The Surf’s not up at Long Beach, California… Yet!

Jun 21, 2010 by Sean Belk

As typical beach cities go, Long Beach can be compared to more of a wading pool, only incredibly dirtier. How much dirtier? Well, imagine taking a bath in water runoff from about a dozen major industrial metropolitan cities. OK, so it’s not that bad, but pretty close.

Well, that’s it for put-downs about my hometown because I really love living here. You’ve got the sunshine, a great community of historical residences, things to do and, well, I don’t know if bringing back waves would make a difference, except for maybe living up to its name—Long Beach’s beach used to be nine miles long.

All in all, the reason why there are no waves all stems back to the city once being home to a naval base back in the 1930s. A long band of rocks called a breakwater was built on the outside of the harbor during World War II as part of the base, and also to protect the marina from flooding with heavy swells after a storm took out several homes. Today the fleet is gone, but the breakwater still remains and still owned by the Federal Army Corps of Engineers.

The only problem is that today the rocky belt acts not only as a barrier to create calm waters for sailboats and cargo ships that come into the port, but also as a net, catching all of the junk that flows down the Los Angeles River, making the water a bit unpleasant to even swim in let alone surf in. The breakwater also prevents any sets from entering the Long Beach cove, except during storms like El Nino.

Here is a video I picked up in January showing a few breaks that made their way in during a swell we had earlier this year:

As of late, there’s been some talk about the city and the Army Corps–which historically has sidestepped any notion of altering the breakwater as it now stands–conducting a full study on reducing parts of the wall to allow for a more natural outflow of water that acts as Mother Nature’s own cleansing process.

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to present results from their own reconnaissance study during the Long Beach city council meeting next Tuesday. The council will then vote on coming up with a feasibility study of reconfiguring the breakwater.

This would also potentially allow for waves to break again, along with the erosion concerns that residents in the Naples peninsula fear would threaten to flood their homes. So there are always two sides to any story, or should I say, breakwall.

To get the skinny on Long Beach’s surfing history and present day conundrum, the Long Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation had a film festival, last Saturday, entitled “Sink The Breakwater Film Contest” at the Art Theatre on 4th Street.

Here’s a link to the Surfrider’s breakwater blog.

In the meantime, on the other side of the country on the East Coast in Long Beach, New York, surf is apparently up, according to this story in the New York post. So here we have a city in sunny Southern California where waves are nil, but in a city where you wouldn’t expect there to be breaks, it’s smashing. Go figure…………………

Nonetheless, there’s one thing you can bet on, wherever there’s a beach and waves, you’ll have no shortage of surf and ocean aficionados nearby.

In California, as part of the surf world’s evolution, innovation, celebration, and culture, we can dig it.

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Beaches, Long Beach, Recreation, South Bay
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