“South swells could send waves to just South of Shoreline Village all the way to the end of the Peninsula.”
All photos courtesy of Ian Lind of ilind.net
By: Kelli Marie Koller
On November 13, 1938 our country’s first National Surfing Championships were postponed until December due to lack of waves. Where was this surf contest to be held? Long Beach, California. One might think, “What? Long Beach, Ca? Well of course there were no waves. Long Beach never has waves. Why would a surf contest be held there?” The answer is simple. The Long Beach Breakwater had not yet been constructed. Long Beach had waves.
Before the Southernmost third portion of the breakwater was constructed, Long Beach had waves much like the South Shore breaks of Honolulu perfect for pre-war surf equipment earning Long Beach the title, “Waikiki of the West Coast.” The Red Car catered to a thriving South California linking beach goers to the variety of hotels, on-shore entertainment, and attractions such as the Pike and the Plunge bathhouse.
John Lind, founder of the Long Beach Surf Club, helped the Long Beach Amusement League and Junior Chamber of Commerce organize the first National Surf Championship located between the Silver Spray and Rainbow Piers (just south of present day Pine Street.) The contest attracted 65 contestants from California, Hawaii, and Florida. Headlines reported an attendance in the tens of thousands. The Surf Club results:
1st place: Manhattan
2nd place: Venice
3rd place: Santa Monica
4th place: Palos Verdes
5th place: Del Mar
Eleven years later Long Beach was no longer a destination for surfing and beach enthusiasts as the Army Corps of Engineers had completed the Long Beach Breakwater. It was constructed with protection in mind as the Navy needed a major anchorage in the Los Angeles area. In 1974, the Long Beach Naval Base was downgraded to a Naval Facility. Today, Long Beach still fails to attract beach-goers even with the Navy setting sail in 1997.
Restore the Shore – Sink the Breakwater
Present day water quality in Long Beach is poor. The port authorities and various governmental bodies have taken measures to curb the pollution of the harbor; nevertheless the 8.8 mile breakwall disrupts the long current and tidal flush which stifles ocean circulation.
Proponents to reconfigure the breakwater want to allow more tidal currents and waves to flow to the beaches which would boost water quality and provide a healthier environment for a dying benthic habitat. With clean water and breakers, Long Beach would once again attract beach-goers. The income the City would generate from an increase in tourism could be used for public programs in a variety of capacities that would benefit many Long Beach residents.
There are four alternatives being considered in order to improve water and shoreline quality. Each of these options affect stakeholders differently. The major Stakeholders are:
Port of Long Beach, Lifeguards & Marinas, THUMS (Texaco, Humble Oil, Union Oil, Mobile Oil, Shell Oil) oil islands, Port of Long Beach & USCG, Seal Beach, Seal Beach Naval Base and the Peninsula Beach Preservation Group. The options being studied are as follows:
Option 1: Remove the above-water portion of a small section just north of the midpoint which would allow a bit more water movement
Option 2: Remove the Northern 1/3 portion
Option 3: Remove the Southern 2/3 and construct small breakwaters on the Pacific-side of each of the THUMS (oil islands)
Option 4: Leave the Long Beach Breakwater as is and build a Jetty on the South side of the LA River mouth that would direct the polluted water away from the immediate shoreline
Port Operators claim that they need the breakwater for ship navigation and protection. A small portion of Peninsula residents feel that the breakwater protects their homes from flooding and erosion. The outcome of the study will state the estimated effects. One potential option is reclaiming the Breakwater materials and using them to make groins like the ones that exist in Newport Beach to settle beach erosion
The Long Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, resident supporters, and the City of Long Beach continue to work the steps necessary to achieve the goal of the Breakwater Reconfiguration. In 2001, a council member first brought up this issue to no success. At present, we are in Step #3 out of 4 major steps toward the removal. The 1st step was achieved in 2005 when the City approved a $100,000 Reconnaissance Study. The 2nd step was accomplished in 2010 when the City of Long Beach partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a Feasibility Study. Currently, the City is willing to use 2.25 million dollars to conduct the study with the remaining $775,000 to be fronted by the Army of Engineers to complete the 3 million dollar study budget. Now we are in the 3rd step, as we are waiting for the Federal Budget approval. Once approved, the study can begin. If the results of the study favor “Restoring the Shore,” then Step 4 would be to start the restructuring process.
As a Surfer
Clean water, a healthier ecosystem, a more productive city and waves….what more could we want?! Depending on the option selected, south swells could send waves to just South of Shoreline Village all the way to the end of the Peninsula. Local surfers would be stoked! Surfers believe in the Breakwater Reconfiguration and the multitude of positive results that it will bring to our great city.
Author Kelli Marie Koller co-owns Seventh Wave Surf Shop located at 2714 East 4th St. Long Beach, CA. To get involved or for more information about the “Sink the Breakwater” campaign visit the shop or email firstname.lastname@example.org.DZ