Monthly Archives: July 2014

Star Fish Waste Disease Kills


You may recall that early in 2014 I went down into the low tide reef areas of both Aliso Beach and Crescent Bay and found that the health of star fish appeared to be good.  There were beds of them piled on top of each other with vibrant orange and purplish brown colors.  To the naked eye, the population looked to be thriving.  In fact, I was shocked to see that many of them.  Reports of this disease in the media were so damning for the local populations of one of my childhoods favorite marine creatures that I fully expected there to be compelling evidence in January that the disease had wiped them out.  Leaving the tide pools that day, I was very happy when with my own two eyes, I could verify that the star fish were alive and well.  There were no lesions, missing limbs or signs of wasting away.  Two halves of any one sea star I saw had not split and walked the opposite directions from each other.  There was no pile of goo left behind as the waste left behind a sea star with the disease having nearly run its course.

Sometime after January when I documented what appeared to be the good health of star fish in these Laguna area tide pools, the disease swept down the coast and had wiped them out. Interesting to me was that the reports of their demise in Laguna Beach were premature. While the stories of star fish waste disease on the West Coast were numerous at that point, what I could see myself was a complete lack of evidence of the disease being there.  To say that I was devastated to learn of their demise in my favorite part of the Southern California Coast would be a huge understatement.  I found myself in disbelief and disheartened.  I took my eyes off those tide pools, and while there was nothing I could have done, the star fish population in Laguna was wiped out around March of 2014.  When this happened the stories and media sensationalism had slowed to a trickle.  The reports were early, but the devastation of the sea star population was very real.  They were gone!

I can’t tell you how saddened I was.  Listening to the commentary of ocean loving friends, I was told that it takes as much as a decade for populations to get back to where they were.  That is a long, long time.  Caring about the ocean and the creatures in it, I am left with questions.  Was this of human doing?  What did we do to cause it?  What could we do to reduce the amount of time for them to come back?  How would we avoid this tragedy in the future?  I don’t have any answers for this but will be digging into this topic once again for my own good and with the intention of sharing what I learn for the great many people out there that are interested in the subject and care about the ocean.


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Stingray And The Screaming Child

Had just returned from the Sawdust Festival and was in the Salt Creek parking lot to take a look at the surf from the bridge.  Despite there being incredible surf while I was out in Hawaii for the Grand Opening Celebration for Wys Gallery, the waves were pretty weak. There was a strange occurrence in the parking lot with some young kid revving his car up for no apparent reason.  This behavior attracted the displeasure of a middle aged dude who started yapping at the teen.  The teen continued to rev his engine with children and families present and this man telling the kid he should stop in the parking lot.  The teen continued to behave strangely in the lot so we went to inform the lifeguards.  I would have regret it if the kid reved the engine and somehow ended up plowing through people trying to leave the beach.

Interestingly, there wasn’t an OC Sheriff in the parking lot.  They do a good job of watching over Salt Creek.  So, we told the lifeguard and he said he would call them in.  Then, I heard the screams.  Screams like that from a child at the beach are usually the work of a stingray.  The parents whipped their truck around to pick up their little girl as she continued to cry and scream in pain.  How after all of the years I have never ever had this happen I don’t know?  I know they are there.  I hope the little girl is on the mend and that the pain has left.

Stingrays love warmer water and are more commonly found in areas where the shore break conditions aren’t rough.  With 1-2 foot surf and warm water, Southern California beaches are ripe for swimmers and waders getting tagged by Stingrays.  Stingrays are not trying to hurt anyone.  In fact, if they could sense you were coming before you stepped their way, they would flee.  This is why you see recommendations by lifeguards to shuffle your feet while walking out to alert stingrays of your presence.  They will leave.  It is very easy to be caught up in the joy of being in the ocean and forget to do this but this practice will minimize the chances you find yourself on the wrong side of a barbed tail from a stingray.

You may see an explanation of the shuffling recommended to swimmers by lifeguards in the video below courtesy of the folks at Swim At Your Own Risk.


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Napali Coast Is To Die For


The Aliso Beach area of Laguna is an amazing area of our coastline.  It is a place that is forever etched in to the happiest parts of my memories and a place that has brought me tremendous peace in a chaotic world.  Last week I returned from a trip out to the Hawaiian Islands to represent Scotty Carter and Bryan Pezman at Wys Gallery.  The first two days of the trip were dedicated to helping put the finishing touches on the gallery for the two day Grand Opening Celebration.  This gallery is charmed.  Not only does it have some of the most amazing artists I have ever seen, but also it has ownership and staff that are poised to significantly impact the art market in Haleiwa and the world beyond.

