Category Archives: Dana Point

Great White Shark Activity


great white shark, art, great white shark painting, Whitney L. Anderson

Whitney L Anderson with Great White Shark Painting

From the near fatal Great White Shark Attack at San Onofre weeks ago and the OC Sheriffs Helicopter warning a paddle boarder of being in the middle of a pack of 15 sharks to personally seeing sharks thrash around the water 10 feet or less from the sand and the OC Register report of a shark at Thousand Steps Beach, the danger has become very real to this South Orange County Body Boarder and ocean enthusiast. A friend in Laguna Beach had suggested that there was a sighting at Aliso Beach several weeks back and I immediately drove up to Aliso to speak with a lifeguard supervisor who was unaware of any sighting.  That day curiosity got the best of me and I headed to Capo Beach where there has been many daily sightings over the last several weeks.  Sure enough, I got to see them in the surf zone at a spot I have paddled out at in years past.  I was moved by the fear of a friend of mine who has been in the San Clemente to Laguna community as a former professional body boarder for the bulk of his life.  I would like to acknowledge Joe Grodzen and I wanted to relay the sentiment of what he said on Facebook.  He spoke of his deep ties to the ocean and those of his wife Keila whom is also a former professional body boarder.  Raising a young boy and giving him the gift of beach and surfing culture, it is not lost on Joe how concerning the rash of shark sightings from San Onofre to Long Beach, California is.  Joe for the most part is a very unflappable, competitive and in the moment kind of personality.  What he said was very raw and very real.  Reading his thoughts, I was affected by the fear he had related to the presence of these sharks in what perhaps is a new normal along our coastline with regular visits.  He echoed the sentiment that he may have to give a second thought to being in the water to keep he and his family safe.  Joe has been at this far longer than I have, and to hear a man that has spent nearly every day of his life since he has been old enough to walk in local ocean waters express a genuine concern for his safety, it definitely caught my attention.

Still trying to process the swarm of so many sharks in the area, I did return a second time to Capo Beach noticing the shark warning signs, and eventually seeing one splash around 10 feet or less from shore.  It is probably not a good idea to be in the water at all at Capo.  Rumor has it that boats and perhaps kayakers are chumming the waters to attract the sharks.  Some of these boats are alleged to be whale boats capitalizing on the presence of these toothy new inhabitants of Capo Waters.  Any reasonable human being should not approve of throwing blood and guts into the water near shore for commercial gain, capturing footage or taking photographs.  This is a really bad idea that may contribute to a fatality and should be stopped immediately.  My hope is the lifeguards and authorities can identify those perpetrators and force them to stop.  As far as I can see that is harassment of a federally protected shark but what do I know.  If this is being done please stop this very reckless behavior.

Since I spend more time at Salt Creek and the coves of Laguna Beach, I felt like I was relatively safe in the zones I like to play in.  Given the explosion of shark numbers close to shore in San Clemente and Capo Beach, the idea that there are no great whites near shore at Salt Creek and Laguna Beaches rests on quicksand.  It simply doesn’t hold.  A Laylan Connelly, Orange County Register Article, shattered my idealized safe zones with a shark spotting at South Laguna’s Thousand Steps Beach and the mention of a shark advisory at Salt Creek.  Say it isn’t so!  I don’t know what I am going to do personally and I am feeling like I may put myself on a self-imposed time out, and as Joe Grodzen so eloquently said, what are we going to do? Ocean enthusiasts have built their lives around washing away all that ails them in the ocean and doing something athletically that keeps them happy.  I don’t know the answer to this question, and I suppose time will tell.  Having paddled way out at Salt Creek and sitting in the kelp paddies, I admit that I have thought about the unseen below that perhaps I don’t want to know is there. The ocean and local waters are home to the Great White Shark, but I cannot say that in over the 30 years I have spent time in these waters, that this is normal in any way shape or form.   How I feel about this situation will in no way dictate the behavior of sharks and where they choose to set up shop.  While I pray that their presence will come to pass and they head out to deeper waters, their continued presence could put a damper on what little ocean time I have as it is.  Having had a fin pop up on me in Baja while body boarding alone at a northern stretch of La Fonda, I really don’t want to find myself in that situation again.  Fortunately, a well-timed set arrival got me out of there before I could stare into the intentions of presumably a Great White Shark…and I prefer that to be the last time I find myself in the water with one.

