Surf Diego is a weekly column in the San Diego Reader that features surfers of all ages and skill-sets. If you are a local surfer or boogie boarder with an interesting story, reach out to Mike for a possible feature in the weekly magazine.
Name: Paloma Aguirre Bacalski
From: Imperial Beach
Location: Imperial Beach Pier
Occupation: Coastal and marine director for Wildcoast
Paloma Aguirre Bacalski was one of about 12 that paddled out in honor of Doug Bradley last Monday (January 29th) by the Imperial Beach pier.
At about 10 a.m., Aguirre-Bacalski caught a 1-2 foot wave on her Science bodyboard. “I like to do a reverse 360 spin into a rollo,” she said. “A 360 spin is basically what it sounds like, a spin but in opposite direction of the wave and a rollo is when you do a flip off the tip of the wave and land in front of it.”
Aguirre-Bacalski’s family lived in Puerto Vallarta in the early 90s and this is where she taught herself how to bodyboard. At the time, she was 16 years old and the only one in her city that “sponged.” She has bodyboarded in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca and at Baja Malibu (north of Rosarito). “The heaviest and scariest [surf for me] was in Pascuales, Colima Mexico,” she said. “It is one of the heaviest beach breaks in the country.”
At times, she surfs on a longboard and paddle boards, but loves bodyboarding the most. “I think it’s extremely fun, you can take off on heavier waves (than surfing) and can get deeper in the barrel.”
Sometimes, her neck locks up due to a super-gnarly wipeout that occurred on the north side of the pier back in 2007. She attempted a backflip off of a wave to land in front of it, but “I landed in an awkward position and suffered two vertebral subluxations,” she said. “This means they shifted a bit out of place and I had to spend a week lying flat on my back.”
The IB Pier and the entrance point by Seacoast Drive are Aguirre-Bacalski’s favorite surf spots, so much, that in the last 12 years she’s been advocating for clean water in the border region.
“I work to prevent and mitigate sewage spills that generate across the border and work locally with agencies to ensure beach water quality monitoring is the best it can possibly be for Imperial Beach.”
From: Ocean Beach
Location: Ocean Beach
Occupation: Counselor for mental health and substance abuse
I saw RB on the north side of the Ocean Beach Pier on Feb 3. He just finished his 40+ men’s longboard final heat at the Ocean Beach Pier Surf Classic competition.
“I’ve been surfing here for 45 years,” he said, “the biggest difference from back when I started are there are more people out, and there were more characters back then. Do you remember Billy G. and Big Rich Lockwood? I used to surf with them, and during the winter — they didn’t wear wetsuits. They both weighed over 250 lbs. and were nimble as they come.”
RB was reminiscing with some of the other surfers while waiting for the results.
He said that he surfed well on the two-footers, and was hoping to bring the first place trophy back to his house — which is just up the hill from the pier.
He stood patiently by his 9’5″ custom board.
“Rich Pavel, a good friend of mine, has built my boards for 40 years,” RB said. “On this one, we took a long board template, cut five inches off of the tail, split it and turned it into a 4 fin so it rides like a longboard but it flows like a fish. I just like the feel of no drag with a split tail surfboard.”
RB’s favorite spot to surf is at “the reefs” which is somewhere south of the pier. “That’s all I’m going to say because we don’t kiss and tell. There’s nothing like the smell of low tide and going surfing with your dog there.”
He said that he’s had both of his shoulders and one knee rebuilt, “from years of paddling …. but that’s just normal wear and tear. I’m happy to be on the right side of the dirt, breathing and surfing.”
RB won a second place trophy after our interview.
Name: Alfredo Ramirez
From: Mission Valley
Location: Ocean Beach
Occupation: Mortgage advisor
Alfredo Ramirez was surfing out at Avalanche in Ocean Beach riding his 5’9″ Sub-Driver performance board made by Lost/Mayhem Surfboards. “It’s good for the small waves that we have in California most of the year and it generates good speed.” The waves were only two-footers but they were glassy.
