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The Seven Seas : Southern California and beaches. Like Mom and apple pie, right? Well, sometimes they're not all Beach boys and babes, as we discovered during visits to seven waterfronts. (Consider the oceanless beach in San Bernardino County.) Sometimes they're havens for stars and starfish, the fishing set or bodyboarders. Or they can be a place where a longtime Angeleno hasn't take a dip for many years. : Kick Back on the Cement and Have a Raging Day : Raging Waters

August 17, 1994|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is a foul sweetness in the air as the Parking Lot No. 2 bus negotiates its final turn into Raging Waters park.

"Hey, skunk. Raging smell!" a fully grown man yells out the window. Everyone laughs. Raging, yeah, ha, ha.

It will be our last whiff of nature for many hours. It will not, of course, be our last burst of achingly, awesomely, gratingly raging good humor.

Exhortations to "Have a Raging Day!"--from the culturally inclusive " Tenga un dia Raging!" to the surf dude-esque "Rage on!"--are as omnipresent as the churning waters themselves.

At the ticket booth, a teen-age girl in a Hawaiian shirt and crisp white shorts takes your $20 bill, gives you back one cent in change, and sings, "Have a Raging Day-ay!"

At the Mexican food concession, the server consecutively assures customers that their orders will be up in "just one raging second."

Is it because there's a dollar in it for every employee overheard saying it? "That may help," concedes Richard Woodhouse, park operations manager, who was instrumental in conceiving the San Dimas park's slogan a decade ago when the park opened.

"But it is something we all really believe in here," Woodhouse says. "Our goal was to give a kind of tropical and relaxing--yet, uh, active and cool--feeling to the place. And we just figured, 'Hey let's let people know about the Rage Thing.'

"Personally, I never get tired of hearing it."

On this day, about 7,000 guests are on hand to experience the Rage Thing. Close to half of them will experience it from the park's 250-foot-by-75-foot crescent of sand known as "the Beach."

So what if some of the most famous ocean beaches in the world are 30 minutes away. Are they raging?

"No way, not like here," according to Holli Hagy, 33, of Chino Hills. "This rages. Really. You can quote me.

"When we come here, we bring chairs, towels, suits, make a lunch, pack an ice chest, the whole thing. We get here by 10, 10:05 at the latest and we're set for the day. And night! No kidding, we'll be here till 9."

It is high noon on a summer day when the temperature, UV index and level of toxic particulates in the air all exceed safe levels.

"Yeah, just right," says Sue Lumpkin, 33, of Ontario.

Her beach chair is propped at a 45-degree angle facing the sun. Her head is tilted back to absorb the rays straight on. Every 20 minutes or so, she rubs a handful of "sun amplifier" into her arms and neck.

As the day wears on, she will leave the beach for a refreshing dip in the 76-degree waters of Typhoon Lagoon, a three-foot-deep watery playground with giant rubber mushrooms and kid-sized water slides.

"I don't like to go in the ocean 'cause I don't know what I'm stepping on," Lumpkin confides. "Here, you know what's on the bottom."

Right. Cement.

By sunset, about a dump truck's worth of the beach's 300 tons of sand will have migrated into the pool. "Every night, we have eight or 10 employees vacuum the sand out of the pool and put it back on the beach," Woodhouse says. "Then we have guys that go in with brooms, scoop it up and scatter it all around for the people the next day."

"Gosh, I'd just give anything to work here one day," says a 12-year-old junior lifeguard visiting from Huntington Beach. "I mean, even sweeping sand or picking up the Chee-tos off the beach. I love it here."

The water park employs 271 lifeguards and recently won a National Aquatic Safety Award. The last and only drowning was in 1985.

Carved out of a dusty canyon in the Frank G. Bonelli County Park, Raging Waters boasts of being "the largest water theme park west of the Mississippi River" and is best known for its thrilling water slides, such as Drop Out, Dark Hole and the new Vortex.

But for some summer-weary parents, the slides are incidental. "I just want to come to the beach. I sit or sleep or smoke a cigarette or whatever and the kids play in the water," says one mom, who brought her cellular phone along this day.

"With all these lifeguards everywhere, it's like a baby-sitter for your kids. I can really relax. Yeah, now that is raging. "

"Ray-geen? Ray-geen? What is this Ray-geen?" asks Andrea Petermaier, 17, of Wels, Austria. From her perch on one of the faux field-stone jetties overlooking the pneumatically powered Wave Cove, Petermaier has been taking in the Rage Thing for half an hour and she is still confused.

"It is funny, yes?"

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