Memories of Beach Girls

SUNSET, LAGUNA BEACH

A couple of warm days and the hint of summer digs into my bones. Tossing tennis shoes aside, I brave the shoreline barefooted.

The sand squishes between my toes, and memories of summers on the beach rush through my mind. I often wondered how kids without oceans passed the time between mid-June and mid-September. I know that my friends and I were glued to beach blankets, body boards and endless games of Hearts – no matter the sun or fog.

It was summer.

There were five of us ‘beach girls’ and we bounced between Pearl Street, Oak Street and Thousand Steps. Each beach in Laguna is unique, not just by its name, but by the particular wave formations, the underlying rocks, the tidepools and underwater caves. As teenagers, we followed the surf, and made the best use of south swells, west and north.

We were not without responsibilities. Summer jobs consumed a portion of each day. Val, Sue and I worked as clean-up crew (dare I call us maids?) at Vacation Village. We would start at 7:00 AM with early check-outs, move to the stay-overs, and then finish off the last of the rooms. On a good day, we could be finished by lunchtime and head for our favorite sandy spot.

No matter our destination, lunch was usually at the backdoor of La Paz, a space now occupied by Wahoo’s. 35¢ would buy a plate of steaming rice and beans covered with melted cheddar cheese. I can feel the saliva build in my mouth with the memory of that rich and satisfying meal. For an additional 15¢ you could smother the plate with sour cream.

Oak Street was for surfing, especially for those of us who were beginners. The summer of ’64, notorious for its overall lack of sunshine at the sand, was a great year for waves. With my newly acquired short board, I learned to paddle, stand up, fall off and swim back to shore. Definitely pre-leash days, my hours with the high school swim team paid off as I swam, paddled and swam again.

John Parlette was the Oak Street lifeguard. I remember him as on of the most tan and muscled men I had ever met. For sure, I felt safe with John looking after us in the water.

Pearl Street was for body surfing, cliff jumping and blow-hole swimming. This was pre-lifeguard days of screaming, “No-no-no.”

A perfect jumping day required a medium tide and a large swell. We’d work our way through the arch in waist deep water and scramble up the backside of the ridge. Once on top, we’d plant our feet firmly in a well-worn jumpers groove, and watch for a big swell. With perfect timing, we’d leap from the cliff into the curl of the incoming wave. Our laughter echoed off the rock face as we sailed though the air. The force of the breaking wave would carry us to shore.

Between Pearl and Woods Cove is a beautiful ledge of tide pools that showcases our rich watery heritage. Sea anemones and urchins decorate the crevices with their flowery/spindly colors and arms, while crabs of all sizes and colors scurry between and under rocks.

The ledge is also host to two separate blow-holes – wild and uncontrollable under big surf conditions – delightful to explore under medium tidal surges. Again, pre-lifeguard admonitions, the adventure consisted of waiting for the incoming flow, jumping into the hole and swimming through the tunnel to the gap between the two reefs. A huge grab of air and one could dive again, find the entrance to the other underwater tunnel, and swim free to the outside edge. After that, all that was needed was a big wave to body surf back to shore.

Thousand Steps was isolated and free of tourists. We had legs of steel at the end of the summer from endlessly running up and down all those stairs.

Merri and Cate both lived above the beach, and frequent forays to their kitchen for sandwiches, chips, and orange pop were necessities. Beach volleyball was a number one activity, followed by a trampoline, and of course, bodysurfing. Cate’s dad was the volunteer lifeguard, so even though the beach was remote, we couldn’t get into trouble.

Summer now has different meaning. Without the freedom of an educational break, the season is much like winter, fall or spring, except the days are longer and the hours for beach walks and contemplation are sandwiched between responsibilities.

One of the responsibilities is to actively work to protect our seas and beaches so that the children that follow us can swim and explore without fear of disease or die-off of species. There are so many things each of us can do to help protect our oceans. A sample list can be found at this url : http://www.americasoceanchallenge.com/pages/youCanHelp.html

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