The Beach


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Ormond Beach

On my way home from the harbor, I stopped at Ormond Beach, but took a slightly different route than most. I always hear about this Superfund Site and I am able to see it from the road, but never went to investigate it. Right before these gorgeous dunes, there was the Superfund site, along with a paper plant waste water treatment plant. The closet to the beach was definitely the Superfund site. Looking around the lot and where I parked, it was obvious why many people did not come here. It was littered with trashed and off in the distance you could see homeless camps. If you listened, you could hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach and the occasional yells of the homeless people. While I was observing and taking the in scene, a tourist couple pulled up.  I was surprised to see anyone else here. So I picked up some friendly conversation. They were looking for some good bird watching spots. I directed them to the beach near Ventura Harbor and McGrath. The man further inquired about Ormond beach, and I informed him further down was a much safer entry. He insisted this was the one he wanted though. Looking around at the dunes, I started to feel an overwhelming sense of anger. He was right this would be an amazing bird watching spot. With the trash and superfund site, this place stands a chance to be a wonderful Southern California sandy beach preserve. The dunes in the distance appear very natural for the most part. Many of plants looked like they were noninvasive. There was even a sign informing about the various sea birds in the area. If the city spent some money to clean up this area it could be educational place. However, the key word is money. Money does not just grow on trees, it has to come from someone’s pockets. As someone who pays tax dollars in Ventura county, I would really like to see more effort be put forth to clean up this beach. I would love to see it become a beach where I can take my nephew to show him how natural sandy beaches look.


“So, is it safe to swim or are we gonna grow a second arm?” This was one of the many questions I was asked this summer as I worked with Heal the Bay testing water quality in Malibu. Before working with Heal the Bay, I never knew how to even pronounce Enterococcus (at least outside of my own head).

I remember the first time someone asked me what we were doing all I could manage to blurt out was “We’re taking some bacteria.” Then we both sort of looked at each other truly wondering what I was talking about because frankly, I didn’t really know either.

So that day, I sat down with the Director of the Science and Policy Department, and asked every question I could think of. As she explained to me the science of what we were working on, it began to change the way I thought about our California waterways. I learned more about the various types of bacteria that could be in the water and I began to understand what an important impact humanity had on California waters.

My favorite part of my experience this summer was educating the curious onlookers who didn’t know much about what was in the water they were swimming in and how to take care of the outdoor resources they loved. I had the opportunity to explain to them about the bacteria we tested for like E. coli and Enterococcus which are bacteria fount in feces and when high levels of these bacteria are present, it can indicate unclean water. I also told them about different resources that could help keep them informed about their environment. Heal the Bay has a web site called the beach report card that lets locals trach the quality of their favorite beaches. The beach report card is a way to let the public know about the conditions of local beaches and what hazards might be in the waters. There are hazards like sewage and oil spills that can become hazardous to health. Samples are taken regularly of the water so that the condition can be monitored efficiently.

I didn’t expect that I would be able to inspire awareness about how important our environment and water ways are by engaging them at places they visit every single day. It seemed that everyone I met was just as excited about becoming involved in protecting what they loved.

The web site I mentioned is https://beachreportcard.orgit’s a really cool resource to use when you are deciding which beach to visit the next time you go out


Ventura Harbor

This past weekend I found myself walking through Ventura Harbor. This harbor is a great place to explore and has many places to walk. It is very relaxing and has much to see including sealions and many other animals. The there is a different atmosphere in harbors compared to beaches because of what they are used for. Since harbors are ment to house boats and are generally changed much more drastically, they create a different feeling. Ventura Harbor creates a culture much different than beaches and even harbors in the area.

Since much of this harbor (in the part I was walking) is just houses and not businesses of any kind it feels very friendly. There are many families out walking with their children and dogs. A small man made beach was located near the house where I was staying with children playing, a small park, tennis courts, and a place for people to gather and grill some food. Although marina park is nearby especially in the pictures above, it is still a decent walk to get over there and we did not venture that way. The picture on the left shows the Jetty that is at Marina Park Beach and how it shapes the beach. This walk was a great way to see the harbor while getting to know people who live in the area!

I used the pictures taken above because of the peacfullness they brought. Both pictures show how calm it can be there. I found that this peacful state showed how the culture is in this area. When at the small beach in the harbor with people grilling and swimming no one seemed to be stressed about anything that was happening outside of this area. It was calm even when large boats drove by making waves and noise. I felt that even though I do not go there often, I was included in what was happening.

Being someone not from the neighborhood  I was not sure if I would feel included in the activities. That was soon forgotten in this inviting peacful group of people. They welcomed me with open arms and cold drinks! I feel Ventura Harbor has a very inviting and laid back culture. When you go visit this area you truely get the california culture all around.

