Category Archives: Aliso River

Life Saver


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Little girl saved at Aliso Creek in South Laguna Beach.

A life saver, hero, and Good Samaritan are fitting labels that come to mind when a human beings put their own lives on the line to save another.  This past weekend, a near tragic event occurred at Aliso Creek with a little girl sinking into Aliso Creek and finding herself in a deadly position.  If it weren’t for the help of photographer Larry Beard and Brennan Clarke, a family would have lost a precious child.  It is interesting to note that Brennan in years previous was a big part of a collaborative effort with lifeguards saving a woman who was dragged out to sea in 15 foot waves at Aliso Beach.  When you are around the ocean daily, dangers escalate quickly and the inexperienced often find themselves in the worst of conditions.  There are a lot of people in the San Clemente, Dana Point, South Laguna and Laguna beach areas that routinely offer assistance to waders, swimmers, body surfers and wave riders when they are in trouble, and I am proud to be a part of this community and know these amazing people.

This is Brennan describing the near tragedy (with small grammar corrections by me ) in a Facebook Message to me:

“So Larry, myself, and a couple kids were digging the standing wave . There were kids running around playing, nothing out of the ordinary. Larry and I turn around to go to our cars. I was grabbing a board and Larry went to get his camera gear to set up. When we turned around we saw this little girl starting to sink in the creek. She was walking and started to sink into the deep section of the creek which was close to the start of the river. Larry sprinted forward with myself behind jumped into the creek and pulled the girl from the water, which by that time was submerged. She was surrounded by family, a lifeguard, photographers and wave riders, and literally no one noticed. One of the heaviest things I’ve seen was the terror on her face and her trying to keep her head above water because she couldn’t swim.”

Mother Nature is cruel and Aliso Beach in South Laguna, California is one of those places that can take a life with the blink of an eye.  It is difficult to understand how a child that doesn’t know how to swim is in a

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Family surrounds little girl that almost drowned in waters of Aliso Creek

creek like Aliso, especially as it is letting out.  That type of situation has disaster written all over it.  I have spent a fair amount of time talking about the dangers of Aliso Beach from the nasty shore break waves it typically has and how parents really need to focus on their children there.  I have also talked a fair amount about becoming educated on waves, wave conditions and rip currents.  Aliso Creek is another story altogether, and when that thing is letting out it is extremely dangerous.

That a little girl was saved from a violent drowning in the turbulent waters of Aliso Creek is probably a miracle.  One second longer and it was entirely possible a child would have left our world way too early. Nobody wants that to happen!  What Larry Beard did was heroic, and it allowed this precious little lady to return home with family on a day that could have ended in the tragic loss of life.  I don’t know what this girl was doing in the Creek, and she never should have been there.  I am glad that Larry and Brennan were there because without them seeing her struggle in the water, I don’t think we would be talking about a happy ending.

Brennan also said: “She swallowed some creek water I’m sure and hopefully the family took the lifeguards advise and went to the doctor. A second later and I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened, but I can’t emphasize enough that she was surrounded by people from parents, family members, a lifeguard, and random tourists.  No one noticed.”

I am pleased to end this harrowing story by saying I am glad that she was rescued and that people I spend time with in the water were there to make sure she got to go home with family.

Photo Credit: Larry Beard….the heroic lifesaver!



Also posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach News, Aliso Creek, Aliso Creek Beach, South Laguna Beach, South Laguna Beach News Tagged , , , , , |

Urban Slobber


I learned a new word thanks to some research sent to be me by my new friends down at the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition.  The word is urban slobber.  Urban slobber is the result of quite frankly us urban slobs.  That sounds harsh, but everything we do in our consumption based economy contributes to the trash and pollutants that enter small storm drains emptying at Aliso Creek on its way to South Laguna’s Aliso Beach.  Please keep in mind that the fight against ocean pollution exists everywhere in the world where there are fresh water tributaries that carry inland and coastal runoff to the ocean.

So what is urban slobber?

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Urban runoff from inland cities dammed up in the lagoon at Aliso Beach.

Oil, gas, trash, plastics, soaps, industrial cleaners, pesticides, brake dust, pet waste, bird droppings, grease, cigarette butts, dirt, bacteria, chemicals and fertilizers make up urban slobber that is carried through the drains to creeks that feed the ocean.  Would you knowingly swim in that?  Do you think that the elements found in this kind of runoff are worth the risk of exposure?  Did you know that it requires only a sewage spill to have elevated fecal coliform bacteria present in Aliso Creek?  Think again! The seagulls that congregate there to bathe increase the bacterial risks without sewage spills.  Yes, they poop in that water.

