Where the Surf Meets the Turd

True story: Clockwork ventured into the ocean off PCH and Brookhurst a couple of weekends ago, which was surprising considering Billy Carter was First Brother the last time we'd boogie-boarded. After 40 minutes of inching closer and closer to the breaks to get used to the water temp, we and our erect nipples finally dove in, paddled out and rode a wave in all the way to some lady's towel. Feeling cockier than a high school quarterback at a triple-kegger victory party, we stood up, pulled half of our trunks out of our butt crack, and slithered back into the surf.

As we neared the liquid launching pad for an encore, something gently smooched our right hand. We immediately went stiff and closed our eyes, thinking it was perhaps one of those pesky jellyfish we'd been hearing so much about (from every friggin' kindergartner who kept us company those 40 minutes at the shin-deep level. The big babies). We don't know exactly why we thought going stiff and shutting our eyes would repel a jellyfish sting, but we do know that after a few seconds, there was no pain coursing through our body. So we opened our right eye to see what had kissed us, and there it was, bobbing in the water like a big, brown, human-poop log:


We don't know if the shitsickle came from one of those kids, a refrigerator repairman in Rialto or John-John. It certainly appeared well-traveled (we know of these things; don't ask). Naturally, the thought of continuing to ride the waves alongside Mr. Hanky left us repulsed.

We're not alone. In its yearly report released earlier this month, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that sewage and other spills closed the nation's beaches far more often in 1998 than in the previous year, with Orange County's numbers more than doubling (498 beach closures and advisories in '98 compared with 225 in '97).

The NRDC and Laguna Beach's chapter of the ocean-protecting Surfrider Foundation have been paying particularly close attention to Aliso Creek, which for years has served as a drag strip to an ever-growing stream of crap and toxins that use the ocean off South Laguna's Aliso Beach as their finish line.

Meanwhile, Surfrider's national office in San Clemente and the local chapter in that beach town have been waging a battle royale to save Trestles—one of the most pristine beaches in the county and best surfing spots in the country—from encroaching development and, thus, encroaching shit. Newport's Surfrider works with local schools to develop an awareness-raising water-testing program. Huntington/Long Beach is battling to “sink the breakwater” that keeps waves from churning and naturally cleansing the LBC's shoreline.

Now another player has dipped a toe into the water. Orange County CoastKeeper held a splashy coming-out party in Newport Beach on July 22. Its mission? “To become the most influential advocate for preservation and protection of the county's coastline and watersheds.”

Gee, that sounds damn near identical to, uh, just about everyone else we've mentioned.

CoastKeeper is convinced ocean and waterway pollution is much worse than we've been led to believe. Sediments the organization tested from Newport's Rhine Channel—which the state's Water Quality Control Board identified as Orange County's leading toxic hot spot in a report last month—contained arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, PCB, DDE and TBT. “Yet public officials and private developers are proceeding with development of a condominium project here that would include docks for swimming and boating right on top of these toxic substances,” said CoastKeeper spokesman Garry Brown in a press statement. He also pointed to NRDC's beach-closure report as a cause for alarm, noting that there have already been four beach closures in OC since the July 4 holiday weekend.

CoastKeeper may be new to OC, but chapters have successfully fought to clean water from New York's Hudson River to the San Diego, Santa Monica and San Francisco bays.

Come on in, guys; the water's not fine.

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