastal disasters foisted upon us by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Photo: Chris Patterson

WiLDCOAST and Nortec Collective Hiperboreal Fight Plastic to Save the Sea

One of the most important things we can do as we see the impact of globalization on the state of our oceans is to communicate the solutions to our problems as broadly as possible. At WiLDCOAST we’ve focused on communicating the values of coastal and marine conservation in Spanish.

Anyone who travels the coast of Mexico and throughout Latin America will see first-hand the tsunami of plastic bags, bottles and styrofoam that litter beaches, estuaries and rivers. So we partnered with Tijuana’s musical innovators Nortec Collective: Hiperboreal to spread the word on the cleaning up our coast and ocean and why it is important to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. Tijuana’s Galatea Audiovisual media collective filmed the video in the Tijuana River Valley, Imperial Beach, Playas de Tijuana and at the recent Baja Bash.

Thanks to the support of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, here’s our newest plastic-free ocean PSA:

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

Unlimited

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

Women

  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

14’

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

Stock

  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.

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

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

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

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

Longtime IB surfer Manny Vargas who was the contest director.

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

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

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

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

Mahalo to Katy and Manny!!

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Surfing the Day After the Storm

Normally you are not supposed to surf within 72 hours of rainfall hitting southern California. Runoff from storm drains, streets and everything else washes into the ocean. But the Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado, just up the beach from where we live in Imperial Beach, is almost free of development. There is no runoff to speak of, since the parking lots drain east toward the bay. Unless the sewage plume from the Tijuana River travels north, the Silver Strand can be a good bet.

Most of the time the Strand is a horrible place to surf. The waves are almost always closed out. I worked as a lifeguard there for eight years and rarely saw it good. But with the rain and storm swell that hit Southern California yesterday, the waves at the Strand were a little broken up this morning and the groms scored some fun corners that were helped out by an offshore wind.

The Ocean Health Index and Cleaning up Our Coast

Paloma Aguirre and Diana Castaneda of WiLDCOAST at a recent Tijuana River Valley cleanup.

Last Friday I missed the first real north swell of the season to attend a meeting organized by the University of California-Santa Barbara on the development of an ocean health index.

The objective of the index is to have a monitoring scorecard that communities, scientists and government agencies can use to determine coastal and ocean health locally, regionally and nationally.

The group included fishermen, seafood harvesters (e.g. shellfish and seaweed), elected officials, energy company representatives, conservationists, scientists and the Chief of State of the Makah tribe.

Community members working together for clean water in the Tijuana River Valley.

Everyone in the room, especially the fishermen, made it clear that ocean water quality and biodiversity were the two most important indicators for managing the health of the coast and ocean.

The consensus was that without clean water and healthy marine life, it’s almost impossible to have a vibrant tourism and fishing economy.

Meanwhile many local leaders have spent the last decade in denial about ocean pollution.

They fear that discussing the issue will somehow negatively impact the economy and local property values.

The bay side of Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado was recently shut down due to a sewage spill from the Sept. 8 mass outage.

A cleanup kid.

In 2011 the main beach in Imperial Beach has been closed 56 days. The south end of the beach was closed 224 days.

In 2010 the main beach was closed 26 days. The south end of the beach was closed 226 days (and yes the south end of the beach is still Imperial Beach).

Meanwhile most south swell pollution goes unreported.

Today we continue to work with local residents on both sides of the border to clean up the tons and tons of garbage that wash into the ocean.

Last January WiLDOCAST notified authorities about a sewage spill in Playas de Tijuana that went unchecked for more than three weeks, resulting in more than 31 million gallons of sewage discharged into the surf zone in Imperial Beach and the border area.

Together with local, state and federal agencies on both sides of the border, our collaborative work has resulted in significant achievements.

These include the recent inauguration of a new international sewage treatment plant; the opening of three new sewage plants in Tijuana-Rosarito; progress on stopping the frequent discharges at Playas de Tijuana; and the cleaning up of thousands of waste tires and hundreds of tons of trash in the Tijuana River Valley by community members.

I invite everyone to join to help to clean up our region and make sure that our coast and ocean is as pristine as possible. Because even one day of beach pollution is one day too many.

There are plenty of opportunities to do so in October with Tijuana River Action Month. The next event will be held Oct. 1.

A small fence separates densely populated Tiju...

The U.S.-Mexico border near the TJ River Valley. Image via Wikipedia

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