I would like to take a moment to thank my friend and artist Whitney L. Anderson, a brilliant painter and collage artist residing in Seattle, Washington.




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November Surf Fizzles Out


Perhaps it was too much to ask Hurricane Sandra to rescue us this Thanksgiving weekend from November surf fizzling out. I got a call from a friend who spent the holiday in Seattle with family bummed that he would miss out on the wave festivities.  He texted me Saturday to say that he would be home that evening and was ready to go for tropical driven surf.  Got together with Derek McClean, the Long boys (Henry, Steve and Kai), and Patrick Britton to celebrate the holidays.  Over three pizzas and some finely crafted micro brews from Left Coast Brewery, Alpine and Modern Times we took an opportunity to get together and celebrate the holiday weekend.  Time and responsibilities don’t give us the same ability to all be in one place at one time like we did when we were teens and twenty somethings down at Salt Creek.  The friendships have lasted but the freedom that once allowed us to be at the beach all the time and together has faded over the years.  Left Coast will be pleased to know that Steve was stoked on the Trestles IPA, and so much so that he accepted my Left Coast key chain and took an empty big bottle (bomber as they call it) back to Texas as a keepsake from the coastal region that he was born in.  He will be looking for places that carry Trestles in the Fort Worth, Texas area.

Derek and I had hatched a plan to trunk it today the day before.  A late morning with a gentle breeze made for water that was not only tolerable but still comfortable.  Yes, we know that it is late November!  The funny thing was that there was just enough swell to make it rideable and gave us hope for the predicted increase out of the southeast from Hurricane Sandra.  For the record Surfline was over-optimistic and the inconsistently reporting Solspot was dead on.  Solspot  thought we would get little or no bump from Sandra and they were absolutely right.  Surfline had sets up to chest high and I didn’t see any like that Saturday. It is odd to me that Solspot got it right with forecaster Adam Wright missing in action and new forecaster Austin Geron indicating that if viewers wanted an on time forecast during the holiday weekend, they should donate to Solspot so that he could pay for child care for the week.  Apparently his child had a week long Thanksgiving Vacation from school that he was unprepared for.  It was still bizarre.

During out impromptu holiday get together Henry said that a buoy hit 1.5 feet suggesting that the swell from Sandra was picking up and producing surf in the 2-3 foot range.  Henry is one of the most knowledgeable dude’s I know in the surf community studying buoy readings and knowing how they predict wave heights. It was a shock when I got to Salt Creek this morning to meet the boys and the surf had taken a turn for flatness.  Armed with a coffee, I enjoyed breakfast burritos from Derek’s wife and put on a rash guard and trunks to head down for one of the smallest days I can ever remember paddling out on. The company was great but the lackluster surf demonstrated November surf fizzling it out.

Channeling my inner Ron Pringle, the Laguna body surfer who inspired us with his trunks into December in 2014, I was determined to trunk it again.  Derek, despite bringing a 4-3 full wet suit stuck to his guns and paddled out in trunks also.  We got some looks and some people laughed while asking us if we were wearing trunks!  We proudly answered yes to all those with the guts to ask us if we were really that crazy. There was a noticeable chill on the water that had me worried at first.  The winds were offshore this morning as opposed to the light and variable onshore winds late morning yesterday.  They produced a wind chill factor that threatened to rain on the parade so to speak.  Much tougher to deal with though was the lack of surf and the waiting.  I paddled between the south end of the point and gravels just to stay warm.  I got a few weak waves and suffered the indignity of watching perhaps the 4 biggest waves we had seen all morning while walking up the hill.  Why does it always seem to work out that way?

So November surf fizzles out!  There is a couple of decent shots coming out of the north west potentially throwing additional chill on the water that seeks to halt this streak of wearing trunks.  I know Derek and I are committed to this, and we were the only one’s not in a full wet suit.  Patrick gets an honorable mention and a trunks challenge ribbon for making an effort with his long sleeve spring.  The funny thing is that he has ambitions for trying to get through December with that full suit minus the lower legs.  I have no doubt he will be tested with rains and the approach of the shortest day of the year.  That day is the Winter Solstice.  I don’t know if any of us will get very far into December but we will make it.  While we don’t make any money for it or get any special recognition for braving winter water temps, it will be fun just to say we did it.

