Wed. Dec. 29th, 2009
One sunny summer day in the early
1970's the Newport Beach Lifeguard Department rolled up to the
bayfront beach where we lived and ordered everyone on the beach
to evacuate. Word was a toxic cloud of gas was possibly heading
towards Newport. The beach was pretty full that day and people
were pretty freaked to say the least!
My parents did what they always seemed
to do, immediately help out. They opened up our home and started
inviting families into the house to ride out the disaster. And
once our house was filled with families, my dad shut all the
windows, wetted towels, and lined the bottom of our outside
doors. And we waited, for what we didn't know.
Now my dad was big time into gambling
back then. He regularly had card games that would start mid
day at a large round table he and his buddies placed on the
sand out front, and they'd go late into the evening at the kitchen
table. So when all the families were settled in the house that
day, it was only natural for my dad to break out the cards and
gambling chips, and go to work.
For hours us kids ran wildly around
the house, while the moms chatted in the living room, and the
dad's gambled their family's beach vacation money away at the
kitchen table. And late in the afternoon, when it was obvious
that the toxic gas cloud was not to be, and the radio noted
it was all clear, we bid our good-byes to the families... My
mom exchanged phone numbers with the other ladies, I said good-bye
to my new friends, and my dad smiled wide, and counted his large
pile of money.
For some reason, late yesterday morning
thick billows of black smoke poured out of the Edison plant.
And while the local news didn't report anything wrong at the
plant... Breathing that soot can't be good for you....
Parking in Newport is ridiculous. When
younger I used to buy these really junky cars for a couple hundred
dollars and park them any and everywhere in Newport that I needed
to. In the red, during street sweeping days, at expired meters.
I racked up a crazy amount of parking tickets. And when I turned
18, I went to the courthouse, threw myself at the mercy of the
judge, and was sentenced to cleaning the Harbor Municipal Court
And with my record cleaned, I started
fresh... racking up more parking tickets around town again.
In fact every time I got about 25 tickets, the city would come
and tow my car away, and sell it at auction. No problem though,
I'd just buy another junker.
Well now days the city is more calculated,
and there's no way you can play those games. Currently in Newport
there is an Annual Parking Pass that allows you to park at only
blue meters. And a Master Parking Pass, that allows you to park
at any blue or silver meter, plus any of the city lots. The
Master Pass though, at a cost of $625.00 a year, should allow
you to park in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk,
and should come with a valet that parks your car.
Below are the new parking pass fees for
The Annual Permit fees are
as follows. If purchased during:
January 1 through March 31: $100
July 1 through September 30: $ 50
April 1 through June 30: $ 75
October 1 through December 31: $ 25
The Master Permit fees
are prorated as follows. If purchased during:
January 1 through March 31: $625
July 1 through September 30: $313
April 1 through June 30: $469
October 1 through December 31: $156
These guys get hungry... in
The Oldest Bar in Newport
Sid's Blue Beet
In the mid 60's my dad and Sid Soffer, of Sid's Blue Beet,
hung out together. And when Sid needed money to buy a liquor
license for his new bar on 21st St., my dad loaned it to him.
Over the next decade my dad would ride his bike up to the Blue
Beet around the first of every month to collect his payment
on the loan. And sometimes I'd head up there with him to check
Now my dad would call ahead to say he was coming so Sid would
have the money he owed ready, but when my dad walked into the
Blue Beet... Sid was never available. No problem, my dad would
post up at the bar, and start ordering drinks, and if Sid didn't
show soon, then he'd order lunch, and then desert, and then
more drinks, My dad would sit there all day if he had to, ordering
free food and drinks until Sid ran to the bank, or wherever,
and got him his money.
My mom has some crazy stories about Sid from back in the day.
But to sum him up, he was a strong willed individual that didn't
take crap from anyone, including those that ran the city.