Ensenada Economy – All Saints Bay

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came.” — John F. Kennedy

The ocean is a source of substances and profit, it’s a means to travel and explore a world amongst our own. I am originally from Ensenada, Mexico, in the state of Baja California. All Saints Bay in Ensenada is full of several sources of economic gains. Two times a week large cruise ships dock at the harbor and the streets of downtown Ensenada are filled with eager tourist wanting an authentic Baja California experience.


Downtown and the harbor are littered with various competing business all claiming that their product is the best. Baja, and Ensenada in particular, is characterized by a culture that is deeply rooted to the sea. Fresh mariscos cheep beer, day or weekend charted fishing trips and wild coastal waves are some of the features that make this place a world renowned destination for travel. Tourism, seafood, and imports exports are some of the major drivers of this regions economy. Ensenada is define by these coastal amenities and has grown into a culture of that can only exists because of its close proximity to the ocean. 

Being a native to Ensenada, my roots are similarly tied to the ocean. My family has always owned seafood restaurants, originally amongst this coastal community in Ensenada and then later in California. One of my uncles works at the harbor and deals with the export of fish and other seafoods, and another uncle owns a floating bait shop which supplies the many boasts that use this region for sport fishing. 

These are some of the variety of viable business that all heavily rely on coastal resources, All Saints Bay is one of many coastal regions where the cities build around them and the inhabitants of these cities, depend on the ocean, for substances and for economic stability. The business and economic profits gained by these coastal resources not only sustain Ensenada’s economy, but also help define a culture that promote further economic gains.

Waking up earlier one morning to help my cousins open up shop I got to see the bay wake up and come to life. Floating giants are loaded and unloaded with large crates filled with various products and produce. The fish markets are filled with the days catch and the small local restaurants owners line the narrow alleyways to get fist picks for the days Baja  fish tacos or seafood ceviche. The bay is completely defined by the economic benefit of its location on the coast.

Table Rock Beach

Table Rock Beach

By Matt Mahoney


For my final blog post, I wanted to continue along the same lines of my previous posts, in examining a beach that is lesser known, and one that invokes emotions that would not otherwise be brought out when visiting the more popular and well-known beaches of Southern California. With that same idea in mind, I chose to examine the small beach known as Table Rock Beach, located in Laguna Beach, CA.
Table Rock beach is a beach that is really not well-known, and but extremely popular with locals. I was first made aware of this beach back in high school, as it is very popular among skim boarders, as it produces near perfect waves for the water sport that was becoming increasingly popular during that time. The entrance to Table Rock beach is very difficult to come across unless you are from the area, or have been shown by someone who is familiar with the beach. I myself have found that these types of beaches allow beachgoers to get away from the crowds of your typical Southern California beaches, and be able to truly be at one with mother nature and the ocean. While the first visit I made to Table Rock was to skim board with some friends that live in the area, each visit I have made since has been solely to get away from the hustle and bustle of Southern California life, which seemingly transcends itself onto nearly every beach you seemingly come across. Table Rock has offered me the opportunity on numerous occasions to examine myself and the emotions that I am going through, and be able to be at one with the ocean and help me try and find the right path to take, when that path otherwise may not have been clear.
Table Rock Beach is also unique in the fact that it is basically a tiny cove, and when the tide is low enough, it offers up an opportunity to walk through a small rock arch to be able to access other lesser known and less accessible beaches such as Totuava Beach and Thousand Steps Beach. I personally have yet to try and access either of these beaches, but hear that they offer the same opportunity of a quaint and tranquil experience. In the few times that I have been to Table Rock Beach, I have only encountered a small number of beachgoers, which makes it the perfect beach for someone seeking to find themselves, or deal with a difficult situation, or just get away from it all, in a region where there is little left undeveloped. While a small number of homes do top the cliffs above Table Rock Beach, they are in essence a barrier from the rest of the community, leaving Table Rock typically out of sight to the public eye. In fact, if you were not aware of its existence as a county beach, you may even think that it was a private beach for the few homeowners who live above. So, if anyone is ever looking for a place to examine their emotions, or get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday Southern California life, or even just go read or write a book, there are few beaches that can top Table Rock Beach, at least none that I have been to.

Cleaning Up Point Mugu!

