Monthly Archives: December 2013

Reasons Not To Feed Aliso Beach Seagulls


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Scavenger of the coastal seascapes of Southern California

As far back as I remember, people have fed seagulls at Aliso Beach.  People feed birds everywhere for that matter.  I half feel sorry for people because I honestly believe that lonely people enjoy the attention of a mob of hungry birds. The question is if feeding seagulls crusty old bread is a wise thing to do at Aliso Beach.  There are plenty of reasons not to feed Aliso Beach Seagulls.

1)  Aliso Beach Seagulls are a product of years of DNA Programming that never made out of date bread an appropriate source of nutrition.  Keep your Wonder Bread and stale loafs of whatever at home and do not feed these things.  They are considered opportunistic feeders and they will walk right up to your beach blanket and snatch anything they can while you are looking the other way.  They have no shame.  Chips, cookies, sandwiches, fries and any of those types of foods and snacks are interesting to seagulls.  They simply do not know better.  As we find out that we have been poisoned by large corporations with huge ad budgets that tell us we want and need these crappy foods, the health of people has been made secondary to convenience.  If we know that these things are making us sick, why feed them to seagulls.  It’s not okay.  For those of you feeding the seagulls bread, it isn’t good for them.  There are countless people online that think this is okay.  Bread expands in the stomach and it can mess with the digestive system of your favorite beach birds.

2)  When one Aliso Beach Seagull sees that there is an opportunity for food, you will have the whole pack there in less than 2 minutes.  They know to watch for their pals all converging on a spot and see that as a free meal.  Seagulls are great, but when you feed them, you are increasing the probability of getting pooped on.  The minute you start flinging bread all over the beach, you have gulls all over the air above everyone and their bowels work without hesitation when nature calls.  What that means for people visiting the beach like you and I is that, when other people are feeding the birds at Aliso Beach,we have a bulls eye on us.  If you have been to the beach a lot, chances are you have been pooped on.  The possibilities of becoming a seagull poop victim when people are feeding the birds goes way up.  Nobody likes to get pooped on…it’s disgusting.  If you are feeding the seagulls at Aliso Beach you are responsible for these excited birds pooping on beach goers below them.

3)  Aliso Beach Seagulls create messes all over.  The nice benches that are there on the north end of the beach and facing Catalina Island are often caked in seagull poop.  They aren’t good for sitting on when they are spackled with it. I noticed that they changed the wood benches for a nice Rubbermaid-like park bench that is quite nice.  They must have done this because the new benches are easier to hose down after a seagull bombing from above.  More seagulls in the area expecting free meals means more seagull poop everywhere.  Keep in mind that this seagull poop has to go somewhere.  It is washed down into the storm drains by beach maintenance workers and rain events.  Seagull crap, like all poop, contains fecal coliform.  This is one of the things that is tested for in the creek and ocean water down at Aliso Beach.  Part of that problem is Aliso Creek dams up on the north end of the beach and lets out during measurable precipitation or when surf photographers and wave riders break the creek to shape new sandbars. In addition to seagull droppings raining down from the sky, the seagulls use the pooled up creek water to float, bathe, groom and clean themselves.  Yes, seagull poop is a part of that water,  and as it stagnates with all of the other pollutants found in miles of urban runoff, it becomes a toxic soup.  Elevated levels of fecal coliform are definitely in part because of the seagulls.

4) There is one nutty old dude that feeds seagulls in a way you would not believe.  I have seen this screwball driving around the Aliso Beach Parking Lot with his window open and seagulls standing on the roof of his small SUV being served bread as he circled the parking lot.  Can you imagine that?  I am bored…what should I do?  I know!  I am going to drive the parking lot in circles and throw bread on top of my SUV so all the seagulls land on me vehicle and think I am their daddy!  It makes you wonder who the bird brain is, doesn’t it? I think it is safely on that dude and maybe we should give more credit to the seagulls for finding ways to do as little as possible to find a meal. The pooping all over the place by seagulls at Aliso Beach certainly is not one of my favorite things about Aliso Beach.  The rest of the beaches and coves in Laguna Beach provide less ease of access to the beach so predictably there are less seagulls.  There is an irony to that statement because the marine environment is their home so how could that be.  It is pretty simple.  Seagulls congregate at Aliso Beach because they know stupid humans can’t resist feeding them.  In fact, it is a routine event for people to bring their crusty old bread down to the beach and create a frenzy.

5)  Feeding Aliso Beach Seagulls has contributed significantly to the car wash business in South Orange County.  I am not joking when I say it is good advice to come to Aliso Beach right before you are going to get your next car wash.  It is even safer to park on the hill on South Coast Highway than it is to bring your sparkling, freshly washed car into the Aliso Beach lot on the coast side.  The problem though, is far worse than that.  I have seen seagulls landing on cars in the Aliso Beach Parking Lot.  In fact, while the knucklehead was driving around the lot feeding the birds out the window of his sport utility vehicle, I saw a seagull land on a $100K brand new Mercedes with black metallic paint.  It skidded on to the trunk area and scratched the paint.  I didn’t see the owner park or come back to the car while I was there so I could not tell him that the idiot driving around the lot feeding the birds was creating situations where seagulls were landing on cars and most importantly, his brand new car.  That car was that person’s pride and joy.  Feeding seagulls at Aliso Beach, caused damaged to this car and if it were me, I would be incensed if I knew that this seagull feeding behavior was going on.

There is no doubt that ignorant people will continue to feed seagulls at Aliso Beach.  You would think it was a rite of passage or something handed down from generation to generation.  If you stop feeding them, there will be less poop on the beach.  This will translate to less car washes, park benches you can sit on, fewer incidents of being pooped on and less harassment from seagulls looking for food. Yes, it also will decrease the probability that a seagull will scratch your expensive new car as it slides onto the car for a web footed landing. If you think about it logically, bread isn’t even good for us.  Why are we feeding it to seagulls at Aliso Beach then?

Posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Creek, Aliso River Tagged , , , |

Fecal Coliform At Aliso Creek


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Seagulls add to fecal coliform at Aliso Creek putting those who come in to contact with waters at risk of illness

It does not take a raw sewage spill to have fecal coliform present in the water that dams up behind the sand berm at the high tide line of Aliso Beach.  I was thinking more about the pollution found in Aliso Creek after hearing a father tell his little boys not to play in that water.  This thinking and aware parent is among those that are in the know when it comes to potential harmful agents in the water.  The very same day, I saw a parent leading a child down to the water to wade in.  It is important to note that he parked in the same Aliso Beach Parking Lot lined with signs that speak of urban runoff and the dangers of getting sick while being in this water.  This type of ignorance, naivete or quality of being uninformed affects every coastal area where rivers and creeks outflow in to the ocean.  What this means is that unsuspecting people are putting themselves and their children at risk.

