Home Heritage Surfing History The New Millennium

The New Millennium

Huell Howser, the National Public Broadcasting host of the critically acclaimed “California's Gold” series about notable people and places in the Golden State, produced an episode on San Onofre. It aired in 2000, and was well received by the general television audience. Unfortunately (or maybe not so) the camera crew arrived on one of the flattest days of the year. Although the show producers did capture some great interviews with many of the Clubs leading lights, Hoole was pretty clue-less when it came to wave knowledge. And while the film crew did shoot a few of the musicians playing the Bamboo Room, they didn’t hang around to shoot the Wednesday evening sessions, when the real magic of the music emerges. But that’s showbiz, and San Onofre really isn’t about that at all.

After years of outstanding performances at Old Man’s, (which probably rivaled any tandem talent pool in the world) Steve and Barrie Boehne, produced a video chronicling the fine art practiced at San Onofre. Titled The Art Of Tandem Surfing, it is an elegant testimony to the grace and beauty of tandem riding which has been kept strong and vibrant (like some lost art) through the years here, thanks to Steve and Barrie’s efforts and a host of excellent tandem partners.

Although Club members have exhibited their musical talents for over seven decades, no official document of the myriad music sessions had ever been archived. But in 2002, a select group of the Bamboo Room Philharmonic went into the studio and recorded a disc of 14 tracks. It is available through the Club or________. Another session is expected.

In the year 2002, The SOSC membership roster again topped 1,000 in the year 2002. The Club remains solid, with strong leadership in the board of directors, both young and old. Excellent relations prevail between the Club representatives and the top officials at the District Office of the State Parks and Beaches.

“The Club butted heads [with California State Parks] at first, but over the years we have been able to work together and stop proposed projects like paving the lot,” says current SOSC President Bobby Lombard. “That’s why the beach is still relatively like it was 50 years ago, except that now there is running water. If the state had their way, that place would have already been ruined. A lot of our own money is spent to preserve it. We have guys with tractors that grade the road at no expense to the state. We buy ‘em car counters, and we suggested the turnabout they use to deal with the heavy overflow of traffic trying to get in. The average wait to get in these days is three hours. It’s ridiculous. But as long as they use that car counter and keep it to 350 cars, that’s the best the Club can hope for.”

San Onofre was never about who you were or what you did; it had always been, and would always be, equal ground for anybody, whether you were a ditch digger, an astrophysicist or a movie star. It was all about being there, living a carefree surfing lifestyle that began with a handful of colorable bachelors hanging out along a narrow strip of sand below the crumbling, yellow sandstone bluffs just south of the San Mateo Creek opening.

“For me, the cross section of people we had in those days was amazing,” says 80-year-old Doug Craig. “From Otis Chandler, the publisher of the LA Times, to Don Cram, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, to James Arness, world-famous actor, to bricklayers, to carpenters to teachers - we had every walk of life at our beach.”

“Whether you were a north-ender, middle-ender or south-ender, we lived our lives there as a group, as a family, really,” recalls John Waters. “And when we went home we went back to our private lives. You might have been a democrat or republican or somebody famous. It didn’t matter; we didn’t treat anyone different than the next down there.

Over the past five decades, some things have inevitably changed. Crowds have increased, loved ones have passed on, and many of today’s beach-goers are not the diehard, tight-knit clan that once ruled its shore.

Most certainly, more changes are in store. It would be naïve to expect otherwise. In the case of our Surfing Club and the San Onofre Beach, some changes may not necessarily denote progress. But whatever the future brings, the members of San Onofre Surfing Club will always take pride in the lives they have lived and the families they have raised in this uniquely wholesome environment. The outstanding safety record of our beach and the deep social camaraderie of our Club members will live indefinitely in the collective memory of all who have experienced this remarkable way of life.

Because of this rare place called San Onofre, this tiny island of beach life in a sea of global chaos, our children past and present, are the finest group of boys and girls and young men and women in the world. And let no one say otherwise.

Despite all odds, the “Nofre experience is still intact, and the SOSC members have been successful in preserving the traditions their folks and grand-folks established almost 70 years ago. Through half a century of constant challenge, the people and families that call San Onofre home never let their life style be diminished. Today, the culture continues with the next generation of surfers who create and continue their own family traditions, and their own San Onofre way of life into the new millennium.

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