Will Politics Jeopardize Access to the California Coastline

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This op-ed originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 4, 2016.

Each Thanksgiving week, my family and I load up our car with surfboards and drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway to spend the holiday with my brother and his family in San Francisco.

396673_309927975787691_1312602472_nHeading up that coastal road past emerald coves, perfect waves, elephant seals and sea otters is absolute nirvana.

Our annual family adventure reinvigorates my love and appreciation for what author David Helvarg calls our “Golden Shore,” where “wilderness cliffs and sea cliffs contrast starkly against the dazzling bright silver sea.”

485030_309927669121055_1576734659_nGrowing up in Los Angeles during the 1960s, and Imperial Beach during the 1970s, the son of European immigrants who escaped the horrors of World War II, my family reveled in the freedom of the wide-open and friendly beaches of California.

We took our first camping trips at Carlsbad State Beach, Mission Bay and among the redwoods and wild beaches of Big Sur.

Later, as a college student, I worked as an ocean lifeguard and witnessed firsthand how the 1,100 miles of open, accessible shoreline in California is our great melting pot where we come together as families and friends and share in the moments that create lifelong memories.

Thankfully in 1972, Californians had the foresight to ensure the fundamental right of everyone to access to the coast when they approved the California Coastal Conservation Initiative and the creation of the coastal commission. No other government body in the world plays as important a role in ensuring that every citizen, not just wealthy oceanfront property owners, has access to the beach.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Today, the Coastal Commission helps cities like Imperial Beach plan for the future and prepare for rising seas and a changing climate.

The coastal commissioners who are appointed, and the professional staff that advise them, balance coastal development with the need for clean air and water, wildlife protection and open space for Californians and millions of coastal visitors to picnic, camp, surf and enjoy a great day at the beach.

Dr. Charles Lester currently oversees the commission.

Through his training as a geochemist and attorney and with a doctorate in political science, Lester is uniquely qualified to oversee the protection of California’s coast.

Last year I observed him firsthand at a forum at UC Irvine on the challenge of sea level rise in California. I came away deeply impressed with Lester’s commitment to successful, adaptive and innovative problem solving for the significant and costly issue of coastal erosion.

It was as apparent then, as it is to me now, that Lester has the vision, expertise and leadership skills to guide the commission and our coastline into a climate-challenged 21st century.

Unfortunately, a group of commissioners, largely appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, who originally championed the development of the Coastal Act, are seeking to fire Lester.

These political appointees want to dismantle our strong and independent Coastal Commission, which puts the public good above private profits.

Not only is that bad for our ability to enjoy our coastline, but a threat to transparency, good government and democracy in California.

I hope for the sake of present day Californians who experience the best days of their lives on our shoreline and future generations who have yet to experience the thrill of their first day at the beach, that Governor Brown reigns in the forces that seek to eliminate our access to, and enjoyment of, our “Golden Shore.”

We cannot afford to play politics with California’s fragile coastline, which gives so much enjoyment to so many.

DSC_1449Note–on February 10, 2016, in an event now called the “Morro Bay Massacre”, Charles Lester was fired in a 7-5 vote of the California Coastal Commission

 

Surfing the Border Cape Region Tour

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja --Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja –Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

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With a staff member of the municipality who came to my talk in Todos Santos.

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Todos Santos is a Pueblo Magico in Mexico and has done a great job of using the arts to promote economic development and tourism.

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I gave a talk at La Esquina on the west side of Todos Santos and was happy to see my longtime friend Gary there. I’ve known Gary since I started surfing in Imperial Beach.

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With our WILDCOAST Chapter members in Todos Santos and Paula Angelotti (second from right) the manager of La Esquina who hosted the talk. 

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When I lived in Todos Santos more than 20 years ago, the beach at Los Cerritos, south of Todos Santos, was bereft of development. Now the dunes there have been replaced by buildings that are at risk from storm-related erosion there.

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Thanks to Armando Figaredo of Cabo Mil radio for interviewing me on his very popular mid-day radio show. I was on the air after a candidate for governor, so I knew it was a good audience. Thanks Armando!