November surf ended in the infamy of smallness. It wasn’t very good, but it didn’t manner.  I have known these guys for a long, Long (Henry and Steve) time.  Get it, or is is just me thinking the play on the word and their last name is clever?  Either way, it was great to see Steve whom I have not seen since we were in our early 20’s.  For the folks not doing the math at home, that is 25 years ago.  Where does time go?  It was also great to hang out with Henry and his son Kai.  Henry is someone I knew in passing in my late teens and a true friend since my early 20’s.  Those friendships are special to me as are Patrick and Derek.  I am blessed to call those guys my friend.  We got skunked on surf, and the water was a little cold as we sat their motionless in between long lulls and sets struggling to get into the 2 foot range.  I have always said that Salt Creek was a place that you could come back to and revisit friendships.  Riding that place for 30 years and building those friendships I can tell you that Salt Creek has not changed in that respect.  It is still a place that friends come back together despite circumstances pulling them opposite directions.  It will always be a special place to me because of that.

November surf fizzled out, but it could not take our enthusiasm for getting together and being among friends that have been riding together for a very long time.  Let’s do it again soon!


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No Wet Suit No Problem


65 degree water at Salt Creek on a day with the sun out and light winds translates to no wet suit.  I have been boasting over the last three weeks about how I see no need to wear a wet suit.  With all of the surfers and body boarders that wear wet suits with the slightest of chill in the water temperatures, it is always difficult to gauge what local water temps are like.  I realize that I am holding on to warm water and daring it to drop in temperature so severely that I don’t make it through a half hour of water time.  I did my research though and two reporting forecasts had the temperatures at 63-66 degrees.  Mysteriously enough, Surfline had the Salt Creek water at 66 degrees and promptly changed it to 63 to 65 degrees.  It was if someone threw a fit with their reported temperature after finding out the water felt colder than was reported.  Chances are the dude was skinny and weighs 100 pounds when wet with salt water.

Derek McClean

Derek McClean at Salt Creek in a BMW LOL!

I am not the only crazy guy thinking he can wear trunks well into the winter.  In fact, the plan we have devised has us wearing trunks into December just so that we can say that we did.  When we paddled out today, I had my reservations because the closer we get to winter, the more likelihood we will have to become wet suit minded.  The water was a tad chilly entering the water and I took my time wading before diving in.  I honestly thought I would go back in after a short while but the water turned out to be comfortable and the ocean breeze stayed mild enough not to make it feel colder than it was.  Derek McClean, whom I have known for 25 years, called me as I watched the waves from the bridge at Salt Creek.  We were anticipating waves from Hurricane Sandra out of the southeast.  Small waves from the reports prompted Derek to call off an early mission of 6:00 am.  I was grateful because apparently I really needed a good night’s sleep.

Responding to his text, I told him that I would watch all day hoping that Surfline’s promise of waves from Sandra came true. I have two Hurricane Sandra’s competing for my attention right now.  One is an adorable Golden Labrador that can’t get enough of a game of fetch with a rubber pig and the other is a Hurricane that we are hoping delivers on a 50-50 odds of delivering decent waves for tomorrow.  One Sandra will chase a plastic toy till I am blue in the face and she tracks mud all over the house from the recent rains.  The other is a hurricane that we are praying delivers us 4 feet of swell or better for waves that have produced more yawns that stoke over the Thanksgiving Holiday.   While on the bridge and seeing a few sets come out of the south, I was about to call Derek when he called me.  The first thing he said to me was that he was grabbing his trunks and coming to Salt Creek.  I told him I was already there and that I saw a few sets.  I had no idea that he would  show up with only trunks.  I had no choice in the matter because last year’s wet suit wasn’t going to make it another season and I have refused to buy another.  Any day now, the normal presence of cooler waters off our coast could very well change that but I am holding on for dear life with this fascination with wearing trunks into the beginning of winter.  Even better would be if I had the opportunity to wear trunks all winter and never wear a wet suit but that is a fairy tale and probably isn’t possible.  Who knows though, Fukushima radiation, El Nino, and Global Warming on a massive scale could very well do the trick.

