California surfer makes plea for new Playa del Rey surf reef

September 10, 2020 | Surfing
Playa del Rey, California: surf is where waves are breaking | Photo: Creative Commons

My name is Raymond Wheeler, and I live in Playa del Rey, California. I grew up here for over 40 years, moved away for a while, and then got back.

In the past, we had one of the best surf spots in Souther California. Today, I have a dream.

I'm trying to reinstate an old contract the Surfrider Foundation received from the State of California to build a sandbag reef that can restore an old surf break.

That's why I am trying to raise money for permits needed and find a way to get approval and make it a reality by working together with the surf industry on better improvements.

Over the past 18 years, I have reached out to all the city, county, state agencies by email, phone, and letter.

I wanted those in charge of beach issues to address the damages caused by the storms of the past 50 years.

We need to develop a better plan than just having an 8-to-10-foot high, 300-yard long sand dune on the south side, and another 200 yards on the north side of the beach.

And we never got out of the quicksand to repair one jetty road or public beach access way.

In the past 20 years, all the public departments failed to contact each other and never really set up meetings to come down, face-to-face, and see the site issues, in loco.

Del Rey Surfboards: Playa del Rey was one of the best surf spots in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s

Playa del Rey, 1930: a view over Ballona Creek | Photo: Creative Commons

I hope people may forward these words to those with greater power at the top of the social ladder structure.

All I am trying to do is get things fixed with the old contract signed off by 23 agencies to do the reef.

We need to use this old permits to start a new repair and/or find new ideas for a new project.

My goal is simple - to repair and fix, ot plan a cheap, strong, long-lasting way to hold the sands in place, create a surfable break, and protect the homes in the area.

But we need to find a sponsor to get the state to approve the past contract again and allow the sandbags or a cheaper formula - like 40-50-foot shipping containers - to act like a jetty and hold sand in place.

No money has been spent on Marina del Rey's southern side since 1982, even after the 1982, 1986, 1986, and 1987 El Niño impact reports.

The northern area received between 50 and 200 million dollars in the past 30+ years.

Walkways, roads, and all the jetties and storm drain south of Imperial Highway need urgent repairs before the next powerful El Niño comes.

Playa del Rey: walkways, roads, and all the jetties and storm drain south of Imperial Highway need urgent repairs | Photo: Raymond Wheeler

A Walk Down Memory Lane

The photo below shows the baseball field where I grew up.

My brothers and I all played here from 8 to 13 years of age on different teams, learning life skills and finding ways to get to the beach to swim.

At that time, you could walk out 20+ yards and still be in waist-deep water and have some really good bodyboard and surfing barrels on perfect days.

The jetties would hold 10-to-15-foot faces and have in-between sand bars.

But the El Niños of 1975-1998 took away all that gifted fun, and city leaders spent no money on repairs in the area.

So now all is broken, and the worst part was building the new storm drain at Culver Boulevard with 20-foot pilings driven into the seafloor, causing undertows, sand displacement, and deepwater areas.

In the first year or two, we had a few good waves.

But a big storm came and knocked off the end part of the walkway, and the blocks rusted the rails. They repaired it once or twice, but each new storm would knock them off again.

At the time of construction, we were told it would be a walkway or fishing pier for beachgoers to enjoy. But this new storm drain is ugly, smelly, and a two million dollar rusted piece of junk.

Between 1969 and 1985, we had a 120-foot jetty with the pipe inside, making waves that we will never forget.

Playa del Rey, 2020: not the same surf spot it once was

Shipping Containers

Now, we need some protection around this new storm drain to hold sand and stop wave damage. Why don't they do do it?

The cheapest way to restore the sand is by placing shipping containers with spray-on bed liner and cut holes to allow sand to move in out.

A 40-50-footer container costs $5,000, or maybe less if we find a few damaged ones.

We all have memories of going to the beach and watching perfect waves at Playa del Rey, and I would love to see it again as we did between 1979 and 1990.

Do you know anyone that could come down, face-to-face, and take a tour of my mind memories? I would love to show them what the lack of repairs has caused to this beach and waves.

I had won the lottery maybe things would be better than they are now.

Toes Beach: the most famous strip of sand in Playa del Rey

I can, in my mind, think of making good waves with very few sandbags or some other type of plastic/Lego devices, but how can you beat the price and size of shipping containers?

Pratte's Reef had over 125 small bags.

But they were not protected with a strong spray-on bedliner to keep waves from damaging them over time.

I think that if we make things different this time, the surfing community will certainly get epic surf from it.

We all have memories of the home breaks where we grew up. Some of them have changed or have been lost to human-made events and Nature's will.

The dreams we all share are special, deep-minded, never-ending life-changing lessons we will talk to ourselves in old age.

I am just a dreamer wishing for the best surf of those glorious days to return before I die, and my ashes are thrown into the waters of my home spot, Toes Beach.

Words by Raymond Wheeler | Surfer

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