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Osiris Herrera and of the Papalote Sports Bar kindly hosted my talk in San Jose del Cabo. Thanks Osiris and Anne for he wonderful poster design!!!

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We had a great group in San Jose including Raul Rodriguez Quintana, the Los Cabos Municipality Director of Ecoloby (kneeling) and Martha Moctezuma (in the green blouse to my right).

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The Estero San Jose Wetland Reserve is a natural gem at the edge of Los Cabos. It is also a sister reserve with the TJ Estuary in Imperial Beach.

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The reserve is an important habitat for migrant birds.

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The Estero San Jose Reserve is also a wetland of international importance.

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The reserve is incredibly beautiful.

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With Sofia Gomez of WILDCOAST (left) and the Los Cabos Municipality crew along with Martha Moctezuma of Los Cabos Coastkeeper.

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With Melina Arana of Imperial Beach and her husband Horacio who manages he Los Cabos Organic Market.



With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

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At the very nice VidaSoul Hotel and Restaurant on the East Cape. Thanks to owner Joan who generously hosted my talk.

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With Cabo Pulmo National Park Director Director Carlos Godinez (blue shirt) and Park Monitoring Coordinator Ronald Zepeta along with East Cape resident and writer Dawn Pier at Vidasoul-which is a great place for talk.

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Thanks to our WILDCOAST Chapter members who organized a talk at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in the East Cape town of Los Barriles. It was great to see my longtime friend Markos Higginson who I used to lifeguard with at the Silver Strand State Beach more than 20 years ago.





My New Book: Surfing the Border

Here is the cover of my new forthcoming book, Surfing the Border: Adventures at the Edge of the Ocean. It is a collection of essays and articles I’ve written over the past three years about my adventures and life in California, Mexico and around the world. I’m hoping it will be out this summer if not before. surfbordercover

Why I Love Imperial Beach: Photo Essay 2

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Decoration on Seacoast Drive.

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The statue, “Spirit of Imperial Beach” looking east toward Palm Avenue.

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Part of the Bibbey’s Shell Shop Mural.

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The opening of IB Yoga has been a very positive development for Imperial Beach.

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The Plank is an IB landmark.

Local surfer Sean Fowler on the window of the Surf Hut.

Local surfer Sean Fowler on the window of the Surf Hut.

My sons and their surf “grom” friends a few years ago. Growing up surfing in IB is a wonderful experience. There is a tight knit group of kids who have been surfing together since they were about five years old and now compete together in swimming and water polo. All of us surf dads are already preparing for their departure for college and adulthood. We’ll miss them and their infectious energy.

 

Why I Love Imperial Beach: Photo Essay 1

I’ve lived in Imperial Beach since 1971. It is one of the last cool little blue collar beach towns left in Southern California. And I love the neat little ways in which people brighten up their businesses and our public plazas (courtesy of the Port of San Diego) along the beachfront.  This is what gives our town character and  makes us unique. And it is why  I love my hometown of Imperial Beach.

The Imperial Beach Pier Plaza and a public art project called Surfhenge.

The Imperial Beach Pier Plaza and a public art project called Surfhenge.

Mike Bibbey, the owner of Bibbey's Shell Shop, is awesome--full of energy, passion and creativity.

Mike Bibbey, the owner of Bibbey’s Shell Shop, is awesome–full of energy, passion and creativity.

I am very honored to have helped to provided the information that was used in many of the plaques along the pier. The project honors the history of surfing the Tijuana Sloughs reef.

I am very honored to have helped  provide the information that was used in many of the plaques along the pier. The project honors the history of surfing the Tijuana Sloughs reef.

Bibbey's Shell Shop is an IB landmark and this shark is a favorite photo stop for tourists and locals.

Bibbey’s Shell Shop is an IB landmark and this shark is a favorite photo stop for tourists and locals.

 

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The IB mermaid at Bibbey’s Shell Shop.

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I love Bibbey’s because it is community art that makes people happy.