Several weeks ago, a group of minor children that were skim boarding decided to physically impede others from digging out the river so that a sand bar forms out in front of the river that does a nice job of bending waves perfectly for Aliso Beach body surfers, body boarders, tray surfers and surfers alike.  They were of the opinion they could get sexually transmitted diseases from the water.  I believe you have to have sex for that but it is true that you can get hepatitis through exposure to raw sewage.  Untreated sewage would also deliver a bacteria called fecal coliform, and this particular bacteria is also found in animal waste that travels through storm drains and tributaries that feed into Aliso Creek. Yes that dumps off into the ocean at Aliso when outflow is unimpeded by the sand berm.  The point is that the absence of sewage spills does not go to say that worrisome levels of fecal coliform are not present and at dangerous levels in Aliso Creek.

Tributaries that feed Aliso Creek start as far east as the Cleveland National Forest.  With pets, people throw out waste from kitty litter boxes and dogs holding potential to become an illness causing level of fecal coliform.  Animal feces finds its way into the Creek via storm drains and urban runoff.  When it comes to Aliso Beach, there is another element that makes the possibility of elevated levels of the bacteria.  Sea Gulls have an affinity for the beach and congregate and float on the waters of the lagoon.  Many of them use the calm waters of the dammed up Creek to float, groom themselves and bathe safe from the thundering shore pounding waves that are the hallmark of Aliso Beach.  We are not talking about a couple of birds here.

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Urban runoff from inland cities dammed up in the lagoon at Aliso Beach. Chances are good for the presence of levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

Hundreds of birds are there every morning.  It’s the environment that they were programmed to be a part of, so naturally you will find them there.  This combined with brilliant human beings who regularly feed them there and you have a large population of sea gulls at Aliso Beach.  No one should be surprised that they poop a lot in the area, and yes that does contribute to the fecal coliform levels in Aliso Creek as it pools just out of reach of the incoming waves.  It would be inaccurate to believe that in the absence of a sewage spill, you are safe in this stagnated water at Aliso Beach.  Carcinogenic pollutants found in urban runoff combined with fecal coliform create a toxic potion for sickness that has those with compromised immune systems at risk.  Those may include infants, the elderly, individuals with open cuts and people that are already sick.

It is best to avoid the waters in the creek.  Whether or not there is a sewage spill or not, the potential for fecal coliform in Aliso Creek is significant enough to think twice. Remember the 72 hour rule where the health department recommends avoiding contact with ocean water for 72 hours after a rain event.  They also talk about avoiding beach areas that are specifically fed by rivers and streams for the increased pollutants and bacteria that are present after a rain. When it comes to Aliso Creek, and the frequency with which surf photographers, body surfers, body boarders and surfers are breaking the river to sculpt the perfect wave, you could apply the 72 hour rule every day at Aliso Beach in the offseason.


Posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Creek, Aliso River Tagged , , , |

Sea Star Waste Disease in Laguna Beach?


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Laguna Beach Sea Star With Possible Waste Disease Lesion.  Just right of the center, there is discoloration or a white area that looks similar to documented waste disease lesions in star fish.  Is it waste disease, I cannot say.

Is Sea Star Waste Disease In Laguna Beach?  According to experts, it is.  There have been reports that not only is there evidence of the disease along the Pacific Coastline from British Columbia to Mexico, but also independently on the East Coast.  Some were quick to throw out a causal link between Fukushima Radiation and these events, and while I appreciate the conspiracy theory mind and mistrust of reports, star fish waste disease is not a new occurrence in Southern California.  Previous events of star fish waste disease came after warm water events along the Southern California Coastline in El Nino Years.  2013 had an odd occurrence of warm water in May of this year that may have been a catalyst in this new event of the disease.  In the surf community, we would call the ability to wear trunks in local waters in May a warm water event.

Recently I asked a friend of mine to go down and take pictures of the star fish in the tide pools for me.  I am sure that the business of being a teenager got in the way of the promise to do that.  Our recent flat spell gave me an opportunity to go down to the tide pools and see if I could find evidence of this waste disease.  Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach has a large inter-tidal reef and tide pool area that alternates between a state of being underwater at higher tides and exposed and drying during lower tides.  It has a large bed of mussels which is a favorite food source of our star fish friend here in Southern California.  As with all animals it seems, when the prey is in large supply, predators thrive.  I have always marveled at how many star fish were visible at low tide at Crescent Bay.  They literally pile on top of each other to get at those shelled, musseley morsels that line the tide pool areas.

The reports about the sea star waste disease are pretty vivid and disheartening.  There is talk of populations being wiped out.  Descriptions include sea stars turning into goo and two halves of a star fish separating with each half going in different directions.  What?  I was thinking that based on these reports I would see some dramatic evidence of the disease as Laguna Beach is a part of the large stretch of coastline said to be affected by this disease.  I was eager to check this out because exploring the tide pools in Laguna Beach and appreciating marine life like the star fish dates back to my childhood.  I would be genuinely upset if I found sea stars suffering under this debilitating disease and would be equally disappointed that these types of events are in many ways tied to our disrespect of the environment.

What I know from reading about this disease is that it has been linked to bacteria in California that seem to attack the star fish after a warm water event.  As I have learned, it begins with lesions that begin a degradation process that takes as little time as two days to cause serious deformity, wasting away and death. Some have been willing to let the mind wander and are loosely throwing out there that Fukushima Radiation is to blame.  The evidence seems to suggest otherwise but you never know.  A recent event on the East Coast with sea star waste disease was said to have been caused by a virus and not bacteria.  Attempts to link events together with two different causes should give us pause and encourage us to isolate events and discover the real truth independently of each other.  By the way, why is it that in the information age it is so hard to find the truth?  There is always an agenda and information dissemination seems to follow dollars and hidden agendas.

So, here is what I can tell you based on what I saw.  First of all, I wasn’t able to get to lower lying portions of the tide pool that spend more time under water. The low tide was at over 2 feet so the best observation area was under water when I took pictures.  In reading about sea star waste disease, I have learned that the best place to look is the most suitable habitat.  Those areas that dry out between tide swings are less ideal for star fish because of the risk of drying out. One of the assertions made in an article I read about the disease was that star fish could get similar lesions ( to one’s seen in waste disease) from drying out due to exposure.  With that said, I feel like the best outdoor science lab in the tide pool to observe for the presence of the disease was not available today.  While I didn’t see anything so alarming with the star fish observed that I would confirm the disease’s presence at Crescent Bay, I did see a few things that I would like to go back and take a closer look at.  I will just need a lower tide.

Lesions and deformities are what would be visible among the population of star fish as evidence of the disease.  I figured there would be a greater occurrence of the deformities than goo because the star fish is not living at this point and certainly not able to hang on to the rocks with incoming waves.  For the most part, I didn’t see anything that was obvious or screamed of the presence of waste disease.  I will say that the way the star fish dig into the mussel beds, it is really hard to tell if there are deformities on the arms of the stars because some of their limbs are not visible as they disappear into the beds.  I did see a few that I wanted to take a closer look at.  The tide level wouldn’t allow me to safely get down to them without falling in the water with my phone in hand.  I did review one picture I took and found that it had a mark that could be a lesion that is said to be the start of the waste away process.