We have long understood that storm runoff from prolonged periods of rain had a fouling effect on our coastlines.  Aliso Creek would run dry if it weren’t for runoff produced by irrigation and inland Orange County cities.  Research has confirmed that the dry season is a problem as well with Aliso Creek damming up in a lagoon at the beach virtually every day with surf photographers and wave riders breaking it and essentially letting this urban slobber out into the ocean without any cleaning or filtration.  With our concrete jungle of paved roads, malls, high rise cities and industrial parks we have effectively taken out the best defense we have in the fight against urban slobber and ocean pollution.  It used to be that native plants did the filtering of pollutant carrying runoff to the ocean, and now runoff picks up everything listed below as a part of urban slobber and dumps it into our oceans and bays. Take one look at the color of the water dammed up at Aliso Beach and tell me that the quality of this water isn’t potentially hazardous to your health.  Furthermore, if you support the idea of the Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area that Aliso Beach is part of, you are also well aware of the damage this runoff does to the marine ecosystem everyone is working so dilligently to preserve for future generations. Just the other day I stood on the sand above the water thinking about grabbing my board and paddling out when the lifeguard pulled up in his truck and began putting familiar stake signs in the sand warning of water quality issues and advising no swimming.  This happens all the time.

Maybe there should be a re-evaluation of things.  Breaking Aliso Creek is something that puts anyone using Aliso Beach at risk of health issues and damages the effectiveness of the marine protection area in Laguna Beach that works to save coastal resources for future generations.  If you think our local beaches and marine ecosystems are worthy of saving, you cannot in good conscious break Aliso Creek.  I know this won’t be a popular sentiment among my friends who have been doing this for decades.  Sometimes you have to take a stand and draw the proverbial line in the sand.  The mounting and indisputable evidence of harmful pathogens and carcinogens that come down Aliso Creek in the form of urban slobber to the beach has me taking a different view point than I have previously.  As the founder of this website and someone that has vowed to protect Aliso Beach, I would be a hypocrite to take any other side, and it is the right thing to do.  When people talk about leaving a legacy behind them and about affecting the world in a positive way, these are the types of decisions that define us.  I know full well that Aliso Creek being let out makes the waves better, but I have a problem.  I cannot endorse an activity that reverses the gains made by the marine protection areas of Laguna Beach and I can’t endorse the potential health risks that my friends subject themselves to if I say that I care about the health and well-being of my friends.

Stay tuned for the next urban slobber related post.  In that article, the potential effects of the toxins and bacteria on real human beings found in urban runoff let out into coastal waters of Aliso Beach.  In a second piece, coverage will be given to the effects on marine plant, fish and animal life.

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Aliso Beach Tropical Rains


For surf, wave riders that frequent Aliso Beach and Laguna coves north and south of it,  we have been stuck in this doldrums of small waves over the last month and a half which I would characterize as a slap in the face by El Nino. Truth be told, El Nino can strike out and we are off to a very slow start.  With a  stingy high pressure system in the South Pacific, swell generating storms are not making it into the Aliso Beach and Southern California Window so we have all placed a lot of hope on our dear friend Hurricane Delores.

We have heard all week that Hurricane Delores was going to deliver and it looks like as of today, that she will deliver on one of those promises.  All of the talking heads on channels 2,4,5, 7 and 9 have been yapping about how we would get rain from the hurricane.  I can attest that we are experiencing Aliso Beach tropical rains and yes we are talking about measurable precipitation.  The ground is wet and given our extended drought, I would love to see more of this. Rain was given a 50% chance of happening today and 30% tomorrow so let’s hope that we get enough water to rejuvenate some of the plant life and landscapes that have become rather crispy during this drought and Southern California water regulations.  As I type this the rain has begun to fall more aggressively and I am enjoying the cool and refreshing air.

Since we are talking about a decent shot of rain here, I would like to remind everyone of the dangers of Aliso Creek.  Runoff that is seeping into Aliso Creek will bring with it motor oils, brake dust, pesticides and various pollutants from our streets.  Experts warn swimmers and recreational ocean water enthusiasts to avoid contact with ocean water for 72 hours after a rain event.  Aliso Beach tropical rains are welcomed with open arms but may dampen any surf we get from Hurricane Delores.   I read that the Brooks Street Surf Contest in Laguna was cancelled due to small surf and the potential for lightning.  I know some of you will ignore warnings and be out there anyways so be careful.  There is a possibility I will be out there so I am not passing judgment!

While the storm did bring rain as promised, the surf appears to be lagging behind.  All week I have been staring at the Aliso Beach Surf Reports hoping for some sort of magic to finally arrive. Predictions ranged from 3-5 foot to 6-8 foot for waves for Saturday, Sunday and into Monday.  The waves are small today.  Needless to say there is a lot of disappointment in the weakening of the storm that has caused it to under-perform in the wave generation department.  As for the storm, it delivered Aliso Beach tropical rains and it appears it will give us a quick shot of tropical surf for Sunday and quickly leave us as if it were never real.  After the departure of tropical surf we are then  back to a pattern of marginal surf for a spell.  Thank you for the rain Delores, perhaps your path will inspire larger storms with better wave making talents!

