Category Archives: aliso beach website

Happy Thanksgiving


I wanted to take a moment and wish friends, family, fraternity brothers, partners, clients, men and women serving our country and everyone out there a Happy Thanksgiving.  Two years ago, I almost lost my life in a near drowning event at Salt Creek on Thanksgiving Day.  Nature dropped a serious lesson on me about my own mortality.  Tomorrow is never a guarantee, and something as unpredictable as a set of large waves beating me senseless is a reminder that there are some things I can’t perfectly control.

I left that near death situation a little wiser with an extra helping of motivation.  I really do want to impact the world and make my time here count. There are a lot of really disturbing things going on out there in the world around us, and although there is little I can do to change those things, I do feel like I can make small but meaningful differences in the lives of people that are close to me or in my sphere of influence.  They could be family members, friends or complete strangers asking for help.  Reminding people that they are cared for goes a very long way even if the kind gesture is small. Never underestimate the  power of kindness and giving to lift people up when they need it most.  I have to remind myself at times to step outside of my own crazy world to remember this and it is an internal dialogue that I will keep active so that I never forget that people need help.

The Aliso Beach website is a labor of love and I am incredibly humbled by the appreciation and encouragement the website has received from people.  The South Laguna region of beaches including Aliso is very special to me.  People in and out of the community have found the information on the site useful and have reached out with questions.  I am proud to say that every question and/or request for information have been promptly returned, and as a result of the visibility online, I have be given some opportunities to really help some people.  I have also been blessed with the opportunity to recognized people in the beach community that have helped others.  It has been an absolute joy to extend the Aliso Beach community through the website.

sunset, south laguna, south laguna beach sunset

Glowing ocean surface in fleeting moments of sun.

As the days in 2015 dwindle towards the New Year, the need to do what I said I would do when I started the website again is gnawing at me a bit.  What I said was that I would add art to the website and sell with a split of profits between the artist and a recognized 5013c non-profit charitable organization benefiting Aliso Beach.  By January 1st, 2016, the e-commerce section of this website will have contributing artists and products that may be purchased online that benefit artists and a charity whose work benefits this beach. I view this as an amazing opportunity to support charity and artists. If you are an artist or photographer with work influenced by or featuring Aliso Beach, let’s talk. My collaborative vision for this website requires involvement from members of the community who want to help make a difference.  When the vision comes together perfectly, I will consider ways to make sure there is a transfer of ownership of this website to someone, some organization or some collaborative group of people who will carry this torch on forever.  As we have all seen, the work to preserve our beaches and valuable marine life is one with no finish line.  Aliso Beach has plenty of issues with runoff from the creek damaging water quality and putting the health of beach goers, recreational water enthusiasts and marine life at risk.  In addition to being a great source of information on Aliso Beach, it is a goal to help charities fighting for good water quality and marine preservation with funding generated through the sale of art. The site is getting closer to realizing this desire to help and artists and charities benefiting Aliso Beach.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do this work and offer others the opportunity to help.  Together we can make a huge difference in beach community of the ocean playground we love.  The website is always looking for pictures, stories, writers, artists and anyone else with an idea for how to collaborate in a meaningful way that enhances the impact we have on both creative people getting their message out about their art and charities that fight for Aliso Beach.  It’s fun and a great way to give back!

Please be encouraged to bring your ideas for the website to the team here at Aliso Beach. The goal is to involve as many people that want to make a difference in the lives of artists while benefiting a marine water conservation minded charity. Come join us!  We can do great things together with this website.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo Credit:  Scotty Carter

Also posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach News, Aliso Beach Park 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!


Also posted in Aliso Beach Website Founder Rob Brack, Rob Brack Tagged , , , , , |