A minor code violation, and a look at a short stint in jail
drove Sid out of town long ago, never to return. Sadly he died
of cancer in Las Vegas in February of last year.
Click the photo below for more history on "Sid's Blue
Beet", the oldest bar in town...
Boosting blocks from the Blue
If you have a story that
contains a little Newport history. Feel free to send it over
for the Hotshot.
Andy, River... & the
Back in the day, as "Echo Beach"
mania was starting to wane, River Jetties came more into focus.
A lot of the Schroff, Wavetools, Line-Up and Newport Surf &
Sport teams, as well as talented neighborhood surfers Dan Taylor,
Scott Rabb, Terry Stewart, and a large crew of really good CDM
surfers called the break home. One of those talented CDM surfers
was Andy Jeffs...a polite grom who I frequently took to Trestles,
where he ripped apart the long walls.
Andy's sister back then had a cheap
used car for sale. An ugly rust colored 2 door Opel on it's
last leg, and I struck a deal for it's purchase. An hour before
I was to pick the car up however, a trash truck backed into
it, and turned the ugly little Opel, into an ugly wreak, but
it still ran... So for the fire-sale price of a couple hundred
dollars, it was mine.
Now because the little Opel was such
an extremely ugly car, I decided to spice it up a bit. We got
some masking tape and black paint, and sprayed a huge Porsche
emblem on the hood, and painted "Porsche Test Vehicle"
on the sides... and the little Opel was ready to roll.
"Back in the Day" there was
no turn around at River, no parking lots, no grassy knolls,
or playgrounds, or bathrooms... and the premium parking spaces
were in the hard beach sand on the side streets, that are now
paved and metered. And because the little Opel was so, little,
it easily squeezed into one of those prime spots, and so was
always parked there. It wasn't long before the little Opel started
being used as a surf look out tower... friends would jump up
on the hood so they could see far out to the waves. It really
didn't matter though, the hood was already caved in... but when
someone (Junior) started always checking the surf from the top
of the roof. Well the little Opel couldn't take it, and the
top caved in.
Mid summer, I ended up winning a couple
bags of goldfish at the O.C. Fair. And the next morning, with
the bags of fish still in the car, someone came up with the
idea that we make a pond up on the roof of the little Opel for
the fish to swim in. The headliner was removed, the crushed
roof was deepened, fresh water was added, and presto, there
was a fish pond on top of the little Opel. The fish actually
seemed to enjoy their new tank... until I got home. It didn't
dawn on me that the sun would soon heat the roof, the pond's
water... and cook the fish. RIP little ones.
At one time Balboa Blvd. was just a 2 lane street, in fact there
used to be nothing but a 4 way stop sign at the Superior and
PCH intersection a long time ago. Sometime in the 80's, the
city captured the first row of houses on the East side of Balboa
Blvd, and widened it to what is now a 4 lane road with a median.
Prior to that widening, there was a house around 45th and Balboa
that was thrushed into the news when underground oil started
leaking up into it. The property was owned by local surfer David
Snieder's grandparents, and the home had to be leveled, and
the property sat for quite a while as an empty dirt lot.
I liked the little Opel, and was leaving
for Mainland Mex for a month, but didn't really have anywhere
to store it. So I parked her in a corner of that empty dirt
lot, left one of the windows rolled down so it looked like someone
was about to return to her, and prayed she would still be there
when I returned... She was not.
Long live the ugly little Opel.
Little Andy Jeffs, all grown
up and still ripping. Last week,
Twenty something years ago there was a surf company called
Pirate Surf that had their roots in the area. They actually
had some pretty cool stuff and looked set to do well in the
surfwear market with assistance from Quiksilver. After a year
however, Quiksilver chose not to continue their support of the
new surfwear manufacture, and Pirate Surf soon folded.
