Man On the Beach
Photo by Gabe SullivanWe went to Huntington Beach on Sept. 9 and asked three groups of people whose lives revolve around the ocean—surfers, beachfront vendors and lifeguards—how water pollution affects them.
> Chris Kubicek, 27, surfer/drummer for Thee Spivies/substitute teacher
"I surfed Huntington Cliffs last week, and I was sick for a whole week after that. But I'm not too worried about surfing polluted water. You can go anywhere in the world and find surf spots with even harsher pollution problems, and people are still surfing. I'm not worried about surfing as a health hazard. Honestly, I think last week was the first time I got sick from the water."
> Rhett Billen, 14, surfer/student
"I don't understand where [the pollution] is coming from. All of a sudden, it's polluted beyond belief, and we can't go in the water. It bums me out because it has been closed for a week. It's open again now, but I'm kinda worried about getting sick. I just try not to swallow too much water while I'm out there."
> Jeff Kokkinos, 35, surfer/auto sales manager
"I think it's all politically motivated, about chasing tourist dollars. The beaches are closed for three weeks, and then all of a sudden after a City Council meeting, the beaches are open for the Labor Day weekend? This town is based on tourism, and the beach itself is the most important resource around here, and it's in jeopardy. But instead of honestly addressing the problem, they seem more concerned with how much money they are losing. How about fixing the pollution problem first and then the other problems will fix themselves? If you've got dirty water, it doesn't matter if you build Disney World on the beach; people still aren't going to come because the water is polluted. They can go to some other quaint little part of Newport Beach or Seal Beach where the water is clean. They might not have the super entertainment that Main Street has to offer, but I'll tell you what: they'll be swimming in clean water."
> Jack Clapp, 69, owner of Dwight's beachfront concession stand/rental/gift shop
"Business is dead down here. When you're talking about sewage, it tends to turn people off. Who wants to get infected by bacteria from hanging out at the beach? I don't know what went on in the meetings with the health department and the mayor and Assemblyman Scott Baugh, but I'm sure there was pressure put on the health department to open the beaches back up."
> Mike Allen, 24, Jack's surf shop manager
"Business has been down 20 percent to 30 percent. The owners are bummed-out because the beach closures happened during the back-to-school season, which is one of our busiest times of the year for clothing. We haven't been selling as many surfboards or wet suits, either. A few employees have been getting sick. One girl went surfing before work and ended up throwing up in the bathroom later that day."
> Brent Futagaki, 23, Jack's Garage
snowboard/skateboard shop manager
"The fact that the beach closures are still front-page news is killing our business. Inland kids hear about it and aren't willing to make the one-hour drive to the beach. A surf-photographer friend of mine named Steve Shea told me a lot of the pro surfers he shoots are refusing to go in the water anywhere around Huntington Beach. It seemed really bogus to me that the beach was closed for a while and then suddenly open again for Labor Day weekend. I wouldn't be surprised if they closed it again after this week. [Editor's note: they did.] In that aspect, if the water is contaminated and they know about it and are letting us go out because of economic reasons, that's lame. I went surfing last week at Golden West for two hours and ended up getting sick the next day. The doctor said it was a sinus infection from the water. I haven't surfed since. I'm going down to San Diego today, so I'll probably catch some waves down there."
> Eric McCoy, 19, Huntington Beach lifeguard
"We're not supposed to answer questions about ocean pollution. I've got a direct order from Lieutenant Kyle Lindo to refer all media questions to the operations supervisor. But obviously, the pollution sucks because we lose work and people don't get to surf. Plus, if we have to go out there and rescue someone, we have to sit here all day with bacteria on us. If someone needs help in the water, it's our job to get them out no matter what."
> Kyle Lindo, 38, Huntington Beach marine-safety lieutenant
"I'm an office guy now, so the only way it affects me is I have to field a barrage of questions from the media."
> Steve Seim, Huntington Beach marine-safety captain
"I've been worried about the safety of our lifeguards. Even if the beach is closed, there's always the risk of beach visitors ignoring the posted signs, going in the water and then getting in a situation where they need to be rescued. Those people are putting themselves and the lifeguard in danger. But so far, we've had great cooperation from the public. Luckily, the surf has been crummy; if the surf were really good, it might have been a different story."
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