“I started surfing when I was 11 years old at the beach breaks in Ensenada,” he said, “and I slowly graduated to California Beach (also known as La Barra), then Cannery Stacks and 3Ms.
Ramirez, a dual citizen, started competing on both sides of the border. “I was surfing at the state championships in Ensenada, and my shoulder popped out after I landed a floater,” he said. “I put it back in the socket while surfing the wave and finished my heat. Then I went to the doctor after, and I ended up having a shoulder surgery.”
After he healed up, he caught his biggest wave at Black’s. “The sets were triple overhead and I remember I took a really hollow one,” he said, “and barely made the drop — that’s when I figured how big it was looking up and seeing the lip coming down.”
In 2011, Ramirez and his buddy flew out to to Bali, Indonesia. “It was one of the best waves I’ve ever surfed,” he said, “I am a goofy foot and surfing all lefts in warm water there was a dream that came true.”
His Sub-Driver surfboard has a slightly wider than average nose, that provides stability for landing airs and a noticeable hip/bump at the fins, that gives him a pivot point to crank tight and powerful turns. “I like to hit the lip vertical on my back hand,” he said, “making a nice bottom turn off the bottom and off the back throwing the fins out.”
Ramirez still competes, and now manages and coaches the Mexico Jr. National Surf Team. “Last year we went to Hyuga, Japan, for the ISA World Jr. Championships.”
Though Ramirez has been residing in Mission Valley since 2000, his two favorite surf spots are back home in Ensenada. San Miguel is one spot and there’s a secret place only known by his eight-year-old daughter who surfs, his wife, and their six-year-old. “Two weeks ago I had it all to myself,” he said. “It was a nice peeling left, that is similar to Trestles.”
Location: Imperial Beach
At about sunset, I spotted AF at the end of Date Avenue loading his 7’8″ Electric Duck surfboard into his van. “It’s shaped by Mike Richardson,” he said. “That board works real good with big and small waves — today was about 2-3 foot.”
AF has lived in Imperial Beach almost his whole life and has traveled back and forth to Hawaii since 1975 – where he learned from the legends.
“The guys who I look up to [and learned from back then] are Uncle Buttons (Montgomery Ernest Thomas Kaluhiokalani), Larry Bertlemann, Gerry Lopez and Tony Moniz.”
AF teaches locals and tourists how to surf and paddleboard for a living by the pier. One of his recent students barely got up on his first wave; “He was almost 80 years old, bro, and he told me ‘I can’t believe i waited this long.’”
When he isn’t teaching, he travels. In January he’s going to the Philippines. “You pinoy(Filipino) bro?,” he asked me. “The island of Siargao is just like Hawaii (between November and March); they get all of the swells and it’s way less crowded.”
During our interview a couple of guys came by to shake his hand and asked if he was all right. He’s endured some wipeouts since he caught his first wave at five years old. His gnarliest one, although, took him out of the water for five months. “It was about seven years ago bro, [when] we were at the sloughs at the end of the seacoast, by the bullring [Playas de Tijuana]. Before the river, there’s an outer reef out there.
“The power and the pressure and the force of the wave dragged me all the way down to the bottom and out there it’s deep; we are talking like probably 25 feet.”
His slammed hip survived, but the whole tail of his board broke.
“I was getting the washing machine treatment bro — I got mangled.”
Name: Coco Ho
Occupation: Professional Surfer
Photo by Alan Hickey
From: Oahu, Hawaii
Location: Oceanside Pier
Coco Ho was competing in the SuperGirl Pro in Oceanside on July 29. At about 2:20 p.m., she won the round.
Ho, 26, is a Hawaiian native, the daughter of pro surfer Michael Ho and niece of Derek, also a professional surfer in the ’80s and ’90s.
When Ho finished her heat, young girls approached her to take photos of her and her Matt Biolos 5´6˝.
“My advice to the younger girls and boys coming up in surfing is to get the ocean knowledge down….