For my beach cleanup I wanted to go to a beach that is less traveled than beaches like Zuma or Venice. I was curious to see what level of trash would be found on a quieter beach. I chose to go to Point Mugu beach as it is a lesser traveled beach, and it is a beach I have visited and enjoyed in the past. I went early in the morning and took my girlfriend to help us get more trash. I wanted to go to a less traveled beach to try and find trash that had washed up on the beach as opposed to been left by people relaxing on the sand. I think the majority of trash we found at Point Mugu did indeed wash up on the banks. I found a TON of little pieces of Styrofoam. The way this foam can break up into small pieces but not decay in anyway is part of what makes this substance so lethal. I can absolutely see how animals wold mistakenly eat these varying sized foam bits and have serious health problems. I wondered how old some of these foam pieces were as I know they can lest a very very long time.

Along with hundreds of tiny foam bits (I am sure we made an impact, but in no way did we find all of the foam bits on this beach) we also found lots of plastic items. Plastic is another sturdy substance that does not break down easily over time. It was sad to see the foam and plastic and it reminded me just how much of these materials the world uses. We found several pieces of rope on the beach. I had never considered how much rope could be circulating in the ocean, but with strong plastic based fibers, rope would not decompose easily! It was interesting to see that almost no trash was found on the beach that CAN biodegrade well. We saw almost no paper, no cardboard, and food products on the beach. I was also happy to see that there weren’t any drug use items like needles or cords.

Overall I enjoyed my early morning time out at the beach cleaning it up for future visitors, beach animals, and  sea animals that would be subject to this trash when the waves drew it back.


Kyle Cunliffe

Gonzaga Bay

Back in mid-October, my brother and I ran down to Baja to a magical place on the Sea of Cortez called Gonzaga bay. We embarked on this trip to meet up with about 40 of our family and friends for a blow out party for my uncle, “The Don’s”  60th birthday. Gonzaga Bay is a decent sized bay about a third of the way down the peninsulas coast, in an area most would recognize as decollate. Its a spot my father and his friends have been trekking down to since they were little shit turners back in the early 80’s with the pioneer Pete. Pete on the other hand has been going down to G-Bay since he could walk, early 60’s, and if you know anything about how Baja was nearly 60 years ago, you’d know making that journey was no easy task.

For whatever reason, a few Americans heard about this isolated bay and it struck interest. By the 70’s there was a small string of beach houses, 7 or 8, leased by Americans from the land owner. At this point in time, there was nothing around except for San Felipe 100 miles north and Loreto 120 miles south. Also, the MEXI 5 highway was still completely dirt, with washouts and detours. So, to put it simply, getting down to this gorgeous place was no easy feat. However, this small group of gringos made their mark down there and gave it a name. Now, there is around 25 houses on the beach, all small and rustic, built by adventures and car guys. A small airstrip runs behind all of them on the salt flats in the back bay. They community is tight and communal, with Baja super stars living there such as Malcom Smith, an old racing legend, one of the first to finish and win the Baja 1000.

Gonzaga Bay, aside from being a place people find safe haven at, is a world renowned spot to fish. The biodiversity and calm waters make it a fisherman’s paradise. With all sorts of fishing styles and sizes to play around with, a fisher can hope to see anything from a ugly grooper, to a sizable seabass, even spot some yellowtail. When I was down there, we pretty much ate what we caught, spending the day exploring the knooks and crannies, diving in and spearing around the reefs and rocks. This sea also is a maturing habitat for whale sharks. Their bones can be found sticking out of the sand more then one would think would be possible. The warm water is ideal for them in the early winter.

As a person who has spent a lot of time traveling to different beach communities, Gonzaga is one of the most appealing to me, and it doesn’t even have surf! The reason for this is because it feels like its stuck in pioneer days, like we should still be on horse and wagon, separated from the outside world. The consumerism and trash, and rustle n bustle of the outside world hasn’t hit it yet, and I don’t think it will anytime soon.

McGrath State Beach

My most recent trip to the beach was McGrath State Beach which isn’t far away from my home at all.  This coastal space is much more commonly used for camping rather than just visiting the beach itself. I was looking at the beach through the lens of ecosystemic values and motives. This beach/camping ground is one of the best bird watching locations in California, yet this location has also been subject to flooding in the past which has had some unfortunate affects on the animals and ecosystems that have become comfortable with the campsites and larger amounts of human activity. Earlier in the year the beach campsite was closed because of flooding caused by the Santa Clara  River Estuary. This flooding was caused when the waters backs up behind the naturally occurring sand bar blocking the mouth of the estuary until the estuary breaches with regular rainfall. This had happened back in January of this year, but now the area has recovered from this although not all the campsites were open on account of areas that were still exposed to flooding.