Flash forward a couple of decades to this year, and Blackies
local Greg P. is trying to decide on a name for a clothing company
he wants to start. He wants to incorporate pirates into his
brand, learns that Pirate Surf isn't copyrighted anymore,
and Pirate Surf
Company is born... again. With the continued interest in
everything pirate now days, the blockbuster movie "Pirates
of the Caribbean" currently in theaters and Greg having
just landed his T-shirts in a few local stores, look for
Pirate Surf's skull and cross board T-shirts to be making
their way into the local surfwear market.
Surf team member Niel S., plundering
(Photo by Greg P.)
"The Point", Blackball
You have to be tired of hearing
my dumb stories. D.K., Preston Murray even Hugh Johnson I'm
sure have way better ones from "Back in the day"...
But I think I have
the distinction of being the only grom in Newport that was ever
arrested for not getting out of the water during Blackball.
During the mid 70's
one of the best hurricane swells ever hit "The Newport
Point", and everyone was out. Lenny Foster, Jackie Dunn,
Jack Briggs, Billy Pells, John Van Ornum... These guys were
barrel specialist and charged everything from Pipe to huge Mainland
Mex. and they were all on it.
Back then the lifeguards
used to throw up Blackball at noon like clockwork. And if it
was crowded with bodysurfers, sooner. On this particular day
they raised the dreaded Blackball flag at 10am, and everyone
was mad as hell! I was one of the groms in the water that day,
and along with a few other older surfers, decided to ignore
the police and lifeguards, stay in the water, and keep surfing.
Well this did not sit
well with the local authorities, and the lifeguards soon brought
in the fire boat from the Harbor, cranked up the high pressure
hose, and fired it at us, hoping to force us out of the water.
I have to admit that thing hurt! And it wasn't long before I,
along with the few others still out, headed in. I paddled up
to 19th St. and caught a left that took me around "The
Point", and far down by the Newport Pier, hoping no one
would see me coming in. As I hit the sand this big guy in wet
shorts and a tank top grabbed me by the arm. I had no idea who
he was and started swinging my board and swearing at him. Bad
move, come to find out he was an off duty Orange County Sheriff,
and he easily over powered me and drug me to the police and
lifeguards down the beach.
By now people were
beginning to throw sand at the authorities, and it appeared
a full scale riot would break out. They quickly tossed me and
another guy in the back of a police jeep, and whisked us away
to Blackies parking lot. Once in the lot they transferred us
to a police car for the ride to the police station. In the car
was the other surfer I'd never seen before. He was a complete
wacko! He began trying to kick out the windows, while yelling
obscenities at the officers. This went on all the way to the
police station, and I did all I could to let them know that
I was in no way associated him.
Once at the police
station, the station located where City Hall now is, they put
me into a little room that contained only one wooden chair and
a small window. And that's when their fun began. They tired
to scare me shitless! Telling me I was going to be locked up
for a long time for disorderly conduct, unruly behavior, assaulting
a police officer, ignoring Blackball... They even told me I
had broken some law about screaming obscenities in public! And
when I began shivering in my dripping wet springsuit, and I
asked for a towel. They got a good laugh by tossing me a little
wash rag. After a couple hours they called my dad, and he and
a neighbor rode down on their bikes and got me out. No charges
were filed, but needless to say when Blackball goes up now days,
I'm usually the first to the beach.
And years later, when I sat
down in my seat for the first day of high school driver education
class. Guess who walks in as the instructor? The off duty Orange
County Sheriff who dragged me off the beach that day! Damn I
thought, that guy is everywhere!
Locked in a little Brown Barrel...
Do you remember your first
Do you remember how
you became a surfer?
I was 9, my mom and dad decided to surprise me with a surfboard.
I'm not sure why, I didn't want one. All us kids in our Balboa
neighborhood were content on body surfing and skimboarding out
front in the shorepound at 7th St.. We loved our little break
and never ventured elsewhere, in fact we had no idea that there
were surf breaks in Newport that had waves with far better shape.
