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ON THE BEACH / ERIK HAMILTON AND WENDY WITHERSPOON

Lower Trestles Is Favorite Stop for Surfers

September 16, 1996|ERIK HAMILTON and WENDY WITHERSPOON

It's easy to miss the exit when you're traveling 65 mph down Interstate 5. And if you don't surf, chances are you've never seen the place. But surfers of all skill levels from around the world consider Lower Trestles Southern California's mecca.

Rochelle Ballard will be defending her title at the Body Glove Surfbout at Lower Trestles, which starts today and concludes Sunday. She has always had a fondness for the San Clemente surf spot, which offers one of the best breaks in the world.

Ballard, 25, who lives on the North Shore of Hawaii, is excited to be in the event. But contest or not, she always makes a point to surf Trestles whenever she's in California.

"I love the wave," Ballard said. "Trestles is a favorite with a lot of surfers and I've always looked forward to this contest."

Last year in the women's finals of the event, Ballard was competing against world champion Lisa Andersen, Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns and Patricia Rossi in the four-woman heat. At that time, the waves were about five to six feet, with some nice rights for the competitors. Ballard called it "typical Trestles."

"There were some very talented surfers out there," Ballard recalled. "But I had some good luck with my wave selection and I was able to catch some really good waves."

Except for Andersen, Ballard said all those women will be back for the competition, including her good friend Megan Abubo, who is also from Hawaii. While in California, the two are staying with Ballard's father in Carlsbad.

"Lisa wanted to come, but she's taking a little time off," Ballard said. "She needs it. But I'm still looking forward to it [the contest]. My surfing has been more consistent this year and I'm feeling good right now."

Ranked sixth on the world tour, Ballard is on the road about eight months out of the year. And since she turned professional five years ago--she started surfing when she was 10--she has become increasingly more comfortable with the traveling and the contest sites. She recently returned from France, where she surfed two events in Lancanau and Biarritz.

"Now when I compete in the contests around the world, I'm familiar with the site. I feel more comfortable with places. I know where the places to eat are and where to go to do things like hiking and stuff," Ballard said.

While Ballard said she enjoys surfing events such as the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach, which enables the fans and those who are not that familiar with the sport to get close to the competition, she still leans toward the inaccessible events.

"I like to meet the people and sign the autographs," Ballard said, "but it's nice to get away from the crowds and surf with hardly anybody watching."

Because Trestles is sort of isolated, a hike is necessary to get to the spot. But then again, that is the allure of the site, according to Ballard.

"It's a mellow place. And the water has been so warm lately, you can go out there and surf in your bathing suit," she said.

Counting Trestles as one of the top waves in the world, Ballard said it would be nice to get more spots like Trestles on the tour.

Like where?

"Tavarua," Ballard said. "It's an island in the South Pacific that caters to the surfers. There are no crowds . . . It's a place where you do a lot of soul surfing."

*

Shane Beschen, ranked second on the world tour, Jeff Booth, who won the contest last year, and Taylor Knox of Carlsbad will be some of the top talent competing at Trestles. Of the local contingent, up-and-comer Chris Ward of San Clemente, Newport Beach's Ritchie Collins and James Pribram of Laguna Beach are scheduled to compete.

In longboarding, Joel Tudor of La Jolla will challenge San Clemente surfers Jim Hogan and Israel Paskowitz and Capistrano Beach's Colin McPhillips. Brian Wise of San Clemente will be one of the top competitors in men's bodyboarding, along with Spencer Skipper of Hawaii.

Trestles in the seventh stop of the Bud Surf Tour, which concludes in Makaha, Hawaii.

Lower Trestles, a point/reef break, is off Interstate 5 (exit Basilone Road) in San Clemente. The area (Lower, Middle and Upper Trestles) are part of a California State Park, which lies on the Marine base of Camp Pendleton. It's about a two-mile walk from the nearest parking lot, but the trip is well worth it, with many considering Lower Trestles the best wave in the mainland United States.

*

Ed and Lois Austin met playing volleyball on the beach at Corona del Mar about 35 years ago and they still get out there to play.

"It's a fun thing to do. It's a way for people to exercise and get together," Lois Austin said.

The Austins have run the California Beach Volleyball Assn. tournaments at Corona del Mar the past six years and both still participate. They played in their sixth and final tournament of the summer this past weekend.

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