Wax On, Wax Off: Trestles Embodies a Summer of Change for Orange County

Lower Trestles
Lower Trestles
by Nolan Hall
Wax On, Wax Off: Trestles Embodies a Summer of Change for Orange County

Likewise, the Hurley Pro, coming up this weekend at Lowers, will expand on the old incarnation of the contest, upping the anti with HD streaming media and a whole new look and style. A week-long invasion of Lower Trestles that Hurley has called "the ultimate high-performance event," the Pro promises great spectating as pros rack up line after line of high-scoring performances. A major concern for locals in the past has been the sudden invasion of traffic, both by car and by foot, that floods Trestles and the surrounding area during the contest. The beach has often been littered with trash, diapers, cigarette butts and food. But although extending coverage, exposure, and advertising to more and more consumers needs no further explanation, Hurley still claims that a major goal of its new webcast is to help protect the ecosystem at Trestles.  "We understand that Trestles is a fragile ecosystem and want to do everything we can to minimize our impact on this world-class wave . . . of course, we have all intentions of leaving the beach cleaner than we found it," said Hurley's Evan Slater.

We also had some non-corporate-related excitement at the infamous break when the biggest and best swell of the year hit our shores in July. Locals, commuters and pros alike made turn after turn on nearly perfect double and (almost) triple overhead sets. There's no feeling in the world like competing with 40 other dudes for makable corners in waist-high wind chop. Or with hundreds of dudes when the surf is half decent or better. Stories abound from the old, old days at Trestles, when surfing the clean-lined point still required avoiding armed forces personnel on a renegade trail down the bluffs. And of course, there's the guarded relationship Trestles has always had with competitive surfing. Allowing a measly three contests per year has certainly, in some ways, kept away the corporate goons and would-be carnival promoters that would cover the beach below the train bridge with tents and logos 100 times that many days of the year if they could.

If there's a particular surf break with a life all its own, a spot that seems to embody and parallel the history of surfing itself in Orange County, it's the crowded peaks peeling beneath the creaky wooden train bridge. Early on, it was secluded and quiet, guarded by the armed forces of Camp Pendelton. It drew crowds, but remained well outside the populated areas of Southern California. Much in the same way, all of surfing in Orange County was small, distant from mainstream society. Eventually, encroaching population growth, construction and environmental destruction became the norm at Trestles, threatening the fragile geography and ecology of one of the most consistently good breaks in the world. Fast forward a few years, and surfers got angry. Enraged locals started a campaign to preserve Trestles for it's environmental, cultural and athletic value. Eventually, the Surfrider Foundation took the reigns of the fast-growing movement, and seemingly overnight Orange County was stuck all over with thousands of bumper stickers. Now, Trestles has been saved. It's still good. It's still packed, even when it's not good. And the most iconic image of the place, the old wooden railroad bridge over the river, has remained--until now.

Wax On, Wax Off: Trestles Embodies a Summer of Change for Orange County

Which brings us to the two biggest changes of all. First, the State has put a stop to free parking. Some of us will hope this might put a dent in the crowd that's more consistent than the surf on most days of the year. Most of us will just be pissed off, and finally give in and buy the annual pass.

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Secondly, and most shockingly, the iconic bridge that gives the place its name has been slated for demolition and reconstruction. A sleek concrete and steel bridge will replace it. Though the new bridge might be built with minimal impact to the environment and zero impact on the waves, the spot's historic look will fade. LA Times reporter Mike Anton has called Trestles "a time machine to an uncrowded, less complicated California that has all but disappeared . . . a birthplace of Southern California's surf culture . . . changed relatively little since 1963, when the Beach Boys immortalized it . . ." But with the demise of the old bridge, at least some portion of that magic will be lost. Bands of surfers all over the county are opposing the bridge project, so attached are they to the place's vintage flavor.

The construction of the new bridge begins this fall, and will be completed by 2011. It will save hundreds of thousands of maintenance dollars and ensure a sturdy, long-lasting structure for trains, but we'll all lose a little piece of our souls, most seem to think. When you come around that corner, you won't look past and between rustic beams to catch a glimpse of the surf. But there will still be a train bridge, and the waves will still lap up against the ancient sand.


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