First and foremost I love the ocean and am aware that we humans have put undue pressure on this valuable resource.  From Fukushima Radiation to urban runoff, we have not been kind to our oceans.  As an advocate for preserving the ocean and a place I love in Laguna Beach, I have given a lot of thought to why we need to protect our oceans.  The numbers on this can’t be any more telling.  Salt water makes up 98.5% of the 70% of the earth’s surface that is water.  I don’t think that when you completely toxify 70% of the earth’s surface, which just so happens to deliver fresh water and food sources to people globally, that the future looks good.  Secondly, I love Laguna Beach. My childhood memories go way back in Laguna Beach with family vacations and what we saw in the tide pools there was always a highlight of the trip.  It is a fascinating coastal environment rich in marine life, picturesque landscapes, soft-sanded coves, exotic waters, majestic sea cliffs, and inter-tidal reefs that make it special.  Unlike much of the Southern California Coastline with long, flat sandy beaches interrupted by piers and jetties, the Laguna Beach Coastline is alive.  It is truly a special, special part of our coastline and we should do everything we can to preserve it.

I know that people out there are thinking about our environment.  They hear and read stories about coral reef bleaching and collapses, urban runoff, de-oxygenated coastal zones, mysterious fish and marine mammal die-offs and are worried.   While it isn’t a good idea to link these issues without science to things like Fukushima Radiation, it is healthy for every day people to be engaged in the plight of the marine environment.  We need people to get involved and to become educated on what we are doing to the oceans that we need to fix.  Awareness is not a bad thing, and while Laguna Beach is a place I like to shine the light on in terms of the need for us to protect, it is important to note that are mistreatment of the ocean and resulting pollution issues are found in varying degrees in every coastal environment that people live in.  Those areas are no less important and must be protected to.

Sea Star waste disease is a problem among many.  It has the attention of many because people are worried about Fukushima Radiation, people generally love star fish, and because people are beginning to see human survival tied to protecting our planet, a planet that is made up of close to 70% salt water!

Posted in Aliso Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Star Fish, Star Fish Waste Disease Tagged , , , , , , |

New Normal For Aliso Beach?

Aliso Beach Waves have been quite the draw with a recent run of combo swells with waves coming from the south, south-southwest, northwest and west-northwest.  Winds in Laguna have been extremely favorable with smooth water surface conditions lasting well into the afternoon with glass offs before dark.  This has attracted every skimboarder, bodyboarder, bodysurfer, surfer and wave photographer in Southern California.  Without question, that statement is an exaggeration but it does speak to the crowds at Aliso Beach recently and how difficult it is to get waves when too many people converge on this one spot.  I can remember years ago when there was a really good chance I rolled up and there was either no one out or just a couple out and the waves were firing.

At the beginning of the week, there was a nice crossed up swell and Aliso Beach was producing some incredible waves with cooperative winds and tide conditions.  Everyone seemed to be in tune with when those elements would all come together.  There were people I hadn’t seen in a while and all the usual suspects were out as well.  Ugggggh!  I can’t blame anyone in the wave riding and photography community for loving this beach.  My love affair with this beach started in the mid 1980’s and I can never get enough of those blue-green barrels that leave me starved for more.  In recent weeks, and I am not sure if this is a product of long, flat periods of no waves and surf deprived watermen all coming to Aliso to get their daily dose of waves because its good, or if it is a a matter of these crowded conditions have become a part of the new normal for Aliso Beach.

Fortunately, Laguna Beach has more than one cove, and when wind, tide, swell and waves are good, there is usually a spot that you can leave your troubles behind at and catch a few waves minus the aggravation of too many people paddling for one wave.  As much as we would all like to be nice and share, it makes it really tough to leave crowded highways, annoying bosses, traffic, rude and inconsiderate people, crying infants, and all the fixings of our matrix-driven lives of repetitive behaviors, jobs, schedules and responsibilities, only be deflated by too many people in the water when the waves are good.

While I would never swear off Aliso Beach(Yes, it’s that special), I am taking a break.  We are not likely to see divorce papers and nor have I given up on the beach I call the gem of South Laguna Beach.  Custody of the waves belongs to the wave riding and photography communities who express their love for Aliso Beach in doing what they do.  The one thing that can help save Aliso Beach from a new normal that is frustrating to many is  for all to get a little adventurous and look for other spots in the region.  Laguna Beach is blessed with a coastline that is a little of this and a little of that.  It is an environmental, ecological and geological wonderland with waves as diverse as its pristine beaches.  The even better news, which should go out as a press release to all those that frequent Aliso Beach, is that there are many waves in Laguna.  The reward of good waves is handed out to those souls who refuse to become complacent and venture into alternative spots.  On Monday, the crushing blow of way too crowded conditions at Aliso Beach was softened when one of South Laguna’s less accessible beaches decided to put on a show of perfect waves and magical conditions.  The frustration of being denied waves at my favorite beach by a wave hungry mob of photographers and wave riders of varied disciplines soon escaped my mind in favor of the tranquility and relief found in scoring amazing waves with just a few of your friends out.  I couldn’t have been happier.

The most unfortunate thing about waves at Aliso Beach, and anywhere other beach for that matter,  is that the level of enjoyment or the access to waves that produce the indescribable feeling of being in the ocean and riding waves, is a matter of supply and demand.  In addition to the pressure put on supply by the items that Mother Nature has jurisdiction over (swell, tides, favorable winds, sun), the responsibilities that human beings typically have that limit the amount of time they can be in the ocean (kids, work, errands, bills, events, parties, family gatherings, automobile servicing, home repairs or any other activity that has to be done to help people and families live a comfortable, stable and enjoyable life) further starve ocean enthusiasts out of waves.  You grow up, go to school, get a job, get married(many like to get divorced too), have children, and essentially sign up for a busy life that repeats itself every day with pressure on your time.  Combine this with the lack of cooperation by Mother Nature and her delivery of waves on her, and only her terms, and you can see how so many wave riders, photographers and ocean enthusiasts fight an uphill battle with the supply and demand realities of Aliso Beach.  Recently, this has been a real issue.

Hopefully this is not a new normal for Aliso Beach.  What it would mean is that my enjoyment of this beach and waves will decline, and I will forgo time spent here for greener pastures at beaches and coves in Laguna Beach where the less adventurous have passed on them.  Aliso Beach is a low hanging fruit for many watermen because the parking lot and the location of the beach make it really easy to see if the waves are good.  By the way, the waves have been good lately.  I have not forsaken Aliso Beach.  I will never forsake Aliso Beach.  It is a special, special place and nothing can take away the cherished memories and friendships built in and around Aliso Beach.  I may stray so that I can fill my cup of the joy of riding waves absent the mob mentality that influences wave riders to pile on top of each other and out maneuver each other for the best and most waves in the lineup.  At some point it becomes a zero sum game and nobody wins.  I know in my heart that wave riders and surf photographers enjoy the ocean and waves because of how it makes them feel.  I also know and feel the frustration when crowds limit the ability to de-stress and purge daily stresses from your mind, body and soul (if for a short couple of hours riding and being among the waves).