Anyway, my mom, who worked at Newport Elementary, asked an older
kid at school, John Gothard, where she could get a surfboard
for me. He told her about a surf shop called T&W Systems
located behind where Sid's Bluebeet now is, and they went and
picked out a board for me. I was happy to get the board I guess,
I knew John enjoyed surfing, and I thought I'd give it a try,
so I started taking the board out at 7th St... and I got hammered!
I got pitched over the falls, annihilated by the backwash and
continually pounded onto the sand by the vicious shorebreak,
all while trying to stand on the crazy thing. It wasn't long
before I decided that stand up surfing was not for me, and I
threw the board in my garage and went back to taking my fins
and skimboard out to the beach.
Then one day I left
the garage open and someone stole my bike. I was devastated!
My parents however thought I should be glad that my surfboard
was also not taken. " I don't care" I said, "surfboards
are stupid". Well my mom and dad were shocked that I had
given up on surfing, and thought maybe the waves up by the Newport
Pier would be better for me to try learning on.
There was a kneeboarder
in the neighborhood that rode his bike up to surf the well shaped
rights that used to break near the south side of the Newport
Pier. And my parents arranged for me to go up there with him
early one morning. Well I went, and was shocked to see long
soft peeling waves next to the pier. I caught one of those waves
that morning, the first wave I'd ever experienced that had no
backwash and didn't end in an explosion on the sand, stood up,
and rode it to the beach, ... and as my mom says, "from
that day on I was hooked on surfing, and our family never saw
much of me again".
The Next Generation...
Summer C., and her first surfboard.
Around 1983 there was a guy named
Marc that lived on the corner of 33rd and Oceanfront. He surfed
out front occasionally, but his real passion was riding Jet
Skis, and he ripped on them! Every so often Marc would pull
his ski out of his garage, drag it on it's trailer across the
sand to the water edge, fire it up, and race up and down the
shoreline jumping waves.
It wasn't long however before other
Jet Skiers in the area heard about Marc's jumping ability in
the waves of Newport, and started showing up trying to do the
same. On any given day there would be a crew of guys backing
their jet ski trailers up to the boardwalk, pulling their skis
down to the water, and then securing their trailers to the light
post on the boardwalk. At times the scene at 33rd St. resembled
that of a boat launching ramp.
At first the Jet Skiers ventured out
only when there were little or no surfers in the line-up, or
they would stay to the immediate south side of the 32nd St.
jetty, where the surf was minimal. Eventually however they moved
north of the jetty where the waves were better for jumping.
And while I didn't personally witness it, the proximity between
surfer and jet skier grew so dangerously close, that one day
a Jet Ski actually jumped a wave and flew over a paddling surfer.
And then it happened... The local
newspaper came down and did a feature story on the Jet Skiers
and their daredevil antics in the waves. And then smack dab
in the middle of the front page of the newspaper they ran a
photo of local boy Marc jumping a wave and doing a huge air
You can only imagine the thoughts
that went through the minds of the Newport City Council and
the Lifeguard Department when they picked up their morning paper
and saw someone doing such a dangerous stunt in the waves off
Newport. What seemed like almost immediately an ordinance was
passed, which is still in full effect today. Launching a boat
from shore, or coming within 1000 feet (the piers are 700 feet
long) of the shoreline by watercraft is strictly prohibited
by law. And that's one reason why local surfers can't tow into
the local waves of Newport.
Orange County residents Peter
B. (driving) and Marc O. (surfing)...
Towing Into Todos.
