Tag Archives: body boarding

Three Friends


Just three friends out in the water at Aliso Beach this Sunday, enjoying some left over energy out of the west northwest.  It wasn’t huge, but like Aliso has a tendency to do, it delivered a mean little shore break wave breaking a tad below sea level as the tide drops.  It is rare today, however, to be able to be out in the water with just a couple of friends.  Austin Keen was down the beach doing his step offs on an outside peak, and he too had to be stoked on the lack of competition for waves.  The shape wasn’t perfect, but the waves angled down the beach with guttering rights and the occasional left that made it a really fun day.  It stayed glassy for the most part and the waves were punchy.  My friend Patrick had to rescue a little girl who with her convenience store bought body board and her lack of fins, managed to get dragged out into a dangerous spot.  He helped her get under a couple of the larger waves and waited for the lifeguard to reach him to take her back to shore.  During this event, a father was yelling out from the beach petrified that his daughter was in trouble.  She most certainly was, and I have to shake my head in that minutes before that unfolded, a lifeguard was warning this family of the dangerous situation she put herself in moments later.  It may not be the North Shore of Oahu during winter at Aliso Beach, but the shore break waves at this South Laguna spot are capable of ending a life.  It was a good thing for her that three friends were in the water that day and one of them was close enough to her when she got in trouble to keep her from harm.  We don’t mind being an extra set of eyes for unsuspecting children or the inexperienced, but I really don’t want to be out  in the water when someone dies because the lifeguards or the wave riding community can’t get to them quick enough. There have been a lot of close calls over the last few years at Aliso Beach.

The parking lot was 3/4 full when we got there.  We had looked at Salt Creek and it was a bit funky and the tide perhaps a little too swampy.  As the tide dropped we looked for just a couple of waves to signal an improvement worth paddling out for.  It didn’t take long.  The waves got better into the afternoon as the tide moved towards it’s negative low tide in the afternoon.  The wind was light and variable to at times slightly offshore.  As the tide drained it got a little funky but it was over 2 hours in so nobody cared.  It is a rare occasion for a beach like Aliso to have so few people in the water.  It was literally Austin Keen, a surf photographer, and three friends. You can’t beat that!  No squabbling over waves, no jockeying for position, and no one in each other’s way.  The peaks allowed Austin one to himself towards the middle of the beach as we traded waves between the river mouth and the middle of the beach.  No one left the beach that day wave-starved and it was all smiles.  I don’t know a wave rider in the world that wouldn’t take a day in the water where there were only 3 friends out.  That type of experience is like Big Foot.  We hear about them but we aren’t sure it exists.  For three friends this past Sunday, a day in the water with virtually no one out, did go down.



Posted in Aliso Beach Also tagged , , , , |

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.

Posted in Aliso Beach Website Founder Rob Brack, Dana Point, Rob Brack, Salt Creek Also tagged , , , , |