If my dear Aliso Beach, this is the new normal, where everyone converges on your soft sands, pristine blue-green waters and exhilarating waves at the same time in crowds that make it difficult to give everyone their fill, I will be elsewhere.  At the same time, I will have not forgotten you and I will not love you any less.  I will pick and choose my days to greet you and will bring the same level of enthusiasm, respect, and appreciation for all that you are and all that you do to make me feel whole again as I seek the waves and salt water experience that delivers a quiet content that is so desperately needed by me and any other wave enthusiast who is drawn to the soothing waters of the Pacific Ocean at a beach featuring your namesake.  ALISO BEACH!

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Aliso River Wars

As far back as I can remember, the Aliso River also known as the Aliso River has been broken by local wave enthusiasts to ride the standing waves the outflow creates and to take advantage of the sand bars that are created when the river cuts through the high tide berm and packs send out in front of the river mouth.  It effectively delivers sand to all the right places and the swell that finds those sand bars delivers perfectly sculpted waves.  Long gone are the days that the Aliso Pier holds the sand in and helps give Aliso Beach waves that may be ridden by surfers, bodyboarders, tray surfers and bodysurfers.  The late fall and winter months have sand pushed south by west and northwest swells.  This combined with a sloping beach and the majority of waves break right on the shore.  It’s great for skimboarders but not so great for the rest of the wave riding community.

It’s no secret that the river gives the waves at Aliso Beach a helping hand.  I have been the benefactor of many days where the river was broken by hand resulting in a sand bar and waves perfectly peeling on them for a short time before the sand is pushed south.  Wave riders that are not skimboarders need the outflow to give them a chance to enjoy waves at Aliso Beach and without it the waves simply crash right on the shore.

The other not so secret piece of information about Aliso Creek is that it is often polluted beyond what is considered healthy with urban runoff and pollutants.  Simply put, the water is dirty and this issue has existed at Aliso Beach for a very long time.  My passion for this beach began in the mid 80’s and it has always had this issue.  Several bodyboarders from the South Laguna Beach community have died of cancers and they have surfed at Aliso.  With the carcinogens found in urban runoff, and fecal matter present from birds that live in the area combined with the occasional unintentional discharge of sewage into the creek and you have a recipe for illness I am sure few will argue with.  I would like to make the point that nobody wants to get sick and that we should not be at a point where we allow the creek water to become so unhealthy that we have to think long and hard about whether or not we should be in the water at Aliso Beach.  What it means is that we have not done a good enough job preserving Aliso Creek and making sure that the water that reaches the ocean is as clean as it can be.

Today, I saw something really interesting.  I was checking the waves at Aliso Beach and ran into a couple of surf photographers and bodyboarders that I knew.  Apparently they had begun the digging process to help Aliso Creek along in reaching the water.  We call that breaking the river.  For us it is a pretty common term but thought you would like to know.  As they started the digging process they were confronted by a skimboarder that wasn’t happy that they were breaking the river.  After a verbal back and forth, he gave up and walked down to the south end of the beach where more of skimboarding action happens.  It turns out that he sent a bunch of the young kid skimboarders to the river to stop the guys digging the river.  For every digging action taken, these little guys were kicking sand to thwart their efforts.  Mouthy kids they were.  I was surprised.  It’s funny in a world where you can’t spank your kids for fear of being turned into child protection services that kids have become so irreverent and disrespectful.  The whole group of kids were chirping and acting like little spoiled brats.  So the older skimboarder didn’t get his way and wasn’t going to win the disagreement so he sent in little kids to do his heavy lifting.  Weak!  Who does that?  So the kids march in and threaten to call the cops and I had to laugh.  Kids today, especially in orange county, do and say whatever they want and nobody does anything about it.  Somehow a parent was dragged into this who was instructed to call the police.  From what I understand the police told them to talk with the lifeguard so the lifeguard parked the vehicle on the beach to keep an eye on things.

It is important to note that there are literally 3 sides to this debate if not more. I wanted to take a moment to cover all of those angles because the arguments made by each all have merit.  Read below for each side of the Aliso River debate.

1) Surfers, Bodyboarders, Bodysurfers, Tray Surfers

All three of these groups appreciate good shore break waves that are not landing right on the shore.  Unfortunately, the late fall/winter months cause a migration of sand and beach erosion that leaves waves crashing right on the sand.  Those waves are not ideal for surfers, bodyboarders, bodysurfers and tray surfers.  This is why they are so excited to break the river.  The resulting sand bars deliver waves that are not only rideable but sometimes nearly perfect.  It’s not hard to see why they want to break the river.  Without the push of sand out in front of the river, Aliso Beach would not be a wave riding beach for anyone other than skimboarders.

2)  Skimboarders

Skimboarders require waves that break close to shore.  Most of the skimboarding is done at the south end of the beach where an inter-tidal reef traps the sand and creates a side wave that connects to incoming peaks when there is swell from the south. One of the factors present after the river is let out  that skimboarders may not appreciate is the fact that the placement of sand bars will change with the movement of sand and make their wave riding discipline more difficult and not as fun.  Waves breaking further away from shore don’t cooperate with the sport of skimboarding because riders must be able to skim out to incoming wave, make a turn and surf it back towards shore. I have heard skimboarders complain about others letting the river out before. The reason for the complaint was about the dirty water and the sand definitely moves the wave around in a way that may take away from their fun.  It is legitimate to worry about the water quality and any intelligent human being would consider whether or not it was worth the risk.

3) Water Photographers

Water photographers are a new trend at Aliso Beach.  Regularly, you will find surf photographers and go pro guys breaking the river because the sand bars that result from letting the river out create perfectly sculpted barrels that photograph well.  I don’t think there has been a day in the last several months where I have checked the waves at Aliso Beach and not seen one of these guys breaking the river.  The waves without the newly formed sand bars from the river outflow are often not good enough to warrant suiting up and firing the camera up.

4) Lifeguards, Park Rangers, Laguna Beach Police

Looking at this objectively, you would have to think about this from their perspective.  Letting the river out typically attracts all sorts of people. Onlookers include those walking the beach, families, children, wave riders and photographers.  To wave riders and the water photographers, the dangers are mitigated by years of experience in the water and knowledge of how the Aliso River works.  As the sand cuts through the beach landscape and sand, the river digs into the sand creating walls on each side of the outflow.  As the river pushes to the sea, the sand walls on each side are cut into and they collapse as the water eats it away.  There is a danger to people watching from the sidelines of the river.  If someone were to fall into the river unexpectedly, a torrent of water will unload them into the shore break in front of the river and it could be dangerous.  I have heard that residents who live along Aliso Beach don’t appreciate being trapped by people letting the river out.  The other element to this is that the river delivers dirty water to the ocean and that may not be a good thing.

Lifeguards and park rangers are charged with keeping Aliso Beach safe.  Letting the river out adds variables to the job of safety that both lifeguards and park rangers do not appreciate.  I have seen lifeguards and state park rangers militantly try and stop this activity while threatening to and writing tickets to offenders.  I have yet to see a Laguna Beach law that says that you cannot dig the river out.  In the dialogue I heard today, the call made to police resulted in a suggestion that it was not against the law and that they talk to the lifeguards.   A lifeguard walked down to the river and the diggers scattered.  He then parked his truck on the north end which I took to mean he was going to stop the river digging.