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Sea Water Bucket Challenge


On typical days at Aliso Beach, you expect to see certain things.  You find the talented skim board community sharing waves down at the south end of the beach putting on a show. Water photographers dot the line up with their Go Pro’s and Digital Cameras in water housings. Aliso Creek is being broken to the chagrin of home owners, locals, beach visitors and skim boarders by a contingency of body boarders and water photographers who all benefit from the freshly formed sand bar created by fresh water pushing into the ocean. There are families lining the beach with towels, picnic on the beach gear and canopies to shade from the sun.  Fire pits are being reserved by families who understand that their availability is first come and first serve. Children play on the equipment in the playground, climbing aboard the ship, coming down the slide to parents and swinging the day away.  There are lines at the Sands Cafe and parents wash the stingy grains of sand off their children at the shower. The parking lot is full of cars that beat the afternoon parking crush!  Kids play at the shore’s edge under the watchful eye of OC Lifeguards with nearby parents who often do not appreciate the dangers lurking in the Aliso Beach shore break.  Sea gulls scan the beach for opportunities to swipe food from unsuspecting beach visitors with the occasional sandwiched grabbed in an aerial theft that is hard not to laugh at.  This is barring no one gets hurt of course.

These are all normal things.  In my coverage of Aliso Beach, sometimes I see something I have never seen there.  In the last year I have bumped in to the Orange County Tu Tu Scooter Girls, videoed a kid stuffing his face with a muffin while hopping off the sidewalk curb on a unicycle, watched drones with cameras scan the beach, see kids in hammocks between two palm trees and documented the worst damage I can ever remember to Aliso Beach as a result of waves driven by Hurricane Marie.

On one unseasonably warm day this spring, there was a particular brother and sister with their dad.  I remember that some of the kids were getting flack from the lifeguards about breaking Aliso Creek. If I remember correctly, the dad was interested in his kids seeing the water let out. As a result of a particularly nasty middle aged gal and her father who were so against the kids breaking the creek that they dropped a profanity laced tirade on the lifeguard and kids, the lifeguard shuttered their operation. I love when adults set a wonderful example for young people.

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Getting Carried Away!

In the end, not seeing Aliso Creek blaze a trail through the sand to the ocean did not curb their enthusiasm. If anything this brother and sister remind us of what it is like to be kids and at the beach.  The whole experience had them wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear in what may be appropriately described as the joy of being children.  They did something, however, that caught the attention of me and the lens of Scotty Carter.  How it started I cannot recall but the Sea Water Bucket Challenge began and ended in smiles and laughter.  The brother and sister willingly, and between laughs, allowed one another to hurl a bucket of sea water at each other’s faces. The sister was respectful when she poured the bucket over her brother’s head.  Despite the role a big brother plays as protector of his younger sister, he upped the ante a bit and hurled the water point black into his sister’s face.  She was a good sport about the Sea Water Bucket Challenge laughing it off.  Chances are though, her nose dripped sea water for weeks on end after the challenge because her big brother wasn’t going to miss a permission based opportunity to get his sister.  This is just one of the many cool and interesting things I see at Aliso Beach.  This amazing Laguna Beach services a lot of experiences, memories, vacations and joys!  For those that visit and/or frequent Aliso, you know exactly what I mean!

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At A Loss


I really don’t ever characterize my experience at Aliso Beach as being at a loss but the unthinkable has happened while visiting my favorite Laguna Beach last week.  To be clear, I endured some hardship at this beach but it was nothing I could not overcome and something I now just shake my head and laugh about.  The first time I was at a loss at Aliso last week was when a wave chased me towards the sand berm at the Creek.  I ran towards a fairly high embankment of sand racing the white water push up the beach by a wave.  The good news is that I escaped being soaked.  The bad news is that in leaping up the sand and landing with front foot stretched to reach safety I ripped a pair of my favorite Volcom shorts.  I had to walk up the beach with a pair of shorts that was ripped along the pocket and creating the potential for a commando exposure.  Nobody was hurt and I managed to make sure that nobody on the beach was flashed before getting to my car and changing into trunks.  Nobody needs to see that!  Again, it is really hard to be upset at all the wonderful things going on at the beach.  The smell of salt in the air, an ocean alive and pushing blue-green waves up the beach thundering as they land, seagulls and pelicans soaring above, palm tree leaves swaying in the coastal breezes and warm, soothing sand.  It’s not bad…..ever!

Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach Seagull, Aliso Beach Seagull Flight Preparation

Aliso Beach Local Winds Up Its Wings For Takeoff

The second episode of being at a loss at Aliso Beach was by far more catastrophic and yet somehow I lived to tell about it.  I did get some help from a few new friends who were key to making this mini-disaster much more palatable.  Again, I found myself snapping pictures with my IPhone 6 down at the beach next to the sand embankment at Aliso Creek and near the water’s edge.  I put my keys in my trunks pocket and edged closer to a beefy shore break to do some slow motion video.  The water was racing up the bank a little further with each breaking wave as the tide rose. A larger wave smashed the shore and I reacted quickly pivoting and running to get out of the way and up the sand hill when I heard and felt my keys slip though my pocket and fall into the sea foam rushing up the beach.  They were gone!  I never saw them again buried in the sand and lost for all time.  With the way that beach changes every day with the creek being let out and the changing sand levels at Aliso Beach there were two chances of finding those keys.  We all know them as “Slim” and “None”! I did move sand around where I believed they fell for about an hour before deciding to make that call to a lock and key guy.  I lucked out calling one locksmith who recommended Javier at Express Mobile Locksmith. I tried to make a payment over the phone to this guy and the card failed with other payments hitting that day.  His business was nearing closing time and so I had a family member make the payment.  The owner Javier argued with me stating that his business had problems taking credit cards over the phone with charge backs.  Working for businesses that take credit cards I completely understand.  I fired back saying that only an idiot would charge back on him when the alternative was to tow the car and still have the key made because it would cost more money.  Finally he agreed to take the payment from a relative and he sent his guy to assist me. He was in San Juan Capistrano at the time and about to head home so I got this done just in time and right before my phone would run out of juice.  That was a close shave!

