18 February 2008

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

And it is.

17 February 2008

City Zine Article #6

Surf Report: Our Contribution to the Plastic Continent

When it rains it pours . . . and sends greats heaps of plastic debris into the ocean via our county’s storm drains. Many people don’t realize that the Los Angeles rainfall season runs from July 1 to June 30, thus the measuring for city’s rainfall totals begins in mid-summer. In the last seven months, Los Angeles received almost as much rain as it did during the previous complete rainfall season. The precipitation was a godsend for this city, with its overabundance of lawns and gluttonous greenery. Unfortunately, the rains spelled disaster for our beaches.

After the most recent rainstorms in January, the banks of the Ballona Creek flood control channel were covered with litter. (One can only surmise that other channels were also lined with trash.) The birds and other indigenous wildlife could not escape it. The trash was everywhere.

An inquiry to the County of Los Angeles about the problem resulted in the following response from Gary Hildebrand of the County’s Department of Public Works:

“I appreciate your concern over the condition of Ballona Creek. Yes, the recent large storms have left a considerable amount of trash deposited along the banks. After each storm we have staff that collect the accumulated trash. We also maintain a floating boom in the channel immediately downstream of Lincoln Blvd to capture trash that flows down the channel. This boom was damaged during the storm of early January and was under repair. Therefore more trash than usual was deposited along the banks of Ballona creek during last week’s storms. The boom will be reinstalled this coming week. We will have crews out along the channel this weekend to collect the trash.”

The County is obviously aware of the problems that occur after a heavy rain and is prepared for the extensive clean-up involved. What about the trash that didn’t wash up on the banks of the creek? Where does it end up?

It could eventually come to rest in what is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. A close look at the Ballona Creek photos reveals that the majority of the trash on the creek’s banks is plastic—Styrofoam containers, straws, and water bottles, among other things. Plastic will, without a doubt, be the death of our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essentially a continent-sized plastic landfill floating in the Pacific Ocean. In his article for the Los Angeles Times’ Altered Oceans series, Times writer Kenneth Weiss described the Garbage Patch as an area, located between San Francisco and Hawaii, “where flotsam collects from around the Pacific, much like foam piling up in the calm center of a hot tub”. One could say that plastic travels to the Garbage Patch to die. The problem with that poetic assumption is that plastic doesn’t die. Plastic, unlike paper, does not biodegrade. It simply breaks down into smaller pieces.

Charles Moore, the captain of a private research vessel, wrote an article in 2002 that detailed the damage plastic, specifically the Garbage Patch, is doing to our oceans. Moore was blunt in his assessment of the source of the problem: “For the last 50-odd years, every piece of plastic that has made it from our shores to the Pacific Ocean has been breaking down and accumulating in the central Pacific gyre.” The trash in Ballona Creek shows that Los Angelenos must take steps to both reduce our use of plastic and increase our recycling of plastic. The debris from Ballona Creek that successfully made its way out to sea will eventually become a part of the Garbage Patch, and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

Be part of the solution. Stop using plastic grocery bags. If you must use them, make sure to recycle them. (But, really, it’s not difficult to buy some canvas bags for your groceries.) If you use plastic utensils, don’t throw them away; wash them and reuse them or make sure they are placed in a recycling bin when you no longer want them. Do your homework. Plastic, for all of its wonderful properties, is killing our oceans. Use it and recycle it.

15 February 2008

Best Noseride Ever . . .

until the friend who was paddling back out crossed my path. Okay, I can easily steer a board from the tail. The nose? Not so much.

I usually find it difficult to successfully make it to the nose while going backside. I always want to put my weight on my toes rather than on my heels. Today was different. I felt the board lock in and calmly walked up to the tip. (Usually I run to the tip and then have to either slam on the brakes—oh, what a sight that is!—or fall off the front of the board.) On this wave, once I got to the nose I could feel that the board was holding. I was prepared to ride it out. Well, I didn't get the chance to see how this wave played out. My friend slowed down her paddle back out right in front of me. Not a good idea. Her: deer in the headlights look. Me: hunter in the headlights look. Somehow I managed to lean into the nose enough to make the board turn and barely miss her. Of course, that sent me straight into the water. But better that than her having that run down feeling.

