The Outdoor Report takes to the waves to highlight prime surfing and diving spots. | Augusta McDonnell/THE CHIMES
Cool temperatures greeted Ben McCloskey and I as we traveled south to Dana Point in search of surf in late March. Ben, a cinema and media arts major, joined this excursion to take photographs and help me in my attempt to surf, bless his heart. Stopping just north of Dana Point, he caught a few waves to get a feel for the surf that morning while I walked a short distance into town to rent a board and wetsuit.
I came across Killer Dana Surf Shop, where rental prices for a full day with the wetsuit set me back $50. For those planning to go this same route in Dana Point, I recommend this surf shop, as it is staffed by local surfers and the prices are comparable to similar services. Having little experience surfing, I was given a longer, more stable board. Rental staff should know how to fit surfers of any level with a board that will help them learn. If you are a beginner, take their advice and make sure to use gear meant for your skill level.
Ben picked me up and we headed to a nearby beach. I must admit I was nervous — the area was packed and I felt like everyone could tell I had no clue what I was doing. The ocean remains an anomaly to me. Coming from the landlocked state of Montana, I saw it for the first time when I was 16. Thank goodness for Ben, supplying pointers and pushing me into the waves, helping me to gauge which ones I should paddle for.
Being a rookie in every sense, I knew there was some kind of etiquette among surfers but was not confident about where to go or how to interact. I tried to dodge the other surfers and give space to others who were dropping in. Thankfully I did not smoke anyone, although there were a couple close calls.
So this is the part where I have to disclose whether or not I stood up successfully. I can honestly report that I caught a fair number of waves, feeling the surge of the rolling wave and at least attempting to push my self up and lunge my left foot into position. Several of them I plain tanked, falling off the board back into the water. Some, I made it onto one knee, and then there were two attempts where I successfully stood up and held on long enough to experience the excitement of my victory before toppling off the board.
After this, we headed twenty minutes north to Laguna Beach to free dive, parking on the streets above Diver’s Cove. We walked down onto the beach and toward the point, where several rock formations protruded past the shore and broke off into larger rocks farther out, forming part of a reef. Wearing wetsuits and masks, we swam out into the surf, as swells of water crashed over the exposed reef. Schools of small brown fish and neon orange garibaldi darted around, weaving through seaweed and disappearing. Propelling ourselves down, we swam out into deeper parts of the reef, exploring the alien formations and crevices.
This area is part of state sanctioned Marine Protected Areas, falling under a variety of commercial and recreation restrictions set in place in an effort to conserve the reef and ocean life in these zones. Experienced surfers and divers as well as those just beginning to enjoy the ocean can participate in local conservation efforts, keeping in mind our responsibility to protect vulnerable natural habitat.