Without reservation I can recommend Express Mobile Locksmith out of San Clemente, California.  Man, these guys saved my day.  Sure I was out a few bucks but the alternative of getting towed and then dealing with this or even getting a ticket for being in the lot after hours would have ended up being way more expensive.  I appreciate companies that take care of customers and this business is clearly one of those.  I am including  Yelp Review For Express Mobile Locksmith.  As you will see in Yelp, I am not the only one who is grateful for the service they provide and that is the best marketing you can have because people tell others and make their own recommendations.  Thanks again Javier!  I hope that my review brings you a few more well deserved clients.  They will be happy they called you!




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Surfrider Foundation Aliso Beach


Surfrider Beach Cleanup, Beach Cleanup Aliso, South Orange County Chapter Surfrider Foundation, Nyra

Help Nyra and Surfrider Cleanup Aliso Beach.

I got a call several weeks ago from a friend who wanted to know whether I knew that Surfrider Foundation was spearheading beach cleanup activities at my favorite beach.  My honest answer was that I was unaware of that.  Beach Cleanups in recent years have gained a lot of momentum capturing the volunteer efforts of adults that want to give back to the community while setting an example for youth and kids who have become inspired by the ability to make a difference while protecting the ocean and beaches they love.  I have seen many groups clean up and advocate for Aliso Beach in recent years and their efforts do not go unnoticed.  Of the groups that hold events to remove clutter from Aliso Beach, none is probably more visible locally, nationally and globally than the Surfrider Foundation which is a huge ally of the world’s oceans and beaches with an army of volunteers, political clout and funded legal representation that takes on groups and developers that threaten the coastal environment with their projects.  Without question, they are a necessary player in shielding our coastal resources from business interests some of which intentionally and other unintentionally try and steam roll the environment with their own projects and interests.  Not all business is in the best interest of the world’s coastal environments and Surfrider Foundation is a powerful force in delaying and preventing business decisions from putting the health of our coastal environments at risk.

New Aliso Beach Phone Case, Aliso Beach Phone Case, Aliso Beach IPhone Case,

Aliso Beach IPhone Case

Today I spoke to a young man named Nyra.  Nyra, if I screwed up the spelling man, my bad and I apologize!  I asked him about the efforts of Surfrider Foundation at Aliso Beach and he indicated that he has been staging the event on behalf of the foundation and not one person has showed up to help.  As the administrator of the Aliso Beach website, you can imagine that was a little embarrassing.  First of all, I had not idea they were doing the cleanup there until recently and secondly because I have not done enough to help them get the word out.  The worst thing I can do is let that lack of foot soldiers and volunteers convince him that people down there simply don’t care.  Per Nyra, he is there every Saturday from 10:00 am – 1:00pm and unfortunately I have forgotten the times on the two weekdays.  I am pledging my support to Nyra who has sat in the elements waiting for people to come join his pledge to keep Aliso Beach clean.  If I am in town next week, I intend to be the first volunteer to help him with his beach cleanup at Aliso Beach and will have told some local friends that I want them to join me.  The first person that tells Nyra that they are a friend of the Aliso Beach website and Rob said to come help with the beach cleanup  will get one of the following absolutely free.  Let’s get the word out and help Nyra with his good work!


1) 2 Phone Cases (IPhone 4/4S, IPhone 5/5S, IPhone 6, IPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5) based on the photography of Scotty Carter.  (You select your image for the cases)


2)  A matted print of Aliso Beach based on the photography of Scotty Carter  (You select your image for the print)

Surfrider has some amazing local programs.  Here is a snapshot of a couple of them:

The Save Trestles Program has thwarted the effort to build a toll road from inland that was proposed to connect to the Trestles area.  Surfrider’s belief was that this toll road shouldn’t be made when its construction would threaten the watershed of this area as well as carve up land that represents sacred Native American Sites.  We can’t just tear the environment up at the expense of the environment every time we see an opportunity to make our lives and travel easier.  Surfrider and a decorated list of environmental advocates continue to attend public TCA meetings and regulatory meetings with a close eye on the likelihood another mounted effort to build this toll road rises once again.  In 2008 the Secretary of Commerce decided that the proposed toll road would not steer clear of breaking environmental laws.  That is where it sits as of the moment but I don’t think anyone in their right mind thinks that the TCA will give up.  No doubt Surfrider and valuable community outreach partners and environmental groups will be on the front lines keeping Trestles just that….the Trestles we know and love.