What the hell is up with this wind? If locks weren't blowing into my face, the spray was. I pulled out of a couple of waves just because I couldn't see. The locks are almost long enough for a ponytail now. The problem is that the locks in the front. They're still too short to do anything but fall over my eyes. I've got probably another year before I can pull those bad boys out of the way.

I've surfed four out of the last five days. I don't have noodle arms, but I did eat two big meals today. That never ever happens. My body is close to running on empty now. I'm glad I can't surf tomorrow. I'll still workout though. Perhaps I can get out on Sunday (if I get a surf pass from the spouse).

13 February 2008

Three Days Straight

No leash. No problems. I don't know that I've been this comfortable and this willing to go leashless in the past. The waves today were deceiving. CYT thought she was looking at something serious and couldn't believe I was going in without a leash. I wasn't sure what we were looking at, but I knew yesterday saw me start out on a 7'3" and then run back to the car for a longboard. With this swell, spots shut down quickly. I was willing to take my chances on a bigger board to which I was not tethered. I suppose I made the right choice. (The better choice would have been to forego a session and hit the pool instead.) I caught waves and only swam once today. I didn't lose the board at all yesterday. My board control and wave judgment are improving. I'm finding that my thought processes are faster now that I've given up on the leash. I can't just haphazardly go for a wave anymore, knowing that if I don't make it my board is right there. Now I give waves serious thought. I'm always reminding myself that the board will be long gone if I'm not attentive. And, as Christian commented, going leashless forces you to end a ride with some grace. (I can't say I do it with style at this point.) Of course, once summer returns and the lineups are overly crowded, I'll probably go back to the leash. There will be too many people in the water. It's easy to control your board when it's just you and the wave. It gets difficult when other people are running into you and knocking you off your board.

11 February 2008

Just Me and the Dolphins

Another blog bites the dust. Clayfin is bidding a fond farewell to the surf blogosphere. The irony of his announcement is that I've been rethinking my "blog till I die" attitude of late. Part of me wants to call it quits while the other part tells me to simply suffer through those moments of blogging weariness. First Whiff, now Clay. The rest of you better not leave me alone out here. (And you know who you are!)

I can't say much for this NW swell. Its direction is giving much of Southern California a fit. On Saturday, I was in the O.C. trying to surf closeouts. Today I was met with the same conditions (except that the waves were somewhat smaller). I started out the day at my new favorite spot. It looked pretty pathetic. That I didn't mind so much. I just couldn't get over the number of people in the water in such crappy conditions. There's no need to surf in a crowd when you can find the same conditions at an empty beach a few miles away.

There was no one at the home break when I paddled out. Perfect, especially when you're surfing without a leash in conditions that one of my friends described as "dumpy". There wasn't much out there. I sat around as much as I paddled for or caught waves. But I did get a visit from two pods of dolphins. Mothers, babies, fathers. Any time I'm in the presence of dolphins I consider my session a success. I caught my share of the dumpy waves, both before and after other folks joined me in the water. No leash. No booties. No gloves. Someone once suggested, in a comment on this blog, that I'm trying to be a soul surfer. Well, no, I just don't like neoprene. I can't surf without a wetsuit, but I can survive the So Cal waters without anything else.

09 February 2008

City Zine Article #5

Photo by Mary Michel

Surf Report: The Smackdown in Del Mar

On Wednesday, February 6, the California Coastal Commission met in Del Mar to vote on the proposed extension of the 241 Toll Road. Environmentalists and surfers throughout the state waited for the decision with bated breath. The Transportation Corridor Agencies group (TCA) had already turned Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head by offering the state $100 million, supposedly to mitigate the damage the toll road extension would cause to San Onofre State Beach. The governor proved that he could be bought; he announced his support for the toll road extension soon after revealing the state was in the throes of a budget crisis. (Question: Isn’t the TCA a special interest group? Question: Didn’t Arnold rail against special interest groups when he ran for office? “Special interests cannot buy me. I have enough money.”)