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The octopus door at Bibbey’s.

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You have to really look close to see all of the details on the mural at Bibbey’s.

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A stunning mural on the side of the building that is the location of IB Yoga–which is one of the many cool little businesses that have opened up in town over the past few years. We need more beautiful art like this around town and we need to continue to support local small businesses benefit the community.

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.

Todos Santos 1994

dedina:young BajaHere is a photo of me and my wife Emily  on Palm Beach in Todos Santos sometime in November 1994 with our dogs Julius and little Tecate (who was a “street dog” who came with the house we cared for). We  spent the previous year living in Laguna San Ignacio and Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos carrying out field research for our University of Texas at Austin doctoral dissertations in Geography on gray whale conservation (me) and the cultural ecology of fishing and eco-tourism (Emily).

Our stays in those amazingly hospitable and wonderful communities were followed by a month in La Paz to do interviews and carry out archival research and then another month in Mexico City to do the same.

After a great year in Mexico, we faced the prospect of returning to Austin to write up our research and work as teaching assistants (Emily) which is what smart grad students do (it is best to be near your committee members and advisor). Thanks to a series of encounters in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos with Kimberly and Ken who introduced us to Lee Moore, who then set us up with Roswitha Mueller (who owned a stunning 19th century home on the Plaza in Todos Santos) we ended up living in that emerging art colony and now-hipster village in southern Baja for a year.

For two literally penniless grad students it was a dream come true. The house overlooked the Palm-fringed coastline of Todos Santos. I dawn-patrolled each morning and after a long surf returned to the house where Emily and I shared breakfast and then sat down to the task of writing dissertations. After a long day of writing, we would retreat to Palm Beach for a walk with the dogs and to play in the waves.

I unwisely decided to write my dissertation as a book, which wasn’t a very strategic way of getting my committee to approve it (I later had to substantially modify the manuscript to make it more academic–which I should have done in the first place). My original manuscript later became my book, Saving the Gray Whale.

In retrospect making the decision to stay in Todos Santos was the smartest thing we have ever done. That year launched our careers in international conservation. After having discovered that ESSA (and its 49% partner) Mitsubishi planned to turn Laguna San Ignacio, a gray whale lagoon and Mexican federal protected area, into a 500,000-acre industrial salt harvesting facility, we joined up with Homero Aridjis and Betty Ferber of the Grupo de los Cien, to help launch a campaign against the project.

That initial effort turned into one of the largest ever international efforts to save a wild place that ended successfully when Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo cancelled the project in March, 2000.

Other things we did that year included convincing the School for Field Studies to open a study center in Bahia Magdalena and working to advise RARE on the launch of a very successful and ground-breaking eco-guide training program for whale guides in Bahia Magdalena and Laguna San Ignacio.

The most important part of the year is that Emily became pregnant with our oldest son Israel, and then got a job teaching geography at the University of Arizona. Despite my misgivings about living in Tucson (for a surfer, exile to the desert in Arizona is a slow death), in the end, I could never have launched my career in conservation without having lived there.

After completing my Ph.D. a year after we moved to Tuscon, The Nature Conservancy hired me to launch their Northwest Mexico Program. That profoundly gratifying, rewarding and educational experience  was the equivalent of attending Harvard Business School–but for Conservation. I was damn lucky to have worked there.

While at TNC, I helped to launch their still vibrant Baja California and Sea of Cortez Program and helped to launch successful initatives to preserve Loreto Bay National Park, Isla Espiritu Santo and Cabo Pulmo.

So that moment on the beach really was just before we became adults and understood that chasing dreams requires sacrifice, hard work, discipline, vision, and passion. We chose to do what was right for us, rather than please everyone else.  I also realized that if you want to get anything done, you can’t depend on anyone else to make it happen.

I will never forget our year in Todos Santos and how it changed our lives forever.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

History of Ocean Lifeguards

Lifeguards at the Tijuana Rivermouth, 1950s. Photo: John Elwell.

Lifeguards at the Tijuana Rivermouth, 1950s. Photo: John Elwell.