Stay Trashy San Clemente

This month, the Coastal Advisory Commission was to recommend a plastic ban bag in San Clemente and Surfrider was behind this initiative 100%.  Plastic is one of the biggest problems we have in our world as human beings consume our challenges with plastic seems to grow exponentially.  There are plastic garbage patches in every ocean large enough to walk across and not fall into the ocean and they are getting worse.  It is poisoning marine birds, mammals and fish that ingest them and unavoidable to all sea creatures in the food chain. The documentaries I have seen on the damage it is doing to wildlife in and out of the water in the marine environment are riveting.  We are poisoning the oceans.  We should ban plastic bags everywhere.  It just isn’t that hard to work with reusable canvas bags.

These are by no means representative of all that Surfrider does.  What they do is 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, everywhere the ocean meets the shore.  It is a full time job and they do great things.  To see other South Orange County Surfrider Chapter Programs click this link.  If you are ocean and environment minded and would like to get involved with this Chapter, including donating to Surfrider, becoming a member of Surfrider and volunteering with Surfrider, please click the links provided.  If you love the coastal environments, what a terrific way to give back and join the legion of people all pulling the same direction to protect the oceans and beaches against interests that will put them at risk.

Also posted in Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach Events, Aliso Beach News, Aliso Creek, Laguna Beach, Laguna News, South Laguna Beach, South Laguna Beach News Tagged , , , |

Aliso Beach Visit By Leigh Hubner


Aliso Beach, Aliso Beach Sunset, Sunset , Laguna, Laguna Beach

Aliso Beach Sunset

It seemed like a normal day at Aliso Beach.  Special it was but this South Laguna gem is always that way for me.  In between phone calls, I noticed a group with what I deem significant equipment, readying a drone.  As I completed my calls I walked across the parking lot to see what was going on.  There were a couple of guys in the posse and significant others there to take in the experience.  A tall man in a hat and sunglasses maneuvered the drone off the ground and spent some time negotiating the coastal winds and seagulls at the beach this day.  He would test the distance and maneuverability of the device and expertly guide the drone back to a safe landing area.  He would then take the drone and set it on a heavy duty camera equipment case and then go to the back of a cargo van before returning and sending the drone to the air once again.  I was a little intimidated.  This seemed a little more serious than a hobbyist flying an inexpensive drone.  I am not sure if there is such a thing as an inexpensive one from prices I have seen and heard, but this thing was larger and clearly customized as opposed to entry level drones which start at $500.00. The feeling I got by watching them was that they were there very purposefully.  This wasn’t screwing a round or passing the time.  It looked like business to me.  If it weren’t for another gregarious old surfer who came up and struck a conversation up with him, I might of passed on interacting them at all and I am glad I didn’t.  The tall man seemed to be intent on getting whatever he set out to do finished. He just had that eye of the tiger look and everything they did seem to have a technical aspect to it.  I confirmed that with one of the dudes in his crew that this indeed was a customized model drone and that they were testing to see the quality and beauty of the footage they could get.  I am partial to Aliso Beach, so before they edit the footage I would be confident in saying you guys did just fine.

drone, aerial photography, Leigh Hubner, Aliso Beach

Custom Drone Aliso Beach

As I always do when I talk to someone interesting at Aliso Beach, I tell them I will feature them on this website and that I am happy to feature any special projects they may have.  I heard him say his name was Leigh (although in my mind I spelled Lee making it harder to find him online) in an Australian Accent.  The vintage surfer dude next to me who dropped stories of surfing with Gerry Lopez and having a house on the hill looking out over Pupukea (I have no reason to doubt him ) recognized the name and there was talk of work featuring very well known Australian surfers.  I was a huge fan of the names of current star and historic surfers that I heard and while I found myself interested in that conversation, I felt like I was intruding.  I quietly ducked out of the conversation and let old surfer dude take over the conversation.  He clearly had bigger names to drop than I did but I did not want to get in Leigh’s way anyways!  He seemed intent on doing his testing and that was something I completely understand.  I did manage to pry his website name Loose Cannon out of him before I departed the conversation with a promise to feature him.  It’s an honor truthfully. I knew by looking at the equipment he was no joke but I had no idea how well this guy is regarded in his industry.  I know I have heard Loose Cannon on several occasions and perhaps that is from his ties to a country that adores surfing and his work in the surfing industry.

Leigh Hubner, Aerial Photographer, Drone, Aliso Beach, Cinematographer

Award Winning cinematographer Leigh Hubner with drone at Aliso Beach.