A Little Large Swell Nostalgia
The biggest and best shaped
swell I've ever seen hit the lower jetties occurred in the winter
of 1982... Back then there was no surf forecasting tools to
speak of. You just woke up, looked out, and the surf was what
it was. One particular morning everyone in the neighborhood
awoke to an awesome sight!..... Perfect sunlit bombing lefts
stacked to the horizon off 32nd St.. One of those swells that
hits that particular jetty much bigger than anywhere else. Luckily
the word about the swell hadn't filtered out yet, and the crowd
was minimal. Now no one used to come down and shoot photos of
the lower jetties back then, it was all about the Kodak Reef/Hottest
Hundred Yards/Studio 54/Echo
Beach surfing that was happening up at 54th. My roommate however
was taking a photo class at OCC and had some borrowed camera
gear in his room, so we woke him up and pleaded for him to break
it out and set up on the jetty, which he did.
While not really that big
of a wave, it's one of the biggest waves I've ever seen break
@ 32nd St. jetty... The board is a 5'11" four fin Schroff,
the surfer is the newportsurfshots.com guy, and yes...
the wetsuit is pink.
looking for this wave because it doesn't exist, and probably
won't again for another couple years. The great thing about
it is you could read every surf report, study every surf forecast
chart, and still not be sure if it's going to break. Read a
little below about life before there were surf forecasters,
and internet surf reports.
Before Surf Forecasters
I of II
25+ years ago forecasting a swell or finding
out how the surf was throughout Newport was a primitive and
crude process. During that time one of the easiest surf forecasting
tools to obtain for Newport was reading the Marine Forecast
in the local paper... but have you ever compared the Marine
Swell Forecast in the paper, to the swell that actually arrives
in Newport? Reading Tarot cards is more accurate.
During the summer months we had a little
better forecasting tool, ABC News's Dr. George Fishbeck. He
was an entertaining and knowledgeable weatherman, that was pretty
good at predicting hurricane swells, even if he was a day or
so off on their arrival. We used hang out at a house on the
corner of Balboa and 18th St. back then. Like clockwork within
20 minutes of Dr. George's report that south facing beaches
were expecting large surf, cars would come racing around the
corner, and guys would come speeding down the boardwalk on bikes
to look at the surf out front. It was like a stampede of wild
bulls as they ran to the end of the bike path to see if the
swell had arrived at "The Point" yet.
By far the most reliable swell forecast back
then was the Harbor Department's Marine and Weather Report (675-0503).
Our crew of young surfers spent many an afternoon listening
to this report, and trying to figure out what a falling barometer,
a combined seas of 3 to 5 feet, and a small craft wind advisory
in the outer waters meant for the surf in Newport.
Then there were the local forecasting tools
that had been passed down in my family. If the water in the
toilet bowl is moving back and forth, it will be windy the next
morning. If there's a lot of seagulls standing around on the
beach, local storm surf is fast approaching. And if there's
a ring around the sun in the sky, big surf is coming. These
can sometimes be accurate, but I wouldn't bet a day off of school
or work on them.
Admittedly, one of the dumbest ideas to forecast
the local surf was mine. I came home from elementary school
one Friday afternoon desperately wanting to know how the surf
would be for the weekend. So I called "information"
and asked the operator what the waves and weather would be like.
I can still hear the operator's laughter as she explained to
me that the phone company's 4-1-1 information number doesn't
have that kind of information.
Growing up on the Peninsula the most important phone number
to me and my friends was 673-3371. It was the only source of
information on how the surf was near the Newport Pier, and the
area where the jetties now are. The problem 30+ years ago was
the lifeguard department had only one phone line for the report,
and it was always busy! Rotary phones were the norm back then,
and any die hard Newport surfer had a large callus on their
index finger from dialing the number over and over and over
again, trying to get through. Once you did get to the report
however, the information on the size and shape of the surf was
Later on in the 70's the lifeguards got a few more answering
machines and phone lines, and it was easier to get through to
the report. This however was not good for me! My parents used
to take an hour of surfing time away from me whenever I did
something wrong. To them it was the ultimate punishment for
a head strong surf rat. So when I owed them a few hours, and
was getting ready to ride off on my bike for a surf, they'd
stop me and call the report. If the report said the surf was
bad, they'd send me on my way. But if it said it was good, that
was it, no surfing for the day. Damn the surf report I'd curse!
