Trestles isn't very far away anymore. The freeway drastically reduced travel time for the most far-flung surfers. For others, urban sprawl nearly eliminated the commute altogether; they live right next door in San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano, which have been transformed from quaint beach towns into bustling cities. And now a controversial 60-unit Marine Corps housing project has been carved into the once-pristine hills just above San Onofre State Beach, removing one more reason to bother with the trek to Trestles at all.
"They did it—the housing is in, and it's horrible," says Hetzel, who attended California Coastal Commission hearings in support of the Surfrider Foundation's fight against this project. "In the hearings, the Marines kept downplaying the impact of these homes, but it's a full-on giant suburbia with Mission Viejo-style houses—all cookie-cutter, pastel-stucco units with cul-de-sacs—nothing tasteful or nice. And there's a Phase II still to come."
There are also plans for a new toll road—the Foothill Transportation Corridor-South—that will conclude its run from Oso Parkway through one of Orange County's few remaining swaths of open space by bisecting and covering a large portion of San Onofre State Beach Park before hooking up with Interstate 5.
Hetzel and Pezman are part of the battle against the toll road, too, supporting the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club and a bill that Senator Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) has put before the California legislature to restrict the uses of state park lands. Surfrider is still pursuing an appeal of its suit against the Marine Corps housing. Perhaps most significantly, state biologists just discovered several southern steelhead trout—an endangered species with a surviving population of only 500—in San Mateo Creek, which has prompted much outrage on the part of the Sierra Club. The finding may require the National Marine Fisheries Service to designate the creek a critical habitat. That could put a stop to groundwater pumping at Camp Pendleton, as well as the proposed toll road.
But the old surfers will continue riding Trestles' still-incomparable waves this summer, just as they have for more than 40 years. Lots of new surfers will be there, too. Lots and lots.
"The waves are as wonderful as ever, but it's crowded and competitive out there now, and it's sad that most of the surfers can't conceive of a time when a busy day at Trestles was 10 or 20 people," says Pezman. "And the ones who start surfing now, after the homes have been built, will never know any different than that, either. That's real sad.
"But really, it hasn't been the same for nearly 30 years, since surfing at Trestles was trespassing on the Marine Corps' land. That kept the crowds down, kept the beach pristine."
Surfers' makeshift undercover assault on the beach was long ago replaced by graded trails of asphalt that wind amid the native botanical gristle. "But the walk in to Trestles still isn't completely spoiled," Hetzel allows. "I've seen deer in there. And beaver. And lots of native birds. You wonder, though, with people living nearby, if their dogs and cats are going to get down in there and run everything off. Trestles is just so close now. The buffer between that place and the rest of the world is almost gone." (Dave Wielenga)