The Leigh I have mentioned above is Leigh Hubner.  He is a professional camera man, lighting specialist and cinematographer currently based in Los Angeles, California by way of Australia.  I will let you read more about him on his website and yes I think you should or I wouldn’t have put this story here.  He has done some really interesting things.  Highlights from his website are the story of a young Australian boy who with the aid of specialized hearing aids is dancing in the clouds and the following of a child in a refugee camp in Ethiopia that the Australian breakfast show “Sunrise” has sponsored for many years.  In that camp Leigh was described as doing whatever was necessary to get the shots including putting himself in perilous situations with incredible dedication.  Anyways, his website tells volumes and the video section is great. The video shorts on the site give you a really good idea of how talented he is and how well received he is in media.  It sounds like to me Los Angeles acquired a huge talent and at least for now, Australia misses him dearly.  Given his work though, there seems to be a fair amount of demand and travel.  As far as I am concerned he is a guy from a country and culture that loves the ocean and ocean sports which has always made Australian people fascinating to me.  Yesterday he was just an interesting stranger at Aliso Beach doing something I thought was  fun.  Today he is a really accomplished camera man and cinematographer that is exploring the possibilities with aerial footage from drones and per his website a guy that enjoys baseball and has adopted the Los Angeles Dodgers!  That is awesome.  Check out his website!

You can see some short clips of his drone flights later today on Facebook Fan Page Aliso Beach

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Reflecting Back On My 2013 Thanksgiving Near Drowning


The bottom line is that I got a second chance.  By luck, the Grace of God, God’s good humor, determination or will to live, I made it and am living to tell about it.  My 2013 Thanksgiving Near Drowning event at Salt Creek in Dana Point, California, has without question caused me to reflect back and put life in perspective.  It should virtually be flat tomorrow, Thanksgiving 2014, and I may be found walking the shore staring out over the ocean. Recently I had a conversation with JR, the only friend and ally that I had in my near death experience on Thanksgiving 2013, and I found some things out I hadn’t really discussed previously.  When you are coughing up salt water and nearly blacking out, the finer details of the experience really don’t come into focus.  Your immediate thoughts are, “Wow!  I dodged a bullet.” and “Am I going to be okay?  I laid on my board in a full wet suit unable to move for nearly 45 minutes.  It was so concerning to a particular set of beach visitors that they offered to call 911 on each side of their walk down the beach and back. Swallowing sea water is both a terrifying and sickening ordeal as it literally causes you to be heavy, and makes you sick to your stomach.  There is a reason you can’t drink salt water!  The body rejects it!

The conversation was built around a scenario where a mutual friend Jack exited the water several weeks ago a little shook up.  I had an eye on him, and when he got to the beach safely I felt like I didn’t need to check on him.  This conversation with JR and I was basically Jack heckling me for not being more concerned about his well-being, and JR laughed.  It took a millisecond to blurt at JR that he nearly watched my 2013 Thanksgiving Near Drowning.  It was one of those knee jerk responses,but before I could stop my mouth, it came flying out.  His response was telling.  Apparently, he had been slapped around pretty good himself but was in a much safer spot than I was when the long set of double overhead waves bore down on us.  Honestly, there was size and the set waves were big, but I have seen waves like that many times before.  The thing that really put me in a bad spot was giving up my board and swallowing an ocean full of water underneath one of the waves.  As soon as I swallowed the water the dangers were very real because I couldn’t get under the waves far enough. With a chest full of water I was a sitting duck for wave after wave which resulted in some pretty intense beatings.  It felt like someone handed me a grand piano while I was struggling and in moments failing to keep my head above water.  I remember being suspended under water dazed and confused wondering if this was it.  By this time I was in the mind set of letting go. Everything became very bright and I started slipping into an inner peace that mad it okay to go right then and there.  What followed was a dose of reality punching me in the face and a reacquired sense of urgency motivating me to make sure this is not how I would go out.   The worst thing you could do to a mom that expected you at the dinner table on Thanksgiving would be to not show up because you managed to drown in the ocean and big waves.  When I sort of woke up from my salt water stupor, I instinctively rolled to my back and kicked for shore.  When I got to shore I was weak and had no legs, stumbling and collapsing on the shore with heart racing and out of breath.  It was intense.  I learned after the fact from JR in the most recent conversation that the waves were in the 10-12 foot range.  I ate every bit of a set that JR called 14 waves deep.  It was impossible to count the waves with each succeeding blow to my chances of survival.  There were warnings about a powerful and fast moving swell with sneaker sets for west facing beaches that day.  It certainly wasn’t the biggest I have been out in at Salt Creek, but it produced an experience I will never forget.

In reflecting back on my 2013 Thanksgiving Near Drowning Event, it is cemented in my mind what a gift life is.  There is no guarantee for tomorrow and while I, like many wave riders, am unfazed by the power of the ocean most of the time,  my respect level for it rose to new heights. The curtain almost fell on me that day and I am glad that it didn’t.  One of the most amazing things about getting out of that life threatening situation is that I realize how crucial swim lessons as a kid were.  I literally could not move in a way that would allow me to dive under the waves once I swallowed a bunch of sea water.  I could not lift my arms to free style swim to shore.  My only hope was a wounded but effective backstroke that was just good enough to bring me to shore safely.  That was the kind of scenario that swim lessons prepare you for, and without them I was toast.  Today, I am extremely grateful to be alive.  I have a renewed enthusiasm for everything that I am doing, and while taking one day at a time, I take nothing for granted.  I look at the natural world around me wide-eyed and with a smile of quiet content that reflects my respect for the gift and blessing that is my life.  Being around for Thanksgiving 2014 is a testament to the human will to live and the ability of people in their worst moments to use skills they have learned over a life time to carry them through the toughest of times.  So while I am very thankful this year,  my feeling is that if I inspire one person to fight for their own life, and to approach the world thankful for what they have and looking forward to each day as a blessing and an opportunity, then I would say that is the impact I would like to have on others anywhere and everywhere, and as much as I can.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


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Halloween Costume Cleanup Event At Aliso Beach


Halloween Costume Cleanup, SoCal Land and Water Conservancy, Aliso Beach

Costumes and Cleanups!