Later during that same decade, the Newport surf report became
a dating service of sorts. By this time there were numerous
telephone lines running into the report, and it was rarely busy.
The problem was that for some reason you could hear people talking
on the other lines. The word spread that this was occurring,
and girls from all over Orange County started calling the report
and yelling out to the guys on the other lines. Then guys started
yelling out "what's your number" to the girls, and
soon the report became cluttered with people trying to hook
up. This went on for an entire summer before it was fixed.
By far the worst part of not having really accurate surf
report information like today, was in trying to find waves up
and down the coast. A lot of beach cities had their own surf
report phone numbers, but the reports often had day old information,
or the reports were not that detailed. With a copy of "Surfing
California" in hand, many blindly headed out of town expecting
to find surf similar to the pictures found within the pages
of the book. No swell, wrong direction, wrong interval, wrong
tide... It wasn't fun when you pulled up after a 2 hour drive
to find dribble. Today with wave-faxes, web-cams, internet surf
reports, cell phone reports, computer satellite reports, international
surf reports, international surf forecasts... there is far less
chance of that occurring, and that is good !
this guy has no trouble finding surf!
Sean Collins using his years of forecasting experience to score
this Tahitian gem.
here for link to other tsunami relief sites)
day in the mid 80's, a bunch of us lived in a place on the boardwalk
at 33rd st., when the news
reported that an earthquake had occurred off Alaska , and had
the potential to cause a tidal wave along the California coast.
The anticipated time of arrival for the surge was to be around
11pm that evening. The advisory further stated that people should
avoid the coastal area. We'll our crew did what we felt we should.
We bought some cheap champagne, made some calls, cranked up
the music, and had a "tidal wave" party. Now you would
think the warning that went out would keep people away from
the beach... but no way. As it neared 11:00pm the boardwalk
became as packed with people as on any sunny summer afternoon,
all of them eager to view the anticipate ocean surge. As it
neared 11:00 we turned the news on, grabbed flashlights and
binoculars, gathered around the upstairs windows and balcony
and waited... and waited...and waited. And after a while we
gave up on waiting, and went back to partying. No noticable
ocean surge ever occurred.
no dumb story that goes along with what happened in Asia. An
earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean that unleashed 20-foot
tidal waves, ravaged the coasts, and at last toll resulted in
more than 150,000 deaths, with millions others left homeless.
It appears Sri-Lanka, Thailand, India, Nias and Northern Sumatra
were severely devastated by the wave. The surf meccas of the
Mentawai and Maldive Island chains were also in it's path. Word
is that Bali was unaffected. It currently is not surf travel
season for the Indian Ocean area
surroundings and culture of the people is truely amazing. If
you're ever given the opportunity to travel to that side of
the globe, by all means go!!
Jo -Jo Kick'n back @ Sultan's
In 1887 the growing
harbor entrance sandbars resulted in the the harbor becoming
increasingly more dangerous to navigate into or out of. This
resulted in the lumber being brought to the area, and the farm
goods being shipped from the area by ship being nearly halted.
The Army Corps of Engineers agreed to survey the entrance and
determine if dredging it would be feasible. They decided however
against dredging, based on their belief that the railroad could
offer the same transport of goods to and from the area, and
that the large amount of money it would take to make the harbor
safe would not provide an abundance of commerce. In their report
however, they noted that there was a deep water canyon off of
what is now The Point/Newport Pier area, and they suggested
that if a wharf was built there, that went out into the ocean,
large ships would be able to navigate the area without running
aground. Mc Faddens Wharf, where the Newport Pier now is, was
soon built, and the area thrived with industry... When big short
interval souths swells show up in Newport, they hit that deep
underwater canyon, bounce around, and stand tall to produce
thick well shaped pits at a place we call "The Point".
The Canyon wakes up, and Josh Hoyer rides