As a 13-year veteran Ocean Lifeguard for the State of California and
the City of Imperial Beach, I know lifeguards play a critical role in
making sure that our beaches remain as safe as possible for the public.

Mike Martino is part of a group of lifeguards in San Diego County who
work to maintain the highest professional standands for lifeguard
agencies. Additionally, he has played an important role in documenting
the fascinating history of lifeguards in San Diego.

Serge Dedina: I was intrigued by the mention in your book, Lifeguards of San Diego County,
that the earliest reported lifeguards were in China in the early 18th
century. How did early pre-20th century lifeguards operate?

Mike Martino: The early life-saving groups were local. A group
called the Massachusetts Humane Society set up a lifeboat station in
1807. The men who worked the stations were local volunteers and their
rescue efforts dealt with foundering ships. Beach going for recreation
and swimming was still (on a societal level) a 100 years away.

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Lifeguard pioneer Dempsey Holder surfing in Imperial Beach. Photo: George Ramos

Serge Dedina: Who were some of the lifeguard pioneers in San Diego County?

Martino: Some local pioneers are George Freeth, Louis Chauvaud, Calvin “Spade” Burns, Charles Hardy and Emil Sigler just to name a few.

Dedina: We take it for granted that very few people drown on
public beaches in the U.S. anymore and especially in Southern
California, but a few cases of mass drownings in San Diego played a key
role in pushing public agencies to form professional lifeguard services.
What was the key tragedy in San Diego that caused a major perception in
understanding the need for lifeguards?

Martino: In San Diego, the major event occurred on May 5, 1918
at Ocean Beach. The surf was running somewhere in the 8-10 foot range,
and a massive rip current swept beach goers off their feet and out into
the swirling currents and surf. When it was all over, 60 plus people had
been rescued and 13 people had drowned.

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Imperial Beach Lifeguards surfing the Tijuana Sloughs

Dedina: When and where did professional lifeguard agencies evolve in San Diego County?

Martino: My best guess is that lifeguards were hired by the
local private bath houses somewhere around the early 1900s. Those
private businesses eventually petitioned San Diego City Council for
funds to support lifesaving operations, and then those private/public
relationships morphed into the government-sponsored services. The first
San Diego City Guards were policemen with aquatic skills.

Dedina: Emil Sigler was a legendary City of San Diego
Lifeguard. Who was he and why was so such a seminal figure in the
development of lifeguarding in San Diego?

Martino: I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Emil when I researched my book Lifeguards of San Diego County.
He worked as a seasonal lifeguard and commercial fisherman. Eventually,
he left lifeguarding to fish full-time. Emil was the consummate
waterman. He surfed, dove, fished and dedicated his life to the ocean.
He lived more than 100 years and lived the type of waterman’s life most
of us can only aspire to.

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Dempsey Holder fixing an old LIfeguard truck in Imperial Beach as John Elwell looks on. Photo: Courtesy John Elwell

Dedina: Why and when did you become a professional lifeguard?

Martino: I became a seasonal lifeguard in 1986, and I did it
because my best friend had been a state lifeguard and encouraged me to
join. Early on, I did it to earn money for college, and then eventually
pursued it as a career.

Dedina: Why do we need lifeguards to safeguard our beaches and water bodies?

Lifeguard jumping into action in Ocean City, M...

Lifeguard jumping into action in Ocean City, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martino: Beach lifeguards—the people you see in the towers—are
the first line of defense against drowning. Good lifeguards intimately
know the stretches of beach and bodies of water they are assigned to
protect. They provide your family with valuable information and safety
advice, and then when things go bad, they come out and rescue you.

Dedina: Today, there are lifeguard agencies charged with
patrolling beaches from Oceanside to the Mexican border. What type of
physical skills and ocean knowledge does it take to become a lifeguard
and remain a professional lifeguard?