I miss all the good stuff.  While I did choose to take advantage of an opportunity to rest and sleep in this Saturday, I got down to Aliso Beach just in time to talk to the folks responsible for the creative Halloween Costume Cleanup Event at Aliso Beach.  Cleanup events have put on quite a show in the last few years mobilizing people to get involved in the communities and beaches they enjoy.  As someone that has always picked trash up off the beach when it is around, I am really happy that so many people young and old agree that we can have clean beaches and oceans. When not working and especially during the weekends, I try and get down to Aliso Beach to snap pictures of the state of the beach.  As some of you have seen for your own eyes visiting the beach and others that have followed some of my posts on social media and on the website, this particular South Laguna Beach was beaten up pretty good by waves from Hurricane Marie in late August 2014.  So powerful were the waves and tides during this episode of historically high surf, that much of Aliso Beach was reduced to rocks, old pier pilings, long and forgotten fire rings, cement retaining walls and slabs of concrete that were a part of an Aliso Beach pier era that is out of sight, in the rear view mirror and buried in the history books.  Making my rounds to document the changes in the sand levels, I noticed that there were canopies and some sort of event taking place. The first booth I stopped at was the Wyland Foundation, an environmental non-profit started by the world renown environmental artist Wyland.  The foundation’s goal is to educate children on the affects of urbanization and communities on our water ways that feed the ocean.  It is also to educate and inspire people to take action to help preserve our valuable water ways and promote healthy oceans.  Come to find out, the Wyland Foundation was there in support of another group called SoCal Land and Water Conservancy.  Speaking with Tammy from the Wyland Foundation, she let me know that So Cal Land and Water Conservancy was the group that organized the event.  Inquisitively, I walked over to their booth and happened to stumble into a man that appeared to be in some pirate or three musketeers type of costume minus the buccaneer hat which may have been a little uncomfortable in a rather warm Fall Saturday.  It was Stephen Blackwell Co-Founder and Program Director of So Cal and so I got to talking with him a little about what he does.  Doing some research, Stephen is a field biologist with a graduate degree in Environmental Geography that has been a part of 75 river restoration projects in California.  This is significant because in my humble opinion, we need to do something about Aliso Creek and its polluted and toxic ways.  His organization focuses on clean water ways, habitat restoration, water sampling and monitoring, and beach cleanups.  What I personally find so interesting is that he indicated that while there are a lot of groups that do beach cleanups, he wants to continue his push into upstream areas that affect our beaches and I absolutely think it is a great idea.  Sure, we can clean beaches up until we are blue in the face, and we will continue to do that because humanity struggles with the simple concept of throwing trash away properly. Despite the amazing contributions of coastal cleanup events, we have to pay attention to upstream contributors to the problems that get dumped onto our beaches that produce unsafe bacteria levels that can make people sick.  Urban runoff, pesticides from landscapes, pet waste and the occasional “Oops we did it again” sewage spills that plague Aliso Creek put people that come into contact with the water at the beach at risk.  If we clean up pollution sources upstream and restore natural habitat as Stephen Blackwell’s group is committed to doing, we will make huge strides in water quality down at Aliso Beach.  There are many groups that make stops at Aliso Beach for cleanups and I am hoping that others follow his lead with working upstream to protect this Laguna Beach gem.  He is right, the affects of urban pollution that make their way down streams, creeks and rivers begins well before they end up at Southern California Beaches.  His approach to beach cleanups is another giant step in the right direction and I will be interested to see what he does moving forward.

Stephen Blackwell, SoCal Land & Water Conservancy, Aliso Beach, Halloween Costume Cleanup

Founder Stephen Blackwell

The SoCal Land and Water Conservancy will have a yearly cleanup effort at Aliso Beach.  There is much work to be done so we can’t expect him to be at Aliso Beach all of the time.  His interest in taking beach cleanups up off the beach into waterways emptying to coastal waters is going to inspire others.  I am hoping other groups that service Aliso Beach follow this lead because clearly the problems of Aliso Beach start up Aliso Creek.  Today’s event was a Halloween Costume Cleanup that included a costume contest, a barbecue, a 3 legged race, a sack race and most importantly a beach cleanup.  Yes, this was all done by a pack of children with parents while in costume.  Festive and good for the community, SoCal Land and Water Conservancy has started a tradition that I think is worthwhile down at Aliso Beach, and I look forward to following their activities and some how joining them in support at events and offering them another outlet to get their message out to like minded people who want to get involved in beach cleanups and restoration of environments that carry pollutants to California Beaches.