Photos by Craig Ferre

As the day of the hearing approached, the grass roots campaign against the toll road swung into action. When the hearing finally took place, a crowd of 3,500 was in attendance. Surfers from all over California drove to Del Mar for the meeting. One Los Angeles surfer was determined to be part of the solution, “I grew up here and have watched every single watershed between here and San Diego be compromised. I'm not watching anymore.” The surfing community was determined to be heard, or at least have its presence felt.

Photo by Craig Ferre

Photo by Mary Michel

The hearing lasted for over 12 hours. In the end, the California Coastal Commission voted 8-2 against the toll road extension. One of its reasons for voting the extension down was the fact that the toll road would negatively and irreversibly impact the “surfing resources” at San Onofre State Beach.

Photos by Mary Michel

08 February 2008

Hard Drive Woes

Once again, the three of us worked our magic and apparently fried yet another hard drive on our home computer. Okay, we don't know that it's the hard drive, but we're getting kernel panics and the blinking question mark. In Mac-speak, this ain't good. Thankfully, I've got a laptop; it's now been brought up from the minors until we get the desktop computer looked at.

My latest CityZine article is about the California Coastal Commission's denial of the toll road extension. I didn't write much. My friends Craig Ferre and Mary Michel went to the hearing and came back with pictures. Their pictures said more than I could ever say.

I'm surfing behind the Orange Curtain tomorrow. I'd stopped going down there when the gas prices skyrocketed. Now that they're dropping back down, I'll make a trek down there to surf with friends.

06 February 2008

Here's What You Don't Say to a Local

If I recall correctly, it was something to the effect of "I'm going to go home and get my gun and shoot you." That was stupid on so many levels. I wasn't in the water when the beef began, but I was there when it almost escalated into a true beat down. The guy to whom those words were uttered got out of the water for a bit to talk to two of his friends. I overheard him telling them about the incident. Before I knew it, he'd pointed out the guy that mouthed off and the two friends were yelling threats. There were only two reasons why it didn't get ugly. The first is because the local to whom the initial threat was made didn't seem intent on fighting about it. He was just venting. The other reason was that the guys being yelled at were smart enough to keep their mouths shut and scurry off.

The session was nothing special. Although there was swell in the water, the tide screwed things up a bit. I opted for the longboard since the waves that didn't jack up tended to back off. I think I actually got covered up on one wave, but like Gracefullee, I had my eyes closed. I didn't get to see what was happening. I merely remember wondering why I was still crouched on the board rather than spinning wildly in the water. I wanted to get closer to the best takeoff spot today, but after seeing all of the excitement before the session, I knew the natives were restless and I wanted none of that. When the locals are angry, you give them their space. When they're in a good mood, you join the lineup, wait for them to acknowledge you and take your turn. I could tell today was not a day for that.

After the session, CYT and I ran into a surfer we know from a couple of other breaks. He was railing about the locals at L.A.'s most famous three pointed break. From what I could gather, they dislike him because he drops in on them . . . even though they feel it's their right to drop in on everyone else, especially those who don't walk the board.

You know what? Enough already. If it's like this during the winter, what is the summer going to bring?

05 February 2008

Worst Day Ever to Answer the Telephone!

03 February 2008

City Zine Article #4

Surf Report: Must Everything In This State Be For Sale?

Perhaps this is all part of a modern-day Faustian drama. Our protagonist, a character with aspirations to rule a feudality whose laws prevent outsiders from becoming king, orchestrates a deal with the devil for both his soul and the souls of the people he currently governs. By the time President Arnold Schwarzenegger takes office in 2013, the citizens of California will all have gone to hell . . . in a handbasket personally delivered by then-Governor Schwarzenegger.

If the governor has his way, the California he extols in television ads will cease to exist before he leaves office (ostensibly to make a run for the White House). After years of neutrality on the issue of the extension of the Foothill-South Toll Road in Orange County, Governor Schwarzenegger recently expressed support for the measure. The fact that the extension would decimate San Onofre State Beach, which former Governor Ronald Reagan established in 1971, is of no concern to our current governor. He seems unable to hear the vociferous opposition from surfers, environmental activists, prominent Native American groups and the State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. What he did hear was the $100 million the Transportation Corridor Agencies group (TCA) is offering the state if the toll road extension is approved. With that, California became the “Show Me the Money” state.