I overheard these young mouthy skimboarders say that they did not want to catch sexually transmitted diseases from the water.  To that I would say you catch sexually transmitted diseases from having sex and  since you are little boys we need not worry about that, or then again, maybe we should worry about that! It’s another discussion altogether.  It is true that you can catch Hepatitis from runoff that gets to the ocean but that is the result of sewage.  I would recommend to these kids to get their facts straight before they go mouthing off.

Solution To Aliso Beach River Issue

First and foremost I see no law that says you can’t dig the river out and that is despite the fact that tickets have been issued for it in the past.  Kids creating conflict like this without knowing the facts is a joke.  I applaud them for thinking about their health and it has always been recommended that people stay away from urban runoff zones along our coastline for 72 hours.  It doesn’t stop these same skimboarders from being down there after a rain.  I have seen them.

Aliso Beach has always had this runoff issues and the contaminated water warnings surrounding the river are a constant like jelly is to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and its horrible. What we need to do is work on the solution that delivers cleaner water to the coat.  We need to make sure that we don’t have accidental sewage spills that discharge into Aliso Creek and we need to work on other solutions that treat creek water before it gets to the coast.  This is where the problem grows and the failure to clean that up has probably kept skimboarders, surfers, bodysurfers, bodyboarders, tray surfers and swimmers at risk for more than 50 years.  If we clean up the river, the issues go away for lifeguards, park rangers, skimboarders, surfers, bodysurfers, bodyboarders, swimmers and water photographers.  Isn’t that the most appropriate measure and one that benefits all of the groups?

Clean that up and these issues go away!  Don’t you want to see Aliso Creek and Aliso Beach cleaned up? We do!  Buy Scotty Carter prints of Aliso Beach and contribute to charities benefiting Aliso Beach!



Posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach News, Aliso Beach Stories, Aliso Beach Waves, Aliso Creek, Aliso River Tagged , , , |

Aliso Beach Christmas Spirit

Aliso Beach, Christmas Lights, Aliso Beach decorated for Christmas

Aliso Beach home decorated with Christmas Lights.

I got out of the water last Sunday after bodyboarding with some friends into dark. The sun was setting and I got my last wave just before the Pacific Ocean muted the sun for the day.  Before darkness fell, I thought that the sunlight breaking through clouds on the western horizon was reflecting light off the palm trees on the south end of Aliso Beach.  When darkness finally took over, I realized that the light on the trees was the result of a string of Christmas lights that rose from the bottom of the tree on the beach to the palms at the top of the tree.

It’s funny because Scotty Carter and I have named one of his images of an Aliso Beach wave 15 Palms and the lights on trees seem to indicate there is an additional tree.  It’s hard to tell.  They are situated so close together and the more you stare at it the more difficult they get to count accurately.  15 or 16 trees, however, are irrelevant to how beautiful they are decorated in Christmas lights.  I left the water and walked up the beach with board in hand as I walked to the car and was fixated on the Christmas lights.  They are spectacular.

Tonight, I decided that I wanted to get a photograph of the trees and lights to show Aliso Beach in a festive mood.  As you can see, the homeowner on the hill at the south end of the beach and overlooking the cliff, did a great job with lights.  Those people that visit Aliso Beach after dark before the holiday season is over are in for a real treat!  If you wanted to know if there was Aliso Beach Christmas spirit there you go!

Happy Holidays from the team at AlisoBeach.Com

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Fire Pit Battle


A fire pit battle exists at Aliso Beach due to residents complaining of the smoke smell billowing up from the beach.  Fire pits at Aliso Beach were fresh in my mind last Sunday because as a few friends and I tried to squeeze a couple more waves out of the fading sunlight, the offshore winds were blowing the smell of burning wood from the fire pits out over the water.  In a way, I enjoy the smell and I do appreciate that traditions among families and friends make this an enjoyable and inexpensive way to keep warm and enjoy the beach.  The 5 fire pits at Aliso Beach seem rather harmless but as I have read, Laguna Beach residents in close proximity to the pits may not agree.  Having lived in Huntington Beach and enjoying bike rides up through Bolsa Chica to Sunset Beach and back, I know just how irritating and dangerous wood smoke can be.  People come in from all over Southern California piling wood high over the pits and burn it in an orgy of fire that is excessive, unnecessary and toxic.  Because the winds blow onshore predominantly along the Huntington Beach coastline, anyone using the boardwalk is pelted with the unforgettable smell of burning wood, ash and chemicals.  It is often so thick that it is unpleasant to breathe in and the smell of smoke is absorbed by your clothes.  I have never thought this was good and I believed that somehow the city, county or Air Quality Management District would have to get involved in this.

fire pit, fire pit before hurricane marie

Fire pits are a tradition at Aliso Beach!

It appears that there has been some recent dialogue that may affect the use of fire rings at beaches.  It also looks like there are some suggestions for a cleaner fuel burning alternative to existing fire pits that may be implemented.  If we are going to understand why there is such an uproar over fire pits, we have to consider the toxicity that gets airborne from burning wood and how that affects us human beings.  This isn’t just about some wealthy Laguna Beach homeowners and petty gripes.  What is released into the air with wood has been studied and you may be surprised out how bad the smoke is for you.  I may like the smell of burning wood on a beach to some extent, but what I like and what is good for people that are breathing it are two different stories.

Aliso Beach was spared in recent talks on what to do about the fire pits.  I know that a lot of people enjoy the fire pits because they are always in use when I am there.  I also know that homeowners are aware that the effects of wood smoke from the fire pits puts their and anyone who breathes it at risk.  Putting politics aside for the moment, let’s look at what is produced when wood is burned.  This assumes that it is only wood that is burning.  Having live in Huntington for a number of years, I know they are burning more than wood and the toxins produced from the burn everything in sight mentality only makes the toxicity of the wood smoke that much worse.

It is important to note that wood smoke releases pollutants that are governed by federal and state rules because of the negative effects on health that studies have found.  Wood smoke releases carbon monoxide, the colorless and odorless gas that has the ability to suffocate you.  When introduced to the body through the lungs, it has the ability to make it difficult for blood to deliver oxygen to the tissues of the body.  Its the same pollutant that is created when you run a gas fueled vehicle in an enclosed garage.  It has the ability to give you serious headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness and even worse by causing death.  Those at the greatest risk of carbon monoxide poisoning include people with existing heart or lung disease and children in the bellies of future mothers.  I would think this gives us all a little bit to chew on with this issue and may urge us to reconsider the need to have fire pits or look for alternatives that are less toxic.

Wood smoke also releases Nitrogen Oxides which cause respiratory ailments and difficulties in breathing.  I have experienced that simply riding my bike on the boardwalk in Bolsa Chica as the reckless fires many choose to build are sending smoke with coastal winds towards the parking lot and affecting anyone using the board walk.  It’s awful!  You feel like you have inhaled a bunch of smoke and have trouble breathing.  While that may be great for the people warmed by the fire its terrible for folks on the board walk.  These particulates combining with volatile organic compounds creates ozone which is essentially smog.  We all know smog is bad for us and we have come a long way from my childhood in the mid 70’s where we are pulled off the playground because of red smog alerts.  It would literally make it so it hurt to breathe in.  Given what we know and what has been studied, I don’t think there is any disputing that the byproduct of a wood burning fire pit is toxic and potentially life threatening.