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What Is That All About?


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Aliso Beach Sand Returning

Hurricane Marie is in our rear view mirror by several weeks.  The damage to this Laguna Beach as a result of historic waves was incredible.  Loss of sand at Aliso Beach extended to ocean waves rushing up the beach and taking a whack at the sidewalk on the south end resulting in part of the cement lined grass parkway containing a palm tree collapsing.  The incessant pounding of tropical storm surf left the beach rocky and exposing cement barriers and pier pilings that had not been seen since the removal of the pier in the late 90’s.  The image of jagged pier pilings sticking up in shore line surf with rebar wire flapping back and forth in the waves is cemented in my memory as is the sidewalk that is reduced to a state resembling damage caused by an earthquake.  For a couple of weeks after Hurricane Marie, high tides and waves took advantage of the loss of sand to rush up the berm and into the parking lot.  This led to a closure of the front half of the parking lot and the presence of sand and salt water in the lot.  The good news is that with a period of smaller waves and gentler northwest winds swells pushing sand back the direction it was forced out of with large waves coming from Marie south of us, the beach is recovering the sand that was lost.  This does not change the fact that significant damage occurred at Aliso Beach that now has a roped off section of the beach that includes sidewalk broken up into slab chunks and a shower that is now off limits to beach goers. Yes, chances are if you use Aliso Beach, you will leave saltier than you came if you enter the water.  As of the last day of September 2014, however, there was no entering the water with sewage contamination signs lining the beach.

How nature works to put beaches back together has always been really fascinating to me.  Everything I have read recently suggested that Aliso Beach and the greater Laguna Beach coastline area would take some time to get back to normal post Hurricane Marie.  While I am seeing measured improvement at Aliso Beach with respect to sand every time I visit, there is still a natural process under way to bring sand back to the beach that will require some patience and there is an inaccessible portion of the beach that will need to be repaired.  I am sure that the amazing people down at the County of Orange who keep the beach and facilities nice are discussing what to do with the areas of sidewalk that will need to be repaired. While I have not spoken to anyone down there as of yet with respect to plans for those repairs, I imagine that they are waiting for more sand to return to stabilize the beach on the south end of Aliso so that they can make good decisions about what to do to fix the issues.

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Steven and daughter Mia staying warm at Aliso Beach fire pit.

Yesterday evening, I scanned the beach to see how Mother Nature was doing with restoring order to the beach. Having snapped IPhone photos for weeks after the hurricane waves I was pleased to see the beach coming back. There was a nice family huddled up around a fire pit with a nice warm flame helping them enjoy a cool evening and a brisk ocean breeze. I told them I ran the website and that I was there taking pictures with my phone for my website and that I would love to have a picture of them next to the fire. Steven and his daughter Mia were kind enough to pose for the camera.   I am such a professional with that IPhone 4s Camera.  They must have thought that was pretty funny!  Anyways, I got into a conversation about the beach and Steven’s wife (who will have to forgive me for forgetting her name…I am getting old…sorry!) asked in relation to the damage to the beach, “What is that all about”?  I told her that Hurricane Marie had taken a huge toll on the beach and that the natural order of things was just starting to restore the beach with sand.  She also saw me snap a picture of one of the many sewage contamination signs lining the beach and her response to that was “Yeah, what is that all about”?  Having a young daughter who loves the ocean, ocean water contaminated by sewage water would be a huge concern so I will say again what she said, “What is that all about?”That is my new favorite question as it relates to Aliso Beach.

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Aliso Beach Water Contaminated By Sewage

As it relates to the sewage contamination incidents and water quality issues that have plagued Aliso Beach for decades, I cannot think of a better and more appropriate question than “What is that all about?”  It seems like it has always been where city, county, state have never been able to come up with a plan to restore Aliso Creek and affect the quality of water along the coastline.  It is never a good thing when beach goers can be made sick because the industrial human footprint takes its toll on water ways that feed the coast.  It is a huge problem.  Much has been made recently about wave riders and photographers breaking the river to enhance the waves they enjoy out in front of the river letting out into the ocean.  Some are arguing that those wave enthusiasts and photographers that break the river are toxifying the water and poisoning those who enjoy the water at Aliso Beach including themselves.  The truth is that no matter what anyone does or does not do with Aliso Creek, it will back up, break the sand berm and flow out to the ocean all by itself.  This makes the argument against breaking Aliso Creek a little hollow and shortsighted.  The debate over breaking Aliso Creek seems to focus on how the waters running into the ocean affect waves and beaches to the south without ever broaching the subject of how to fix the problem.  The larger and more important problem is that sewage spills, urban runoff, fecal matter from local bird populations and other contaminants found in Aliso Creek are an ongoing issue that we fail to address.  Given that the stories of rashes, illnesses, sewage spills and contaminated waters go back at least three decades I am going to repeat the question raised by Steven’s wife.  “What is that all about?”


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