“My gnarliest wipeout was at Margaret River at Western Australia. I got stuck on the rocks with my leash and it held me under.”
Her favorite spot to surf in San Diego is about 13 miles south from the competition. “I spent a lot of time in Encinitas.”
Name: Mark De Salas
From: Imperial Beach
Occupation: Fire watch department in shipyards
On December 17, at about 4:30 p.m. there was only one person by the Imperial Beach Pier capitalizing on the waves.
“I go in [to boogie board] for like 15 minutes,” Mark De Salas said, “I’m pretty small so my body temperature drops really fast then I come back out and I wait another 20 minutes to get my body temperature to go back up.”
He wasn’t wearing a wetsuit.
“I do exercises where I get on my back and do crunches, pushups and [you got to] stretch out before you go out there [because] your muscles will cramp because it’s super cold.”
“I bought this BZ Boogieboard at the Salvation Army for $3,” he laughed, “on small [1-2 foot] waves, like now, I just drift on them with my chest, but on bigger ones I can get on my knees and when I go really fast I can stand up.”
De Salas has been boogie boarding for over a year now and despite the (strong currents) warning signs posted in the sand this day, and the colder water temperatures, he said he loves to boogie board so much, that unless there’s a “red sign” restricting entrance into the waters; he’s game.
The day before he noticed a yellow sign by the spot where we interviewed. “This is just a warning telling you that there’s bacteria in there — it’s all on you.”
Because of his perseverance, De Salas has be able to catch some bigger waves in the same beach.
“I call it a rodeo,” he said, “it’s like riding a bull but it’s a wave.” he said.
“About four months ago it was a five-footer and it just shook me up big time. It’s hard to get out of when your spinning underneath and you don’t know what’s up and what’s down, [but then] you relax and you start noticing that you are going upwards.”
Beach: Ocean Beach
Melissa moved here from Guam two months ago.
She’s a 20-year-old college student that frequents Ocean Beach because of the friendlier vibes. “At PB by the pier, it was different,” she said, “maybe I was getting in their way.”
Before settling into her college quarters, she went out and bought a used 5’8″ Barry Snyder surfboard for $50 at the swap meet.
Melissa’s been surfing for the last 2.5 years and loves to “turn and carve …. at home (Guam) we call it a schwack when the spray goes [pssshhh].”
She’s had her share of nosedives and scrapes on the reefs as she learned because “Guam’s got more reef breaks,” she said, “…. but San Diego is more consistent, there’s waves for everyone.”
Melissa favorite surf trip was to Weligama in Sri Lanka. “It’s very rural, beautiful and pristine … with golden sand, blue water, beach breaks and point breaks.”
From: San Diego
Location: Ocean Beach
Shane and her buddy just got done surfing when the sun was setting at approximately 7:30 p.m.
The 23-year-old San Diego native was trying to barrel this day, but said it was difficult. Her favorite trick that she can do is the walk the nose.
“The waves were about 2-3 feet, which is the norm here,”Shane said.
She was surfing on her 7’10 Funboard (which she bought at Clairemont Surf) at about a hundred feet north from the Ocean Beach Pier.
“One time my fin sliced my leg open at Scripps,” she said, “and I didn’t need stitches.”
“I’m a GIS specialist,” she said, “it stands for geographic information systems – don’t worry no one knows [what it stands for].”
Beach: Ocean Beach
Rio was named after the 1983 Duran Duran hit. He is 10 years old, and he’s been boogie-boarding since he was five. “When I catch a wave,” he said, “I just want to spin around in circles.”
This Sunday, Rio paddled out with his red Morey boogie board while his parents chaperoned from their surfboards. During the interview all three were posted up on the sand on the north side of the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier.
“One crash that I remember,” Rio said, “I was just surfing the wave and it just like flipped me over completely and I bumped my head in the sand.”
This day the waves were 2-3 footers which were good for his parents, but “they were a bit big for me,” he said.
“One of the reasons that I hate seagulls is because [they] started pecking on [my boogie] board.”