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SAND BLAST : San Clemente Ocean Fest Keeps Crabs at Bay on the Water's Edge

July 21, 1994|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Tell me you haven't been there.

It's a perfect Southern California day; the air is warm, the breeze light and your kids, amazingly, are infection-free, so you decide to take the brood to the beach.

Hours later, your crammed mini-van is circling the parking lot like a hyena closing in on a lame zebra. When you finally nab a space, you unload and begin a trek to the sand--think Hannibal's journey across the Alps, only with more beach toys--where you commandeer the first available spot and heave your weary, grit-coated bod to the earth.

You know what happens next. After seven corn dogs, three trips to the restroom ("Don't touch anything !") and half a sandcastle, your children turn their sunscreen-slathered faces to yours and utter the words that have frayed adult nerves since Cain and Abel were in training pants:

"I'm booooored. Let's go home."

Weary parents, lay down your swim rings and rejoice. The friendly folk of the San Clemente Ocean Festival come to your aid this weekend with three days of music, entertainment, games and sporting events they say will please beach-goers large and small without breaking the piggy bank.

The 18th annual festival begins Friday at the San Clemente Community Center with "Meet the Surfing and Southern California Lifeguard Legends," a free reception honoring noted surfers and lifeguards from the past 30 years, a surfing-themed video and live music. The event continues through Sunday with events on and around San Clemente pier.

Billed as "The Greatest Show on Surf," the San Clemente Ocean Festival has evolved from a lifeguards' athletic competition to a community event expected this year to attract 20,000 visitors with activities ranging from a display of vintage Woodies (the wood-paneled station wagons popular with surfers in the '40s and '50s) to children's games with intriguing titles such as Lobster Shuffle and Crab Scurry to a new, family-friendly beach party and concert.

But the original intent hasn't been buried in the sand. Organizers say teaching the public about beach and ocean safety and giving them a chance to appreciate the lifeguard's role remain the event's primary goals.

On Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the California Surf Lifesaving Assn. Regional Championships will feature professional lifeguards from across the state in Ironman and Ironwoman competitions, a surf swim and rescue races, among others. One of the most popular of these competitions is the surfboat race, said festival committee member Paula Laskelle.

Commonly known as a dory, the 325-pound fiberglass, wood-rail boat has been largely replaced by surfboards as a rescue vehicle, but the race, in which two-person teams row through the surf, round markers and return to shore, makes for some exciting viewing, Laskelle said.

"It's a pretty daring event. The surf's usually five or six feet, minimum, and the boats are constantly crashing into each other. People get a huge kick out of it."

Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. in the children's pavilion, youngsters can take part in an ocean-safety workshop lead by lifeguard and noted surfer Richard Chew and Lt. Bill Humphreys of San Clemente's Marine Safety Division. Other diversions to be held in and near the pavilion both days include face-painting, cartooning by South County artist Curt Visca and children's games and races, a bodyboard race and a kid/parent swim.

On Saturday night, the San Clemente surf band the Eliminators don vintage sharkskin suits and perform surf classics from 6 to 8 p.m. in a free concert during the First Annual Beach Blanket Party. Visitors can take their own food or purchase grilled fish, ribs or hot dogs there.

A team sand-sculpture competition begins Sunday's lineup. Teams may include up to 10 people, and there is no minimum age to compete. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m., with judging about noon, depending on high tide. This year, competitors may use biodegradable coloring (Jell-O powder should be a popular choice, Laskelle said) to enhance their sculptures.

Other activities include the Doheny Longboard Assn.'s invitational surfing contest and a 5K and other public athletic events on Sunday morning, an all-ages fishing derby Saturday and Sunday mornings and a rubber duck derby on Sunday afternoon. Exhibitors of surfing and ocean-themed art by Oceanside's Waterman Surf Art Gallery and the creation of a large chalk mural by local artists will continue Saturday and Sunday.

To minimize parking woes ("What? I thought you brought the quarters!"), festival organizers have set up free shuttle service between San Clemente High School and the pier. An information booth will be open near the pier with a complete schedule of events on Saturday and Sunday.

* What: 18th Annual San Clemente Ocean Festival.

* When: Friday, July 22, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, July 23, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 24, from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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