Lifeguard Tower in Ocean Beach, California

Lifeguard Tower in Ocean Beach, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martino: Lifeguards have to be comfortable in their own mind.
Your stimulus has to be internal, not external; 95 percent of the time,
we’re just watching. When the time comes to perform, a lifeguard has to
be physically fit and calm under pressure. I tell my young staff all the
time, this is the closest job you can find to being a super hero.

Dedina: Are there estimates for the annual number of rescues
and assists carried out annually in San Diego County by lifeguard
agencies? What else to lifeguards do besides rescue swimmers in
distress?

English: View looking north-west across Moonli...

English: View looking north-west across Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas, California from behind the lifeguard station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martino: With all the agencies combined throughout the county,
10,000 rescues and assists is a good base number. Over that number and
it is a busy year. Under that number and it is a slower year. We also
reunite thousands of lost children with their parents, perform first
aid, patrol on rescue boats and perform cliff rescues. In the case where
I work, our permanent staff are state peace officers with full police
powers, so we make arrests too.

Dedina: What prompted the formation of the SDR Alert or San
Diego Regional Aquatic Lifesaving Emergency Response Task Force and what
is its purpose?

Martino: On August 25, 2003 a helicopter crashed off the shore
of Moonlight Beach. Lifeguards from throughout the county were used for
the search and recovery, and the logistics and resources needed far
exceeded what any one agency could provide. So after that event all the
lifeguard chiefs got together to form a group that pools our resources
and skills. At least once a year, all the agencies get together and
train for a mass casualty/rescue and recovery drill. Most recently, we
worked with the airport to train for a plane crashing in the water.

Southern Cal Junior Lifeguard Competition

Southern Cal Junior Lifeguard Competition

Dedina: What is it about lifeguarding that is so rewarding?

Martino: Lifeguarding is a career I have never regretted
choosing. There is always something to be done. Training to accomplish,
equipment to master, people to help. It’s a public service career I am
proud to be a part of.

Kristy Murphy’s Endless Summer

Two of my favorite people to hang at the beach and surf with are Kristy Murphy and Cat Slatinskly of Siren Surf Adventures. Both are super positive, smart, great surfers with great attitudes–and pioneers in women’s surfing and women-owned surf business. Here’s my interview with Kristy who was the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champ. Cat grew up in my hometown of Imperial Beach.

Kristy Murphy, the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champion talks about women’s professional surfing and running Siren Surf Adventures, an international surf, Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and yoga tour and retreat company.

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Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Kristy Murphy: I started surfing in my hometown of Jupiter, FL in 1999, around my senior year in college. As a kid, I grew up bodyboarding, fishing and free diving with my family. My brother surfed all the time and I was always temped to try. My best friend’s dad was a big surfer in the 70s in Jupiter, and had just bought a new Donald Takayama Model T. We thought it was the coolest and would try to use it every chance we got! My first wave on a longboard I was up and riding.

Dedina: Were there any particular women surfer role models for you when you were into surfing.

Murphy: I loved watching Mary Bagalso (who is now a good friend and continues to inspire me), Julie Whitegon, Cori Schumacher, Ashley Lloyd, Kassia Meador, Julie Cox, Desiree Desoto and Frida Zamba. Thanks to guys like Joel Tudor, by the time I started getting really involved in surfing, the longboarding movement was happening and starting to regain popularity again. It was also right when women’s longboarding was staring to take off as well. I was always drawn to longboarding, ever since that first ride on a longboard, I knew I wanted to noseride.

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Me with Kristy and friends last year in Saladita (Kristy second from left).

Dedina: How did you get into competitive surfing?

Murphy: I first began locally in West Palm Beach, with the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA). I met another Jupiter local girl Jenni Flanigan, and we would go to all the local events together every weekend. It was a blast meeting people, surfing together and creating lasting friendships. After winning the ESA Championship Women’s longboard division in 2000, I decided I wanted to go out and give it a try on the West Coast. Jenni and I decided to take a trip together to California one summer and try to do some of the professional events out there.

Dedina: In 2005 you became the Women’s World Longboard Champion. Did winning the world championship create career opportunities for you?