So Derek not only trunked it, but also bear backed his session.  I am sure to many that saw us coming our bravery was comical.  We didn’t care though, as we review local water temps and choose the no wet suit option when the reports tell us that it is unlikely we become human popsickles as a result of forgoing a wet suit.  In my mind, water that is 65 degrees and higher is worthy of not wearing a wet suit.  To most of the wave riding community in Southern California that is pure lunacy.  Derek and I don’t care and we will wear no wet suits if we want!  That is how we do it!

The plan is to wear trunks into December which may run into a decent shot of swell out of the northwest middle of the first week of December which could change the water temperatures here locally.  I am going to give it  a shot determined to trunk it into December just so I could say that I did.  I know water temperatures are going to drop!  65 degree water temperatures and sunny skies are not going to bully me into thinking that I have to wear a full wet suit.  It just isn’t happening.  Wet suit retailers shouldn’t worry though!  I am going to be forced to do what everyone else does when the water drops.  Feel free to test our theory that local water are not cold enough to wear a wet suit if you have the guts.  If you want to deck yourself out like a storm trooper in full neoprene and smoothie that is okay too.  Just don’t be mad if I slide around you for a wave in just trunks and a rash guard.  And by the way, don’t waste any time feeling sorry for Derek and I, we survived 2 hours of water time in marginal surf at best without thinking about being cold.


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elephant at salt creek, elephant, salt creek, dana point

Elephant At Salt Creek

When I first saw it, my eyes told me that an elephant was walking up the path at Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point, California.  How could it be?  Standing on the bridge overlooking the waves, a large animal led by a man and woman ahead of it and another with some sort of tool that looked like it was used to keep it moving up the hill.  The guides and the elephant were dressed in what looked to be traditional Southeast Indian clothing, and as a friend pointed out, it could be that it was there to be a part of an Indian wedding.

Imagine surfers, body boarders, and beach visitors with family and children encountering an elephant at their favorite beach.  That is something you just don’t see every day.  A few people dropped their beach gear and just stood there and stared.  I can’t say as I blame them as seeing an elephant at Salt Creek is something I would have never expected. If you were going to use an elephant as a part of a ceremony in the Dana Point and South Laguna Beach area, Salt Creek and Aliso Beach would be the only two places convenient enough to bring one along. Apparently you can get the permits to do that at Salt Creek and I have no idea if that could be done at Aliso Beach. If the county would consider one for Aliso, the permit process would be rather lengthy and a decision would have to be made as to whether or not the large animals represented a violation of the marine protection areas in South Laguna Beach.

The elephant didn’t look stressed or unhealthy.  It leisurely followed its guides in a straight line without breaking stride. Even when the Las Golondrinas catering truck that could not wait for the elephant to pass before driving down the path to the beach didn’t seem to phase the animal.  Part of me wonders whether the elephant is happy or sad.  Was it a performing elephant that is pimped out for special events?  Does it enjoy its unnatural surroundings and human friends?  Just like Sea World has trouble with Orcas, the Circus has trouble with elephants every so often. My feeling is that perhaps we shouldn’t use elephants in this role, but then again, human beings know no bounds when it comes to money and greed.  I don’t know if the animal enjoys its work or if it lives in perpetual sadness.  What I do know is that it walked up the hill without a peep and allowed itself to be loaded into a trailer that resembled a horse trailer.  The animal was then driven off as if it never happened.  I think my friend Jack said it best.  “That is cool, but that really sucks for the elephant.”


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Tom Sawyer Summer Camp Saved My Life


I grew up with parents who worked extremely hard to make sure that my sister and I had plenty of constructive things to do even when things were financially tight.  They always stretched dollars to make sure we went to private school and were able to go to summer camp when school let out at the end of the year.  If you live in Pasadena, Altadena, La Crescenta, La Canada and much of the San Gabriel Valley, you have probably heard of Tom Sawyer Camps once or twice or may even have or know a kid or two that attends the summer session.  There are a lot of things that my sister and I were exposed to that we may have not done otherwise.  We went rock climbing, sailing and horseback riding which are all things she and I are grateful to have had the chance to do, but that isn’t how Tom Sawyer Camp saved my life.  No, it wasn’t the silly songs at the logs to begin and close the day at camp and it wasn’t trying to find another group’s fort to capture their flag with the finder’s prize a watermelon for the group.  It was the swim lesson’s through Tom Sawyer Camp given at La Canada High School that saved my life.

