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Solana Beach Surfers form Association.

-SB surfers form Association

02/06/2003

by GARY TAYLOR For the North County Times

SOLANA BEACH ---- Celebrating the past while preserving the future was the theme during the first official meeting of the Solana Beach Surfing Association, held Wednesday night at a local restaurant.

Organized by longtime Solana Beach resident and surf movie producer Ira Opper, the meeting drew about 40 surfers from diverse backgrounds, from doctors and lawyers to local lifeguards and at least one politician, Solana Beach Mayor Doug Sheres. The guest of honor was 89-year-old Jerry Ward, considered to be the first person to surf in Solana Beach in the early 1930s.

"As surfers, we're hoping to have a more united voice and mobilize on issues if we need to, as well as have an excuse to socialize," Opper explained. "There's a lot going on that affects our surf spots, such as water quality, sea walls and beach access. We felt it was time to get together and deal with issues that affect us."

During the meeting, participants introduced themselves and offered their vision of the club's purpose.

"I see it as a good way for surfers to socialize and exchange knowledge," said Paul Dean, captain of the Solana Beach Department of Marine Safety. "It's a vehicle to be active in the community and have a unified voice. Most of our lifeguards surf, so it's good for the lifeguards to be involved in this club. It's a long time coming, and I'm surprised it hasn't happened before."

Advertising executive Michael Hetz told the crowd he was sick for two years from water pollution, adding, "I want to make sure we have clean water for our children."

Attorney Gary Sirota, who has served as legal counsel for the Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups, said, "the surfing community must have a voice, because the ocean doesn't have a voice."

Contractor Ron Gordines, a recent arrival to Solana Beach, said the club would provide a good place to meet fellow surfers. Mike Nichols, who serves as chairman of the Solana Beach Parks and Recreation Commission, said the association would help diffuse the negative stereotype surfers sometimes face.

"A lot of times the surfing community doesn't get the respect it deserves," Nichols said. "Getting these people together, including doctors and lawyers and professional people, to make their views count to the City Council and political groups is great because we need to speak up for what we believe in."

At one point Opper asked for feedback on whether the association should involve itself in political issues, and to what degree. Solana Beach lifeguard Grant Fletcher, whose family was among the city's first settlers, said that if the club had to pick one issue, it should be diverting the storm drain that empties onto the Fletcher Cove beach into the sewage system.

Fletcher said Fletcher Cove was closed recently because of high bacteria counts, and the group agreed that eliminating the storm drain should be a high priority.

Probably the highlight of the meeting came when Ward recalled his experiences as a lifeguard in Solana Beach and Del Mar in the mid 1930s.

Raised in a San Diego orphanage, Ward was adopted by a Solana Beach family, but was left on his own when the Depression hit. He found lodging above a pool hall where Solana Beach Plaza now stands, rode to Solana Beach Grammar School on horseback and later attended Oceanside High School, then the closest high school in the area. There, he built a paddleboard in woodshop class with the help of a classmate who recently moved from Hawaii.

"It had 200 brass screws to hold it together," Ward recounted, "and the ribs had holes so you could drain the water out through plugs in the tail when it leaked."

His paddleboard exploits established Ward as among the first surfers ever to ride the waves in Solana Beach.

In the late 1930s, Ward was hired by Bing Crosby, one of the founders of the nearby Del Mar Racetrack, to teach his children to swim and ride horses "for $6 a day, including room and board. That was a pretty good wage back then, considering you could rent a nice house in Solana Beach for $17 a month."

When America entered World War II, Ward joined the Air Force, eventually returning to Solana Beach in the early 1970s before settling in Murrieta, where he lives today.

Still physically fit and mentally sharp at 89, Ward told the group it was worth the long drive from his Riverside County home to attend the meeting.

"Being around you folks," he said, "keeps me young."

 

 

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