Murphy: Obviously when you are competing at anything the goal is try to be number one. And after four days of surfing well and keeping it all together in 2005 I did it! It was awesome. I had dreamed of being a “pro” surfer and this was my breakthrough. I figured the sponsorships would come rolling in and I would be paid to surf.  It was funny; although longboarding became more and more popular, that did not mean more opportunities for the surfers. Actually just the opposite happened.

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Kristy cheering on a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

No new sponsors came knocking on my door. However, with my new title in hand, I did not give up and went out looking for sponsors and ending up working out some relationships, most importantly Costa Del Mar sunglasses whom I still work with today. Also, my surfboard sponsor, Siren Surfboards, has always supported me since the beginning to today and Kialoa Paddles for stand up paddling.

I was bummed that I did not get the overwhelming sponsorship support I thought I would after winning the World [Championship]. I was inspired to go out and keep surfing by doing it on my own. I worked at surf camps between competitions and eventually, after enough experience, opened my own surf camp/tour business, Siren Surf Adventures. My championship title has been important to my business, as it has given me credibility in the surf world and with all our clients.

Dedina: What do you think of the new school of women pro surfers?

Murphy: They are so talented. The progress that has been made from only a few years ago is amazing. The women are surfing more progressively and beautifully at the same time. It is awesome to watch! I wish surfing would be more based on talent, when it has the tendency to be based on looks.

Dedina: You and Cat Slatinsky have a solid business with Siren Surf Adventures and what seems to be an “Endless Summer” lifestyle with women’s surfing, yoga and SUP retreats to Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Who is attracted to your retreats?

Murphy: Mostly adventurous, fun, outdoorsy type ladies who are ready to try something new, plus gals who have been surfing a while, but cannot seem to get to the next level. They are all looking to experience surfing in an authentic, fun, safe atmosphere and meet new surf buddies. Our retreats are a unique VIP surf experience. Our group numbers are small (3-4 clients in each group) and Cat and I combined have over 20 years experience in surf coaching. We find that the ladies who come to our camp really want to learn or get better.

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Kristy helping a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

Dedina: And what is a typical Siren Surf Adventures surf retreat like?

Murphy: Most days are like this: You wake up in a beautiful, relaxing, beachfront setting. We prepare coffee, teas, fruits and yogurt in the morning while excitedly chatting about the days surf session. We usually do land lessons and visualization before we paddle out, and by land lessons we don’t mean only working on the pop-up. We find it easier to work on turning methods on land before we enter the water. Then it is just surf, surf, and surf until we are hungry. Then into town for the best local flavors. In the afternoons we usually offer a yoga session, some flat water SUPing or napping and relaxing. It is a super mellow environment and we always want our guests to feel like it is their time to do what they want. Basically our daily retreat schedules have been molded from our personal experiences as professional surfers in surf travel. Surf, eat, sleep, stretch, and then surf some more!

Dedina: What is the key to getting more women in surfing and sustaining their interest in the sport?

Murphy: Programs like ours help to safely introduce women to the surf. Surfing can be so intimidating, especially when you go at it alone. To be able to experience it with people you trust and respect that you can learn heaps from as well, is priceless.

Dedina: One of the reasons I’ve been so impressed with your work is because it goes beyond surfing into community building and making sure your business has a positive impact on communities and the coastal environment. What are some of the ways you and Cat give back?

Murphy: One of the great pleasures that is a benefit of our constant travelling is having a chance to meet new people all over the world. We learn a lot from them and we try to teach them about what we know as well–and that’s surfing. We do a Dia de los Niños, in Mexico, where we teach all the kids in the area how to surf. Lourdes at La Saladita, helps us heaps with that day. We’ve also had a great partnership with WILDCOAST as well as other organizations like Azulita, The Humane Society, and Women for Whales. It’s not even something we think about doing. We enjoy it and do it for the love of our natural world.

Dedina: So what is next? Are there new retreat locations on the horizon?

Murphy: In the future, we are going to have a few special retreat trips, but for now we are enjoying the locations and adventures we have. We feel so blessed to be able to work doing something we truly love.

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

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