I would not say I grew up to be an exceptional swimmer from a technical stand point.  The breast stroke was particularly challenging to me and when it came to the testing phase for swimming levels, this one always seemed to trip me up. I also didn’t particularly like the butterfly stoke with the rotations of the arms and shoulders not feeling to comfortable.  In defense of my lack of interest in these two swimming strokes I will remind everyone that some of our Olympic swimmers focus on one discipline and not everyone can be Michael Phelps, an elite swimmer in every discipline.  Sure I sucked at two different strokes, but I had nothing to hang my head about.  What I did learn was the gift of swimming.  In previous posts, I told you that I was blessed to have the ability to pull a couple of swimmers out of the water that were in real trouble.  One of them was drowning when I got to him and the other got in a rip tide, panicked, out of breath and calling out for help.  I don’t offer this to you to brag in any way and believe that God wanted me there to help. All I did was answer those calls for help drawing on what I know, much of which was taught to me at Tom Sawyer Camp.  One of the markets I visit for lunch during the work week has this cool girl who asks me how the beach was.  I show up in trunks, flip flops and sand everywhere a lot.  In that conversation I asked her if she liked the beach and she told me she didn’t swim.  As far as I am concerned she is still a baby and can be taught to swim as long as she can overcome her fears.  I have encouraged her to do it knowing how big a gift learning to swim has been.  In fact, beyond all of the body boarding I have done over 30 plus years, it saved my life Thanksgiving 2013.

Salt Creek, Dana Point, 11th Hole, Winter Waves

Salt Creek Dana Point Mid Winter

Just the other day, I was at Salt Creek and getting out of the water when I ran into a friend JR.  He told me that our mutual friend Jack was on his way and so I hung out in the parking lot waiting for him to show.  Somehow a conversation with Jack, JR and I spun into Jack cracking on me for not leaving the epic waves in the previous weeks sessions to check to make sure he was okay.  I had to remind Jack that I did notice he was leaving the water funny and that after keeping an eye on him it seemed as though he was okay.  Jack’s snide comment drew laughter from JR who I forcefully reminded that he nearly watched my drown at Salt Creek on Thanksgiving 2013.  The waves slapped me around so good that I couldn’t tell you where JR was or wasn’t but after I took what JR says was 14 large waves on the head, I found him on the shore asking if I was okay.  We didn’t really speak about it much after that day.  I knew that he counted I 14 double overhead waves (12 foot) that took a beating from.  What I didn’t realize is he took the first several waves on the head and was closer to shore when my near drowning event occurred.

So it was me all alone in the water and having to fend for myself.  I chose to let my board go to shore and swim under waves.  The problem was on a deep breath I swallowed what felt like half the ocean.  My chest and upper body filled up with water and I felt so heavy I couldn’t maneuver to dive under the waves.  The result was a violent thrashing about to the point of nearly blacking out.  I remember, with eyes wide open and under the salt water, thinking that this was my time.  For a split second I was okay with that and I had accepted it.  All I could think about was my mom.  Not that other family and friends wouldn’t be deeply affected by my passing like this, but the woman who gave birth to me and ruining her Thanksgiving was a powerful thought.  My will to fight had just kicked into overdrive with what in many ways has turned out to be the fight of my life.  My chest was still full of water and I couldn’t move very well.  I started to a free style swim towards the shore and realized swallowing all of the salt water had made me significantly less than buoyant.  Thinking I was toast, the Tom Sawyer Camps swim lessons kicked in.  I rolled to my back kicking and rotating my arms back past my head in a fight to remain in the living.  I made it to shore Thank God.

Swimming is something you simply have to know how to do even if it is just so if you are the only one in life saving distance from someone drowning you can keep them safe.  Even beyond that swimming is a gift that may be used to keep your self safe and perhaps even save your own life.  I can 100% attest to this.  I have lived to tell this story.  While many readers are not in the service area for Tom Sawyer Camps, I will encourage anyone that does not how to swim to take lessons.  The decision to learn to swim or give your children swimming lessons could one day save a life.  For those of you that live in areas that Tom Sawyer Camps service, your kids will enjoy their summers and learn the life saving skills of swimming and CPR.  While there were and are plenty of other activities at Tom Sawyer Camp to keep children busy with, it is swimming lessons at Tom Sawyer Camp that saved my life.

