YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Kelp Reforester's Vision Could Smooth Things Over

July 01, 1993|Rick Fignetti and David Reyes | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil

Ah, the wonders of Macrocystis pyrifera --better known as California giant kelp, the stuff that grows out in the surf line.

In between sets, I like to grab the brown stuff and pop the bulb as it floats by.

In Santa Cruz, where tons of kelp are attached to the floor, low tide makes it difficult for paddling out to the lineup. The kelp tends to wrap around your surf leash and the fins of your surfboard.

But Figgy says seaweed helps the ocean surface stay flat and smooth, even on windy days.

If you're a surfer, you generally like to keep the waves smooth and glassy rather than bumpy, said Fig. I'm kinda bummed that the Huntington Beach area doesn't have any kelp beds. I remember when I was a kid living at Surfside when there was kelp growing down by the jetties there. But the next thing I knew, it was gone.

Dick Pick, a 55-year-old computer entrepreneur in Irvine, would like to see whole forests of kelp when he looks off the Orange County coast. In February, Pick won approval from the California Fish and Game Commission to use 177 acres of ocean floor a quarter-mile off Huntington State Beach to grow kelp. The idea is to bring back marine life to now-barren areas.

Pick's project was to get under way this summer, but, he said, the Fish and Game Commission wanted more information on the technique he was going to use to attach kelp to the ocean bottom.

"The location we're looking into is roughly offshore where the (Huntington Beach) power plant is," Pick said.

Wouldn't that make it roughly where Magnolia Street is, Dick? I can hear the Mag surfers now: "Whoa, dude. Not here!"

Pick said he's willing to spend up to $100,000 of his own money in what he calls a "reforestation" project that will attach young kelp plants to cords and plastic bottles that will be tethered to the ocean floor. The kelp farm jugs would hang below the surface.

Pick said that in his experiment off Newport Beach, plastic jugs were submerged on a line into the sand. The jugs are filled with air, and they float on a line off the bottom about three to five feet. Sand shifts, so the kelp needs something to anchor on, Pick said.

It naturally "hangs onto a rock, and that is the key," he explained. "You have tremendous amounts of sand at the bottom, and it essentially supports no life at all."

But by putting a foundation down, he added, "you find that, yes, kelp would grow, and there is the possibility of fish numbers rising."

Pick said that in the Newport experiment his crew attached a piece of PVC pipe and mussels and even scallops began attaching.

Figgy and I are hoping his experiment works. Can you imagine surfing Huntington Beach in glassy conditions all day long?

Both Salt Creek in Dana Point and Encinitas in north San Diego County have lush kelp beds. I used to live in Encinitas and loved surfing there because of the kelp. It would make larger swells diminish in size--say one to two feet--but it would make for smooth, glassy conditions.

The drawback at Encinitas was the kelp cutter, a ship that literally ate seaweed. After it went by, small pieces of kelp would float onto the beach, and ocean visibility would drop to zero.

"I'm not into aquaculture," Pick said. "We're not going to harvest the kelp. But the project is reforestation. We feel we're on to a technique that hopefully can replenish kelp beds not only in Huntington Beach, but around the world."

Pick said he is still gathering information for the commission. Consequently, "you won't be seeing any kelp project this summer."

He said the mechanism he was going to use to attach the kelp to the ocean floor is part of a patent he's trying to get registered.

Contests: The world's best surfers are in Orange County competing at the 12th annual Op Pro Surfing Championship at Huntington Beach Pier, which began Sunday and will run through Saturday. The contest is expected to attract 224 men, including current world champion Kelly Slater of Florida, competing for a $60,000 purse and points on the tour. The women's competition is a specialty Pro/Am event offering $7,500 in prize money. A tag-team competition, including Australia, Hawaii, Brazil, Japan, Euro/Africa and the United States, will have preliminary rounds today and Friday. Tag finals are Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Los Angeles Times Articles