The Beach


Author: Chapman

Santa Rosa Island-Geology and Culture

I visited Santa Rosa Island for the first time as a student as CSU Channel Islands in mid-September. During this trip, four other students and I hiked the six miles to Skunk Point, where we found soft, white beaches juxtaposed against rocky, inter-tidal areas. For the purposes of better understanding the land’s history, we discussed how the coastline provided abundant resources for the Chumash in the forms of food, resting areas, and recreation. Although erosion and other impacts changed the land since the times the Chumash utilized the resources, we could still appreciate the abundance available.

SRI Tidal Pools-Image: CSUCI Student

The pools were located inland of the beach, and the beachfront was naturally armored with rocky tidal zones. These tidal zones supported the two tidal pools by providing a buffer zone from incoming waves. At the mouth of the pool were stalks of seaweed, which functioned as another buffer area from incoming water. Waves did not poor into these pools; instead the wave energy moved through them and the water level rose and fell as if they were breathing.

We inspected these tidal pools closely for signs of life. Sea anemone, muscles, and green algae bordered the rocky sides of the tide pools, while seaweed and seagrass covered the floors. Crabs clamored in and out of the dips and cracks in the rocks, disrupted by some other crabs or by the rising water. We discussed how the geology of these tidal pools may support easier fishing-access. Although no fish were present, strategically it would be easier to catch in these tidal pools than in open waters. The rocky sides of the pool protected the water within from crashing waves. Typically the waves disrupt the sediment and vision of the ocean floor , however within the pools the water eased and flowed smoothly. The pools remained clear and suffered little disruption from the incoming water, which maintains vision of the bottom and sides of the tidal pools. As someone fishing or gathering materials such as the seaweed, this would be advantageous as the waves do not cause as much visual disruptions and thus more time to observe the surroundings and more time to act.

SRI Tidal Pools-Image: CSUCI Student

The depths also may have supported recreational swimming. These pools seemed to be about seven or eight feet deep, which were much deeper than the other smaller pools we saw. Although chilly winds typically harness the island, we discussed how the pools created a calmer place to swim than the ocean and thus would be a great place to enjoy on the few warm and sunny days.  We imagined after a long day of fishing, gathering, and hiking the pools, created by a mixture of geological and biological forces, would be an amazing place to relax and enjoy the day.

Broad Beach Trip

On September 11th I visited Broad Beach with some fellow Environmental Science students and our professor. As we gathered to learn the day’s lessons, I observed the beach–or lack thereof. We gathered originally on Zuma beach and here we saw expanses of typical California sandy beach; a good stretch of warm, dry sand and clear skies above being greeted by the cool Pacific Ocean. The beach was heavily populated with beach-goers utilizing the beach for recreational and relaxing reasons. Not far up the beach, coastal armoring had been added to protect the multi-million dollar homes from coastal erosion. Riprap, or the large boulders and cobbles strategically guarding infrastructure, is only one form of coastal armoring, however the impacts are visually jarring. Within half a mile the sandy beach had given way to ocean waves bombarding the wall of rocks. Our tour ended at the southernmost tip of Broad Beach, as there was no dry beach to walk along.

These conditions were surprising to me. I have previously come across coastal armoring before, in fact one of my family’s most beloved campsites is Rincon, which is only supported due to the riprap lining the shores; however through my new understanding of the fragility of beach ecosystems and the issues surrounding public beach access my views have changed. I have countless memories of clamoring on the boulders and sunbathing on their flat surfaces, however these nostalgic times do not represent the needs to reevaluate  our coastal management.


In the case of Broad Beach, coastal armoring is not the only anthropogenic impact challenging the ecosystem, however I would argue it is the most apparent.

Utilizing riprap to protect private property reduces the ability for public beach-goers to access what is rightfully theirs. Setting a hard, static structure in a dynamic ecosystem threatens the overall stability and utility of the system; this is exemplified by the limited sandy beach available to the public on Broad Beach. To access the beach from the street you can utilize the designated public access paths, typically signified by “inviting” chain-linked fences and gates that may not function appropriately. To access the beach from a lateral standpoint you risk twisting an ankle or tripping on the slimy rocks that effectively create a social line between private and public. To me this is not beach access; in fact there is very little beach to access due to protective rocky armoring.

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