Aside from art, restaurants, and pricey real estate, Laguna is all about its beaches. We are blessed with a rugged coastline broken up into segments of small coves, the wide horseshoe of Main Beach, and short runs of white sand from Cleo Street down to Pearl Street.
Beaches on the north end are named for their coves. South of Main, spots are identified by street names that lead to the sand. Landmarks such as Treasure Island and Thousand Steps form identifiers in the south.
Each beach has it’s own characteristics, both on the sand and in the water. Some are better for surfing: Thalia, Oak, Brooks, Agate and Rockpile. Others for swimming: Main, Crescent Bay, Victoria, and West. Still others are perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving: Divers, Moss, and Fisherman’s.
I started out at Thousand Steps. Girlfriend Merri Johns, with her sisters Geri and Bobo, lived on the cliff above the beach. We spent the summer running up and down the stairs (I think we really counted 380) from the house to the sand and back again. We played volleyball on the beach, jumped on a sand-based trampoline, and hung out with my sister Claudia, Cathy Kauer, her brother Jimmy, and the now infamous Billy Hamilton.
When I hit my teens, Pearl Street was ‘the’ spot. With good friends Val Iverson and Sue Klaasen, we slathered on as much coconut oil as we could muster, played hearts until the cards bent over, and munched our way through tuna fish sandwiches, dill pickles and lemonade. We leapt from the top of the arch onto incoming waves, and swam through both blow-holes, riding the swell and currents. We carried with us our towels and our fins. What else did we need?
Surfing took me to Oak, where the waves broke overhead with summer south swells. The Oak Street Crew combined body, boogie, and board surfing without incident. The handsome and hulking frame of lifeguard John Parlette kept a watchful eye over our never-ending water pranks. I had a huge crush on John, and practically fainted when he chose me as his entry in the annual Miss Lifeguard contest.
Dad had never been much of a beach-goer; more about boats and his swimming pool. But later in life, he became a regular at Bluebird, playing endless games of cards with Terry Neptune and his son Terry. Lifeguard Tracy Sizemore made sure the dudes kept everything above board and that no one drowned on his watch.
Today? I split my time between Brooks Street and Bluebird. My two sons, Cooper and Austin, have their own favorite beaches. Austin likes to “sponge” at Cress or Aliso. Cooper’s fallen in love with SUPing, which covers our entire coastline.
As I listen to the current batch of groms and their parents on the sand, I smile at their claims of the best beaches. Truth is, they are all great.
Lucky us to have such magical waters at our doorstep.
Catharine can be reached at [email protected].