One of the fringe benefits of being out for the grand opening was the opportunity to hop on over to Kauai.  Prior to this recent 3 days on the garden isle, I had only been there on a same day trip and it was to catch a couple of waves.  Don’t get me wrong, that was amazing too but the trip was so short lived I could hardly say that I absorbed the experience of Kauai fully.  Perhaps even 3 days is too short of a stint to lay claims that I have processed all that Kauai has to offer as well but so much stuff was packed into the trip that I would tell you I think it is one of the most wonderful places on this planet.

The most memorable part of the trip was the boat ride captained by Tim Hamilton.  We set out for the Napali Coast before sun up and were treated to a glorious sunrise.  There is something about being on the water and watching the sunrise!  Oh and by the way, there were a few extra cool cats on the trip that absolutely contributed to the experience.  Brian Wyland and extraordinary photography Bryan Pezman were in the boat as well.  From the majestic coastal ranges of Napali coast, towering above us with lush, green vegetation and trees to the striking blue water of a health and living coastline, we are completely in awe.  We were mesmerized to silence and an economy of words.  When you see something so full of wonder and beauty you almost lose the ability to use language to relate to others what you are seeing.  That was clearly the case on this boat excursion.

We were visited by a pod of Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins.  They expertly weaved back and forth underneath the boat leaping from the water in jubilee and surfing the wake left by the boat.  I can’t remember a time when a dolphin didn’t make me smile.  The entire gang found themselves captivated by these little guys and all doing their best to capture these mammals that have the physical gifts to outrun boats if and when they want. Dolphins of all creatures in the wild, are among the ones that are among the most receptive to human interaction.  I have always believed that the natural expression of a dolphin was a smile and that you could see the happiness and joy in their eyes.  They played around the boat for 45 minutes giving us a few opportunities to snap a few photos and capture a little video.  They were without question a highlight of the 4 hour adventure.

Napali Coast, Napali Coast Boart Adventure, Kauai, Paradise, Garden Isle

Dreamy view of Napali Coast!

The icing on the cake for us was the cave boating that we did.  The Napali Coastal Range has cave openings in several spots along our journey.  We were surprised to find out that you could actually get a boat back there.  Who would I be to say how safe it was as Tim used local knowledge to give us a view of this special place.  It is my belief that the tourist boat operators may not go into the spots that he took us to and I am beyond grateful!  In one particular cave visit, we found ourselves in one end and staring up at an opening in the mountain with blue sky and whispy clouds above.  It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen, and although there is natural beauty all over the world for those who seek it, I would be hard pressed to find something more amazing than this cave.  Water cascaded down the inner cave walls from the heavens above and the ocean color, influenced by a deep blue sky, had this rich, aqua color that I wish I could recreate for you so you could see just how entrancing it was.  I felt like I was on a real life scene in a Pirates of the Caribbean setting in a bizarre and wondrous new world.  It was surreal to say the very least.  We paused in the back end of the cave under partial darkness and illumination from the gaping hole in the top of the mountain range bearing a partially cloudy sky.  The smell was divine and I can’t express what that is like.  Fresh air permeated the cave and I just wanted to drink it all up and soothe the soul.  In a strangely fascinating way, this natural wonder cleansed and perhaps forever changed me.  As we made the last pass in the cave towards the second opening I realized that I could have laid back in the boat and stated at the intricacies of God’s amazing work for much longer.  It’s during these moments that I can cement in my mind, that the world was created by a power so much bigger than us.  To say it is awe inspiring is a desperate attempt by a mere mortal here on earth to give you one ounce of the joy I felt in this cave and I must apologize that it falls short.

The Napali Coast is to die for and it is a place that I will return.  How could I not?  I do recommend that anyone who hasn’t been touched by a visit to this spectacular area of the coastline of Kauai, to put that on your hot list like yesterday.  Aliso Beach and all of Laguna is a special place as well and we are blessed to call this area home.  Perhaps we take it for granted because it is accessible to us daily when our busy lives allow us to break free, or perhaps the Napali Coast is a place that is absolutely incomparable to anything else and so tantalizingly unique that makes it incomparable to even the best coastline’s the world has to offer.  Go experience it and judge for yourselves!


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