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OC Lifeguards Hands Full


We are on the tail end of high surf and red flag conditions generated by tropical storms in close proximity to Southern California and storms in the Southern Hemisphere  OC Lifeguards hands full is an understatement. Even beaches that don’t typically get some of the summer wave activity had dangerously heavy waves.  OC Lifeguards, who handle the Laguna Beach and Dana Point areas, had their hands full over the last 3-5 days with a drowning and body recovery effort still going on off Salt Creek Beach.  The swimmer was said to have disappeared under a wave and never made it back to the surface.  I talked to a young lifeguard this morning and lifeguards believe he hit his head and was knocked unconscious or broke his neck and never made it back to the surface.  Our condolences go out to the family of the deceased.  For closure, the team at AlisoBeach is hoping they locate the body and soon.

Aliso Beach, Shore Break, High Surf, Dangerous Waves

Heavy Shore Break Aliso Beach

Today’s waves were still pretty heavy in the 3-6 foot range, and with a little wind, rip currents and a higher tide the waves were detonating on the sand bar.  The conditions were fun but challenging.  I am sure that OC Lifeguards are thrilled that many kids are back in school and that will also be helpful as a massive south swell arrives Wednesday and continues through Friday.  Wave heights have been predicted to be anywhere from 8 foot to 20 foot plus.  My hope is that most people stay out of the water.  You can get swept out quickly and then put your own life as well as the well being  of the lifeguards whose job it is to keep you safe.  Sometimes you can’t help it and nature catches you off guard and you need lifeguard’s help.  In this case, for most swimmers and wave riders, the waves will simply be unsafe with conditions so powerful that it is recommended you stay away unless you have tremendous experience.

With riptides and pounding shore waves today, a few friends and I were asked repeatedly if we had fins on by a young lifeguard. I watched a gal get sucked out on a body board and into a riptide.  I could tell she was gassed.  Fortunately, there was a lull in the sets.  I started paddling that way because I felt like she was ripe for doing an end over end in a wave she was not prepared for.  She laid her head down on her board and stopped paddling with her back turned to the incoming waves.  That is a really bad strategy, and where she was sitting put a bulls eye on her back for a wipe out and beat down of epic proportions.  The ocean is indiscriminate.  She can get you at any time.  As I got to her I told her, “Hey, you look tapped out are you okay?”  She agreed that she was gassed and I told her I would pull her in.  I told her not to panic and to be ready to turn to avoid an incoming wave if need be.

As I got her closer to shore, the on duty lifeguard was just coming to the water’s edge as a friend of mine was trying to point out that she was in trouble.  He seemed more fixated on myself and a couple of friends that were riding in the danger zone and rips.  Her accent was European and she clearly seemed out of place.  Not only did she not have fins but also she had some sort of aqua socks or shoes on.  In heavy surf, you have to have fins on plain and simple.  The lifeguards use fins and they are used to help them save lives.  I just don’t understand people and how naively they put themselves at risk in the ocean.  For one unlucky man and family this weekend, that underestimation of the power of the ocean ended in tragedy.

OC Lifeguards hands full but people can do them a big favor by staying out of the water when the surf is elevated.  Salt Creek and the Laguna area beaches all break with heavy shore break conditions and they will take a life or injure even the experienced.  This can happen at any time even when the surf is smaller.  Always swim or ride in front of lifeguard towers and check in with lifeguards about conditions before throwing yourself or allowing your kids out there into deadly conditions.  It could be a matter of life and death.

Aliso Beach is expecting massive waves 8-10 foot plus with larger sets Wednesday to Thursday.  If this is a family day with kids hoping to enjoy the water, it is not a good idea to come down to Aliso Beach this week.  Should you decide to come down anyways, it is recommended keeping children or any inexperienced swimmers in your party from the water.  It is just too dangerous with the increased risks of being pulled out from shore and sucked into heavy waves with bad intentions for unsuspecting beach goers.