Does this mean that it is completely unsafe to burn wood?  No, probably not, but it should cause us to reflect on whether or not it is a good idea to continue the practice.  So many people will be up in arms if the fire pits are removed at Aliso Beach.  Efforts to move fire pits, change the fuel source to a cleaner burning alternative and abide by South County Air Quality Management District regulations for fire pits are all going on in the background.  This also involves the city of Laguna Beach, Orange County and the California Coastal Commission and I have to believe it will get political.  Newport Beach was said to be trying to remove fire pits in Corona Del Mar and on the Balboa Peninsula with an application to the California Coastal Commission.  The move was blocked by the commission in an effort to find out more about how wood smoke affects people.  To me that is funny because we have reports the California Air Resources Board that tell us all about the risks of wood burning smoke to people.   This report linked to is from 2005 so we have had the information we needed to make decisions that support public health.  Regulations include a 700 foot from residences ban on fire pits which helps but given that people who live in the Aliso Beach area still complain says that they are bothered by the smoke.  We have to take into consideration their concerns about their own health and safety if we know that wood smoke harms people.

Some of the dialogue around fire pits in Southern California Coastal Communities revolves around a change of the fire pits to a cleaner burning propane fueled fire pit that appear to be up for testing in some of the northern Orange County Beaches.  A resident appears to sit on the board of a company that Aliso Beach will take a look at for an alternative fuel fire pit system and she believes that Aliso Beach will convert to that type of fire pit.  The funny thing is that in other articles it has been indicated that the fire department thinks the propane fueled fire pit suggestion is ridiculous.  If they think it is not a good idea then they have a safety concern.  As it appears, this debate is not going away any time soon.  The players in this debate include local residents, beach visitors who use the pits, the South County Air Quality Management District, the California Coastal Commission, the city of Laguna Beach and Orange County who operates the beach.  With everything I have read, I am not sure there is a perfect answer.  I understand the residents complaints about the unwanted smoke.  It does come with pollutants and cancer causing particles that put human beings at risk.  Those facts are not debatable.  I also know that there is tradition among families and friends who like to use the fire pits at Aliso Beach.  Then you have the South Coast Air Quality Management District who is charged with minimizing pollutants we put into the air, and the County and City who are charged with making decisions in the best interests of the general public and residents.  It is going to be tough to come up with a solution that is good for everyone.  We will see how it plays out!

Posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach News, South Laguna Beach Tagged , , , , , , , |

40 Ouncer


Aliso Beach is a terrible place to leave a 40 ouncer.  Tossing a bottle like that anywhere other than a trash can allows things like that to wash all the way down the creek and into our ocean playground.  With the recent run of rain delivering storms (yes I know they are far and few allows between in Southern California), Aliso Creek is flowing into the water.  With a steady stream of runoff, inevitably it picks up a wide variety of pollutants and trash.  My hope is that one day people see the connection of inland communities to the health of the ocean.  What we do from the mountains to the sea affects our marine ecosystems and water quality.  I am guessing that most people are also not thrilled by the idea of entering the water and cutting a foot on glass either. That is why all beaches have a sign saying no glass containers on the beach!

aliso beach, aliso creek, aliso creek beach, aliso beach park

Rider Brad Kuhn in perfect spot at Aliso Beach

The waves were decent as the textured onshore winds subsided and reversed to offshore late in the afternoon.  It was very peaceful.  As I often experience as an Aliso Beach Bodyboarder, I lost my board on a closed out wave.  Chasing it down the beach in a swift moving current was a real challenge, and on more than one occasion I had to run half way down the beach to retrieve my board. On one occasion, I was trying to grab the board and there was an Old English 800 Malt Liquor 40 ounce bottle with its cap on rolling back out with the tide.  I grabbed it before it could get hit by the next wave and tossed it towards a couple of gals taking in the sunset who saw me pick it up and offered to take it to the trash can for me.  This type of trashing of the beach is alarming.  At any time, the bottle could be broken into pieces by rocks that come tumbling down the creek in the force of the runoff. Broken glass and bodyboarders being pulverized into the shallows are not a good mix.  I would be furious if I got cut because of glass in the water and that’s exactly what our littering behavior sets others up for.  It’s not just me and its not just bodyboarders.  How about the countless numbers of people that wade in the shallows barefoot at Aliso Beach.  Their safety is equally as important.

In truth, I don’t know if this bottle came rolling down the creek from Aliso Viejo, or some deviant underage kids drinking on the beach and the tide got it.  One way or another, the bottle ended up in a zone that could have seriously cut and injured someone, and we have to think about these things and do better.  Fortunately the bottle cap on this 40 ouncer probably kept it more buoyant and spared it from the rocks below that would have broken it and made it more dangerous.  There is a reason that beaches prohibit glass bottles on the beach and by the way, alcohol is also prohibited. Thinking about swimming among bottles should provide everyone a visual that highlights the potential for danger.  If you have to indulge in a 40 ouncer at Aliso Beach, put it in a trash can please.  There is no reason to create situations that endanger people that enjoy the waters here or at any beach.  This experience is evidence that we must continue to do better with keeping trash out of the ocean whether inland or along the coast.  Broken glass and bottles are not a welcome part of the ocean environment and unless we become more conscious of disposing of our trash, there are risks to those who frequent these waters.  This problem is not unique to Aliso Beach.  Any beach that has fresh water meet the ocean is prone to the presence of glass bottles and extra trash carried down river.  Our efforts need to improve every where to protect our oceans.  While some marvel at sea glass strewn beaches, it simply does not belong there!

Photo Credit:  Scotty Carter

Posted in Aliso Beach Stories, Aliso Beach Surf, Aliso Beach Waves, Aliso Creek, Aliso River Tagged , , , , , , |

Aliso Beach Versus NFL Football


For some of you in America, this isn’t a choice at all.  For those wave riders that live close enough to know whether the waves are good enough to paddle out on a Sunday, it isn’t a choice at all either. The NFL is entertaining, no doubt, and I, like many in America, will carve out time on Sunday to watch football.  I would probably watch more if the Chargers could ever truly make a run at winning a Super Bowl.  Actually, I do pay attention to the Chargers, but when it comes to making the choice between watching football teams I don’t root for and catching a few waves with friends at Aliso Beach in Laguna, there isn’t a chance I forgo waves to sit on a couch.  This Sunday had some interesting games in near white out conditions but the satisfaction derived from watching those games pales in comparison to being outdoors, in salt water and catching waves until sunset.  Unless I am under the weather, there is no chance I give up free time at the beach.