I was just thinking about the ecosystems that were unfortunately impacted by this event, apparently with the amount of flooding some of the birds which are commonly able to be seen at McGrath State Beach were not seen this season because some of their habitats were impacted this last January. Apparently there are nine ecosystems which have been present in McGrath State Beach; Estuary (20%), riparian (15%), upland (10%), fresh-water marsh (10%), saltwater marsh (5%), coastal dune (15%), sandy beach (20%), and freshwater lake (5%). Also Grunion spawn along the beach during the spring and the summer, but since I went within the last week I was unable to see any Grunion.

I think that sites like this are important for the human population, because it gives the option of an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but we just simply need to make sure that our recreation activities are not impacting too many ecosystems in negative ways. Although this campsite/beach was flooded because of a lack of winter rains not being able to break through the sandbar and drain all the water into the ocean. Humans still need to understand that not only our everyday, smaller actions such as littering or improperly disposing of waste, but also the much larger actions such as our use of fossil fuels and as a result of that climate change that can make it so that less rain can occur in regions that relied on that seasonal rain can negatively affect a multitude of environments.



Bechers Bay

My recent visit to Santa Rosa Island was my first visit focused around my capstone project. The project I am doing with my team is centered around the ocean and marine habitats. The schools new remotely operated vehicles (ROV) are essentially drones for the ocean and will be the main tools used. I will be conducting transects and surveys of different marine habitats. I will then begin creating baseline data that can be used for future students. I will also be comparing the effectiveness of these ROVs to data sourced from researches that used different equipment or techniques in the same area. I hope to source transects done by research divers or even more expensive ROV studies.

Most of the research we will do with the new ROVs will be within 200 meters of the beach. I would still consider this to be part of the beach. We collected several videos of the benthic environment below the pier. Most of our runs were testing the ROVs capabilities for future use.

Bringing my perspective of researching and curating a project on Santa Rosa Island is a unique and special opportunity. Typically, when students from California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) visit the research station the reason and subject of their visit is led by the professor of the class.


I like to wake up before the sunrise and make coffee and then head to the beach. Sunrise with relatively low light pollution is something that should be appreciated as often as possible. Sunrises in absent of urban areas and humans in general is something I look forward too. It shifts one’s perspective on the use of the land when no one is there. Creatures of all types do not abide by the same sleep schedules as we do. Pelicans, seals, sea gulls and crows are all out before the sun is even peeking over the horizon. New kelp racks have appeared on the shores that previously were part of the kelp forest.

Once the sun is up it is my signal to get to work on my projects for the day on the island. The ROVs worked great and this project should have awesome results that will hopefully be continued long after I am gone. One thing to note is the need for a higher speed camera of better quality. I will be installing a gopro to run 4k higher frame rate videos, so I can compare the two. Excuse the somewhat blurry pictures. These are freeze frames extracted using photoshop premier.


Formentera, Spain


Since the semester has taken off and a trip to the beach is no longer an option with only five weeks left for the semester to be over, I thought I could focus my third blog post by reminiscing on happier times. This past academic school year I had the privilege of studying abroad in Madrid, Spain and in my time abroad I traveled to various countries but the location that sticks in my head is Formentera, a beautiful island off the coast of Ibiza, Spain. Formentera is one of the four Balearic Islands located east of the Spanish mainland. I was lucky enough to visit three of the four which include; Ibiza, Formentera, Palma Mallorca and the one I was unable to go to Menorca. The only way to get to the island is by taking a boat and very nauseating trip from the coast of Ibiza to Formentera. Thankfully Formentera is only populated with a little over 10,000 people. The island contains many beaches that are very much untouched with clear blue waters and white sand beaches. Many of these beaches are open to the public, in addition they are paths alongside the road where people can ride bikes and Vespas to get around.

My friend and I decided to rent a bike for the day (the rental of the bike is also extremely cheap 8$ for the whole day). Through this method of transportation we circled the island and visited various beaches but the one that stood out the most was this one with the clearest water and the sand that looked almost to be untouched. Although there was some coloration in the rocks there was no algae in the shore. The landscape was a combination of rocks that have been formed and shaped by the water as well as a white sandy beach. The ocean that surrounds the island is the Mediterranean Sea and with the warm water and weather it is easy to enjoy a day at the beach. Since we went in the beginning of April the islands where off season which means the level of tourism was a lot less than in the summer. I did view the beach with touristic lens enjoying the view and calm waters, through the bike ride we got very sunburned and got very sore after a day of biking through an island and then trying to catch our flight back to Madrid.

If anyone ever finds themselves in Spain and would like a time away from the city I strongly recommend visiting the Balearic Islands. They are not only an inexpensive and easy travel but a beautiful view and change in scenery from our California sandy beach.

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