San Onofre State Beach is a mecca for surfers of all persuasions, boasting breaks for both longboards and shortboards, the most notable of the latter being the well-known Trestles. Los Angeles area surfers, as do surfers from other areas around the state, eagerly plan pilgrimages to the numerous breaks within the state beach. Nature, in its honest-to-goodness natural state, exists there. The City of Angels paved over what was left of its nature years ago. Do the names Playa Vista and Malibu Colony ring a bell?

On Wednesday, February 6, the California Coastal Commission will convene a hearing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on the application for the extension of the toll road. Should Governor Schwarzenegger decide to attend, his only hope for navigating through the many hundreds of surfers expected to attend is to mow them down with one of his beloved gas-guzzling Humvees. Once the governor announced his support for the toll road extension, the Surfrider Foundation began rallying the troops (as did other groups opposed to the extension). Jim Moriarty, the foundation’s CEO, pointed out that San Onofre State Beach is “the last clean watershed in Southern California.” Surfers from all over the state are prepared to fight the good fight to save the jewel that is San Onofre State Beach. Why would anyone, particularly someone who claims to love this state and its citizens, readily sell such a gem to the highest bidder?

02 February 2008


The hearing on the toll road is on Wednesday, February 6 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds at 9 a.m. My job as mom prevents me from going. Those of you who can go have to represent for the rest of us!

Today was much better than yesterday. I went to the home break and surfed the right board. The conditions could have been better. One can always say that. Still, I got one long(ish) left that satisfied my soul. The other rides were, well, rides. I don't remember them. I don't even remember the left. What I do recall was being happy to finally ride a long left and smiling as I paddled back out.

It was like "Old Home Week" at the home break. The crew was there in full effect. A few were missing, but almost everyone else was there. Of course, one of the people who was missing won't be paddling back out again. I miss him already.

01 February 2008

County's Response About Ballona Creek Inquiry

Here's what I wrote:

I'm writing to you to inquire about the trash that has collected along Ballona Creek since the most recent rains. I wrote to the Department of Beaches and Harbors about this issue. Someone there directed me to Public Works. As of January 30, the shores of Ballona Creek were truly filthy. I took pictures (which I'm certain your department does not need) to document the extent of the problem. My question is not meant to be angry or accusatory. I was simply wondering if the County is planning to clean up the creek. And how does such a clean up occur? The amount of trash on the banks of the creek was astounding. I saw a man collecting plastic bottles for recycling . . . and he was able to fill up a large plastic trash bag. And there was still an unbelievable amount of trash left. Thank you, Public Works, for all of the good you do in the County. I am aware that this department does many things that help L.A.'s citizens.

This is the response:

I appreciate your concern over the condition of Ballona Creek. Yes, the recent large storms have left a considerable amount of trash deposited along the banks. After each storm we have staff that collect the accumulated trash. We also maintain a floating boom in the channel immediately downstream of Lincoln Blvd to capture trash that flows down the channel. This boom was damaged during the storm of early January and was under repair. Therefore more trash than usual was deposited along the banks of Ballona creek during last week’s storms. The boom will be reinstalled this coming week. We will have crews out along the channel this weekend to collect the trash.

Again, thank you for your interest in the condition of Ballona Creek. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Gary Hildebrand
Area Engineer, South Area
Flood Maintenance Division
Los Angeles County Dept of Public Works

I finally got back in the water today. I think it's been two weeks since I last paddled out. There's not much to tell. I was on the wrong board. Nevertheless, I made a go of it. No booties. No hood. My hands suffer more than anything else. That's what armpits are for. Soul Brother #1 says he can often spot me in a crowd because I'm the one with my hands tucked firmly into my armpits. I certainly enjoy the empty breaks that winter brings, but I'll finally admit I'm ready for some warmer weather.