Today, I started to get a little restless.  The storm that brought us cold rain from Saturday was a distant memory and the sun was doing its best to circumvent a few scattered clouds left over.  It wasn’t one of your warmest Southern California days but it was too nice out to pass up.  While I did watch parts of the 10 am football games, I started to get a little fidgety, so I decided to do what I always do on Sunday.  I called Jack.  Jack, despite living in San Diego, is always down to come up to Laguna Beach because he has family up here.  Not sure if it was even worth the gas money, I called him to let him know that I would check things out to see if I should save him the trip.  Hoping to get waves somewhere other than a crowded Salt Creek, I told Jack that I would check Aliso Beach, a secret spot just to the south, and Salt Creek.  When I got to Aliso, the tide was a bit high and there was texture on the water from the onshore winds.  It didn’t look to promising but I didn’t want to hear from someone else that we missed good waves at Aliso Beach.  I checked the secret spot where the waves also weren’t spectacular so I went back to Creek.  When I got there, the local wind swell seem to be pushing solid peaks through Gravels with relatively smooth water conditions.  I called Jack and told him that Salt Creek was worth the journey and that I would wait for him to get up here.  After nearly drowning on Thanksgiving, I am trying to honor my promise to myself to always paddle out with friends.  By the time Jack arrived, Salt Creek wasn’t looking to special.

Jack told me that our friend Matt had called him and was headed up to Aliso Beach to paddle out so we decided to head up there.  When we got there, it really wasn’t too tempting.  It just didn’t look fun enough to paddle out.  Matt made the point that it looked and felt like both wind, tide and wave conditions were improving and that Aliso Beach was the call.  We knew all along that he could be right and that we could make the wrong call.  We watched him from the sand for 20 minutes and decided that despite the fact that only he was out  it made no sense to rain on his party by adding two more heads to an inconsistent break.  We went down to the water’s edge after he had to chase his board to the shore and told him that we were headed back to Creek.  God Bless the dude, he really wanted us to stay and hang out, and while I love surfing with the guy, I just couldn’t see it.  Matt is one of those glass is 90% full kind of guys and his enthusiasm often over flows the cup, so when Jack and I decided to go back to Creek, I was considering the fact that Matt was such a happy go lucky guy that loved the ocean that he could convince himself that the waves at Aliso Beach were better than they really were.  It was great that no one was out but him, but the waves were not all that!  I just couldn’t do it.  After pulling out of the lot and driving up south coast highway headed for Creek, I caught a glimpse of a much larger wave than we had seen come out of nowhere.  I immediately pulled to the side of the highway overlooking Aliso Beach from above to watch and Jack was right behind me.  His view was obstructed by the trees and shrubs on the hillside but he knew that I must have seen something I liked.  We sat on the hill for another 10 minutes and still couldn’t convince ourselves that Aliso Beach was the spot to be.

When we got back to Salt Creek, conditions had changed.  The waves didn’t have that same peaky quality and clearly weren’t as good as they were a half hour ago when we left the first time.  The decision to go back to Aliso Beach was one of those situations where you take a chance on the waves getting better knowing full well they may not get better at all.  The tide was dropping and the sand bars were starting to groom waves on the north end.  The waves were bending in like a point break from the wind swell and although it wasn’t super consistent, there were enough waves to spread out between Jack, Matt and I.  The waves warbled a bit but when you chose the right one, the wave barreled across the inside sand bar giving you a nice green barrel with travel time.  The winds had shifted a bit offshore and so waves were getting feathered back by the winds keeping the barrels open.

It was so peaceful to close the beach down with a couple of friends.  There was a nice sunset to go with a fun surf session and the holiday lights on the houses fronting the beach were really festive.  You leave a surf session like this so refreshed, rejuvenated and invigorated that it is hard to describe.  The experience  delivers a quiet content and smile that are priceless.  To share that with friends makes it another special day at Aliso Beach.

Aliso Beach versus NFL Football is no contest when there are waves.  Today was one of those days!  I wish all Sundays had waves but sometimes even Mother Nature has a bye week!

Posted in Aliso Beach Surf, Aliso Beach Waves Tagged , , , , |

Aliso Beach Website Founder Nearly Drowned

There is no doubt that I am getting older.  There is no doubt that I am not as young, spry and athletic as I once was and while that could speak to traditional sports like baseball and basketball that I was heavily involved with, it mostly refers to my time in the ocean as a bodyboarder.  I am not an olympic swimmer and nor am I a pro bodyboarder.  On my side, I do have years of experience in the ocean from Los Angles County to Isla Natividad and  Cabo San Lucas to Hawaii.  I am by no means the caliber of some of these water men that I have been so blessed to meet or call my friends.  That being said, I have taken experiences in the water with them as well as experiences independent of them and combined them with years of swimming lessons to become competent in the water and prepared for just about whatever I could imagine.  As life always seems to do, it humbled me on Thanksgiving Day 2013 in a way that I will never forget

Salt Creek Thangsgiving Day 2013

I left home around 8:30 in the morning.  I was aware of rapidly increasing surf over Thanksgiving 2013 into Friday.  While I knew the storm producing the surf had a close proximity to the Southern California Coastline, I was not overwhelmed by the surf report.  It was supposed to be 4-7 foot and yet I had heard others in the surf community citing the NOOA Website and saying something huge and powerful was coming.  As a surf community, we had been starved of waves for about two weeks and for two weeks prior to that there really wasn’t any significantly sized waves but just enough to continue to be rideable.  It is funny how it works.  It goes from flat to heavy overnight and you find yourself unprepared to deal with what’s in front of you.  Ironic, wouldn’t you say?

I got to Salt Creek and saw a parking lot full of people.  Watching the surf from the bridge next to the Ritz Carlton Dana Point, I noticed there was long lulls between set waves and when they came no one was out far enough to get them.  It didn’t look all that great and even though I saw several familiar cars in the parking lot, I was not motivated to just paddle out.  I switched my mode to looking at some of the less accessible and less traveled surf spots in Laguna Beach.  I didn’t have much luck.  In my search, I stopped off at Aliso Beach where the energy really hadn’t shown to the degree that was reported and the waves were a fraction of the size at Salt Creek.  There were two guys from the community digging the river at Aliso Beach and not only were the waves lackluster, but also there was a little texture on the water.  My back up plan of Aliso Beach quickly went out the window and I realized for Thanksgiving 2013 it was Salt Creek or bust, so back to Dana Point I went.

While I was getting out of the car, I got a text from a friend that asked me if I had gotten any of the West Swell sneaker sets.  I read the text the way I wanted to and since I am well read on the ocean and familiar with Pacific Coastal areas that have beach signs warning about sneaker sets, I understood the danger that was implied.  The text read literally to ask me if I had caught any of the sneaky west swell but somehow I fixated on sneaker sets.  I was half way through putting my wet suit on when I answered that text.  I told him I was paddling out at Salt Creek and apparently he was right around the corner.

I beat JR down to the beach and paddled out.  When I got out into the lineup the tide was a little higher and there were few bodyboarders out.  It was packed with surfers of a wide age range from late teens to their 50’s but there was only one other bodyboarder in the lineup  outside in the  middles to gravels zone.  It was hard to get waves in between all of the surfers that were trying to make up for nearly two weeks of flat to 2 foot surf.  The peaks weren’t all that cooperative either.  You either had to be way on the inside or way on the outside to catch waves.  The larger waves obviously were on the outside and predictably every wave riding soul had their noses pointed in the direction of the larger sets.  There really was no in between for anyone. I picked off a few outside waves between all of the heads in the lineup but it wasn’t easy.

