Tag Archives: beach

Birdwell Beach Britches:

In 1961, back in the days of Gidget and the Endless Summer, a seamstress named Carrie Birdwell Mann started making and selling swimshorts at her Orange County home. More than 50 years later the company is still in O.C. making pretty much the same thing, and for the most part- only that one thing.IMG_6570

We call them boardshorts. The world knows about boardshorts thanks to Old Navy and Target, but surfers know about boardshorts largely thanks to Birdwell. Mrs. Mann invented the shorts specifically for them.

Not to take away from what Quiksilver, O’neill, or any other surf brand have accomplished, but when it comes to boardshorts, Birdwell is what all of them are trying to be.IMG_6498

Like any responsible adult, the folks at the factory were a little leary of me when I showed up asking questions. But once they determined that, as they put it, “wasn’t up to any weird @*!!” they were more than happy to show me around.IMG_6492The family sold off the business, or as the current owners say “entrusted” them in 2014. Since then, a couple things have changed, while some other significant things have not.

For instance, they started using actual patters.IMG_6489While this may have removed some whimsy from the whole purchasing experience, it did make predicting if the shorts were going to fit a little more reliable.

They also updated the van.IMG_6597And by updated I mean they painted it not fixed the engine, which is why I found it parked comfortably in the factory parking lot.

What they didn’t change were the people working the floor. They have remarkably low turnover and most of the folks sewing the shorts today, are the same folks who sewed them ten years ago.IMG_6494

This might be in part an explanation for what else hasn’t changed, which is that these shorts are nearly bomb proof. I think these shorts are what the authorities use to identify the victims of shark attacks since the shorts are what always survive.

*I said that not them*IMG_6506

It is interesting that in our modern world of fast fashion and quarterly shareholder returns, there can exist a company and brand that survives without attempting to broaden offerings in order to capture market share or lowering quality to widen the margin and spur more turns.

They didn’t do that and they are still right there.IMG_6566

Like I said before, I don’t surf.

But if taking steps past big box mass retail is a sign- I might be on my way.IMG_6594

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When You Imagine California: Santa Barbara

When you imagine California, what you are picturing, is Santa Barbara. Some might say Hollywood is the quintessential California, but those who imagine Hollywood aren’t really thinking about the place, they are thinking about themselves and dreaming of becoming famous. No, Santa Barbara is the SoCal we think of when we look at a map not a mirror.IMG_5951It is the sort of place that surely has some history, possibly some substance, but mostly it has an image. The beach is beautiful, peppered with surfers. People wearing shorts and sunglasses drive convertibles to the marina past white stuccoed buildings flanked by palm trees.

I did not see it, but I sort of assume everyone here writes everything in cursive with pink glitter ink.IMG_5789You can rent beach cruiser bicycles and eat arugula salad on sidewalk cafe. You can visit a Spanish Mission or fish from the pier. You can do or see all the things you imagine doing and seeing in California minus all the things you associate with LA.

It is all Saved by the Bell and no LA Law. It might be a little bit Flaked – but glossier.IMG_5677

I’m not sure who actually lives there, though I have heard some stories, but most people I know only visit. They, or we, drive in and stay the night. We shop and browse light breezy dresses, Tommy Bahama, and beach towels fashioned to look like the California state flag. We eat something light then pay ten dollars for a scoop of ice cream on the pier.IMG_5772Then we get back in our cars, sit in traffic, sit in our cubicles, sit on our couches watching Saved By the Bell reruns, and do our best to ignore the pan handler at the off ramp.IMG_5679

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Balboa Pier: Newport

I do not live in a beach town but as Californians we are required to visit the beach regularly. When others in our environs learn we are headed to the beach they unfailingly ask, “Which beach do you go to?” This is not worded, or meant, as an inquiry to this instance, but rather a broader declaration.

I refuse to declare a beach affiliation.

But we did recently visit Balboa Pier in Newport. It was nice.IMG_4723

“It was nice” is no sort of manifesto. It isn’t even a resounding endorsement. But the place was in fact “nice” and if you please I will now walk backwards into a more meaningful review.

You can park all day for $10.IMG_5719

California doesn’t mess around with those silly beach tags like New Jersey. The beaches are quite literally a “free for all”. Whats not to like about that. Nice, right?IMG_5648

The Pier itself houses the original Ruby’s Diner. Not a culinary powerhouse by any means but an Orange County staple none-the-less. You can eat your burger while sitting on the rooftop deck watching the sun set over the beach. That would make anything taste great no matter who cooked it.IMG_5727

If cold water and waves that break right on the sand aren’t your favorite you can always head for the boardwalk.  There you are treated to arcades, shaved ice, and carnival style rides like a bucking shark. Who doesn’t want to ride a bucking shark?IMG_5591

None of us wanted to ride the bucking shark but we did ride what was marketed as “possibly” the longest Ferris wheel ride in the world. It was indeed lengthy.IMG_5647

 

With full bellies we were ready to test the scientifically proven tale that one must wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid certain drowning. We thought it a safe place to test this tale since there were at least 7 million junior lifeguards on the beach for summer camp. I found myself wondering how many 9 year olds it would take to save me if I were to go under for the third time.IMG_5721

Turns out I am too naturally buoyant to find out. No loss. I’m satisfied stating that Balboa Pier in  Newport is Nice.

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Childhood Wonder: Dana Point, CA

When you are small the world is bigger. When you are young everything is new.

Everything being big and new can be both wonderful and terrifying.

That’s what being a kid is, terrifyingly wonderful. Dana Point was wonderful.beachwithafilter

 

We only went to the beach as an afterthought. Our main intent was to visit the Ocean Institute. That was “our” intent, my intent was to see the tall ships. To me tall ships are wonderful. They stoke within me a primal wanderlust that I am finding increasingly hard to placate. But the institute and the two tall ships it operates, are not for me.

Its all for them.

And they love it.

I love that.jellyface

On weekends it is open to the public and the weekend we went they made us feel welcome. I love to observe others doing things they love and the Ocean Institute appeared full of people doing what they love. What they do there is teach oceanography to kids.bubblekids

A grey haired man walked us around a whale skeleton, another showed us how they practice driving underwater robots. A young woman showed us the tank where she was raising a colony of young jellyfish and another woman helped my kindergartner dissect a squid.squid

Make no mistake, this isn’t an aquarium or a museum. They don’t just show things here they facilitate doing things. It isn’t just to help people do things, its to teach kids how to do things. Big, new, terrifying, and wonderful things.

We as a generation would do better if we dedicated ourselves more to teaching our kids to do big new terrifying wonderful things.

But still I stare at those tall ships…tall ship

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