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

Heartfelt Prayers Go Out To The Family Of The Missing Salt Creek Swimmer


For several days now, Laguna and Orange County Beach area wave riders have been gearing up for big surf with storm activity in the Southern Hemisphere and the Tropics.  To those with experience, the waves are just another good day of surf.  To children and the inexperienced, beaches in the Laguna area present serious hazards.  The wave riding community takes all of this for granted and is able to do that because experience keeps them out of deadly situations.  Today, a man said to be in his sixties swimming at Salt Creek Beach, was reported to have gone under a wave and never surfaced.  When he did not come up, family members alerted lifeguards who put together a large scale search for the missing swimmer. Those of us familiar with Salt Creek know all too well how quickly you can be slammed to the bottom.  Just like Laguna Beaches to the north, Dana Point’s Salt Creek is a dangerous shore break with pounding waves and shallow conditions.  Big waves, heavy currents and a swimmer not nearly as experienced as local wave riders is a potential disaster.  Today as I watched helicopters, coastguard vessels, OC Lifeguards on Seadoos, and 3 separate groups of lifeguards searching in the wave zone, I realized that the ocean had claimed a life today. To say that it put a damper on my day is an understatement.  What started out as a family day at the beach ended in an unexpected tragedy and the loss of a family member.

It was a classic, warm beach day.  The skies were blue, the winds were light and the ocean was a beautiful emerald green with waves stacking on the horizon. Clearly the waves were big.  As I walked back up the hill at Salt Creek I am watching the families come down the hill with little ones carrying body boards and parents lugging family beach gear down to the sand.  The majority of people coming down to the beach were trying to stuff one more beach weekend in before the kids had to go back to school.  I had already watched the helicopters, boats, Seadoos and lifeguard teams desperately search the area for the missing man.  When I left and until now, it is my belief that they have not found him.  As I passed all of these people heading down to the beach, I realized how tough a job the lifeguards had in keeping everyone safe.  They were already stretched thin searching for this man and scores of people trampled down the hill to seize a little slice of Salt Creek sand real estate and an enjoyable family day at the beach.

The AlisoBeach.Com team extends its heartfelt prayers to the family of the missing Salt Creek swimmer.  It wasn’t a good day for them.  With this tragedy it is important to discuss the dangers at Laguna area beaches including Salt Creek. This area is known for its dangerous shore break conditions.  Given that this part of the coastline faces towards the south, the summer gets intense waves from hurricanes off of Baja, Mexico and storms that swing out from around New Zealand and push energy towards us.  Waves in this region can be rough and today was no exception.

Best Practices For Enjoying Laguna Area Beaches Safely

1) Check the surf and marine reports for the days you are coming to the beach.  If heart break will result from children not being able to go in the water when it is too rough, you can avoid those days and substitute them ones with calmer ocean conditions

2)  Situate your family near a lifeguard tower and check with lifeguards on ocean conditions.  There are flags that fly on the towers that alert you to current conditions.  The flags are as follows:

Green Flag- Safe

Yellow Flag- Potential hazards use caution.

Red Flag- Dangerous conditions.

Ocean conditions are variable.  They change with incoming swells that result from storms traveling thousands of miles across the ocean.  They also change with shifting tides.  It is important to know about these so that you can keep yourself and family members safe.  If you are swimming, body surfing or body boarding a pair of swim fins is highly recommended.  At Salt Creek, lifeguards are routinely swimming out to inexperienced swimmers and body boarders with no fins.  Quite frankly, it is unsafe to not have them on.  Without fins, there is a greater danger of getting stuck in a rip tide and pulled out into the breaking waves.

Today, a man was lost to the sea in big waves and rough conditions.  That he was said not to have come up after ducking a wave sounds to me like he may have been driven into the bottom and either lost consciousness with the blow or broke his neck.  Although local wave riders deal with these types of conditions routinely, we are schooled in how to avoid getting hurt.  People that are coming to the beach that are not routinely in the water and expert swimmers would be challenged and endangered by the red flag conditions we have seen at Salt Creek today.  Again, our heartfelt prayers go out to the family of the missing Salt Creek swimmer.  I can’t imagine the heartache of the loss and how tough it was to watch the search knowing that in all likelihood that their family member did not make it.

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