After being out an hour and catching a couple, the tide began to drop.  Waves started to break on the outer reef towards the kelp beds which was cleaning up much of the line up.  After escaping a set’s assault on the lineup I sat on the outside for a spell thinking I was perfectly positioned on the next run as the furthest guy out.  When I saw the next set pop up, I realized that the wave was breaking much further out than I had anticipated and that applied to everyone in the lineup.  I was the furthest out and I was still caught inside a bit. I made the first wave.  It was bigger and further out than we had seen during this time period so I found myself out of position and unprepared for it despite my best effort to put myself in a good spot.  You know the waves are big when you scratch to get over them and you catch air and fall back down as the wave moves and breaks through your position.  When I got over this wave I realized the second wave of the set was even further out so I scratched as hard as I could to make the wave and narrowly escaped by ducking under it as it broke.  Thinking I escaped harm I realized a 3rd wave was headed for me and I was even more out of position to get over this one than I was the second and I resigned myself to the reality that I would be taking this one on the head.  I would never have gotten there fast enough to avoid punishment.  I ducked under the wave and got spun around pretty good and when I came up I was bummed to find a larger wave out the back.  Now I have seen bigger waves than what I saw this Thanksgiving and I am no stranger to beat downs having body boarded waves from San Diego to Santa Barbara and the North Shore of Hawaii to Baja California and Cabo.  The set waves were in the neighborhood of 10-12 feet and they were larger waves than we had seen all morning.  Sometimes when you get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, things happen.  This was one of those times and it was all wrong!

The fourth wave is where things started to go completely haywire.  I got destroyed by this wave and I was starting to lose the stamina that had me scratching to get over the set waves.  Ducking under the wave I got pushed back and of course there was a 5th wave.  The fifth wave stood up, crashed in front of me, and  after I ducked it and saw a wave after that, I decided to let it take the board and had resigned myself to taking my chances swimming.  I got under the 6th wave but took a big gulp of water as I attempted to take a breath before ducking under a big wall of white water that had come tumbling down  less than a couple of feet from me.  This is where it got scary.  With the surprise of the gulp of sea water, I really didn’t get far enough under the wave and the situation kind of sucked the air out of me.  As a result of not getting far enough under it the wave  had taken a fin off my foot with more waves coming. Then  it was really bad.  I let my board go which would help me stay above water and a fin had been taken off my foot which I needed to get back in.  Wow!  I thought!  It couldn’t get much worse!  That was until I realized the set wasn’t done.  I took another one on the head and by this time I was in real trouble.

The air had been sucked out of me.  My arms went limp.  I ate another wave and I momentarily blacked out and became disoriented under water.  This was the end I thought!  I was going to leave this life doing something I loved but under a duress that I would not have wished upon anyone.  I got to the surface and I waved my arms for help and yelled but realized that there was not a soul within at least a football field of me and they were trying to get over the waves themselves.  They had all they could handle themselves.  I was told after the fact that the sets had wiped the entire lineup of surfers and body boarders out.  With the lights out and underwater, my whole body went limp and I was ready to call it a day.  When I finally got to the surface, I had been winded, battered and deflated, down but not out.  I could not move my arms as more set waves approached.  I ate a couple more and again, I found myself suspended just below the surface and unable to physically respond to get to the top.  When I finally did get a gulp of air I realized that it was sink or swim, and me against the ocean.  I will tell you that I have never felt more alone in my life than I did during this ordeal and its fucking scary.  Please excuse my language.

I felt like I had taken in a bunch of salt water.  It was literally sinking me like a boat and my energy was so depleted that I could not move my arms.  So my freestyle stroke was out the window and I felt like my best chance to survive had been taken from me.  With another couple of waves to the head, I continued to wrestle with the idea of letting go or clinging to life and then something snapped in me.  Resigned to die, the thought of not going down like this brought me to a consciousness that would not have me succumbing to this life threatening situation and my biggest physical challenge in life.  Knowing it was me against nature, I rolled to my back and started kicking for shore.  Having sucked in all of the sea water, it wasn’t a pretty sight swimming on my back and kicking with my face fighting to remain above the water.  I felt like a sinking boat.  Battered, bruised and nearly drowned, I made it to shallow water.

When I stood up, my legs were like rubber and they nearly crumbled beneath me as I staggered to shore.  My friend JR came down to the water’s edge to see if I was okay as I stumbled up the beach, fell to the sand and curled into the fetal position.  My heart was racing uncontrollably and I was still feeling light-headed and like I might black out.  I couldn’t move!  I laid there for nearly 30 minutes with several beachgoers asking if they should call the paramedics.  In retrospect, it would have been smarter to let them make the call  but I survived.  Even if by a hair….I survived!  Come to find out, I took 14 of these waves on the head but who’s counting.  I guess after you get smashed so many times and you are ready to give up, you simply stop counting.

After awhile, my equilibrium and senses started to come back so I walked up the hill a defeated man…but I lived to tell the story.  Unfortunately, my day would get worse before it got better.  I went home and had a couple of Pacificos prior to Thanksgiving Dinner.  I ate modestly compared to the feasting I have done in years past.  Shortly after dinner my stomach became very upset and I ended up sick to my stomach on and off for 4 hours.  What a waste of a special meal.  Throwing up was so violent that I broke blood vessels in my eyes so severely that my eyes were predominantly solid red where there was supposed to be white.  Gnarly!  Here we are on December 6th and they still are not completely back to normal.  There is no way I had food poisoning and no way I got the stomach flu.  It had to be the combination of unintentionally swallowing half the sea water at Salt Creek and dinner piled on top of that.  I was not sick on the Friday after Thanksgiving at all.  Sounds like quite a holiday, doesn’t it?

The good news is that I am alive and I am better for the experience.  At 43 years old, I have decided that I have to paddle out with friends to mitigate my risk and lend another set of eyes in the favor of their safety as well as my own in an attempt to be responsible when paddling out into big waves.  It was ironic that I pulled two people out of the water to safety in 2013 and no one could have helped me on this day given my proximity to them when the set bared down on Salt Creek.  I have big plans for the Aliso Beach website and I wasn’t ready to go no matter how close I may have been.

Perhaps the gift this story brings this holiday season is that others will think about their own safety and put things in to place that limit their own risk in the water.  I am not invincible and this has humbled me, made me wiser and forced me to consider when and with whom I paddle out.  I nearly spoiled Thanksgiving 2013 for family and I thank my lucky stars and all of my passed beatings in the ocean as well as childhood swim lessons for giving me a fighting chance in  a very bad situation.  Life is wonderful and a gift, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue this journey and exploring all of the possibilities that come with it.  There is much to be thankful for this year!

Happy Holidays to my Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity Brothers past and present at the Tau Rho Chapter of CSUSM, friends and family.  Be thankful for what you have as life proves to us daily that it may be taken from us at any time!


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