Summer beachcraft

The Los Angeles Urban Rangers took about 130 people on Malibu public beach safaris the first two weekends in August, and trained them in basic beachcraft skills amidst plenty of sun and fun.

We trailblazed the boundaries between public and private property, and we located and measured public easements on the dry sand. We practiced stereotypic L.A. beach behaviors on the easements--frisbee, sunbathing, digging and building, yoga, wildlife watching, reading trashy magazines. We shared oranges and trail mix at our public easement potlucks. We went sign-watching, and we engaged in a no-kill hunt (take only photos, leave only car prints) for beach accessways. I think a few people are still looking for the West Sea Level Rd. entrance to Lechuza Beach.

Some of the diggers and builders used their buckets and shovels to build a very large peace sign. Some of the frisbee players drafted a local dog as a catcher.

While the safari-goers were learning how to enjoy Malibu's public beaches legally and safely, more than a few of the homeowners from next door wanted to talk to the Rangers, and their reactions ranged from wonderfully friendly (mostly on Carbon Beach, aka Billionaires Beach) to something beyond hostile (all on Broad Beach, aka the beach with the guards--who for the record are quite nice this summer).

A great many expressed their support for public access to public beaches. Others smiled and waved, and some Carbon Beach-ers applauded as each of our groups performed their freeze-frame tableaux of the beach behaviors.

A few lectured us on the dangers of public visitation. A very tiny minority screamed at us (really, screamed). Just one threatened to sue us.

After the first weekend, we received an e-mail:

What I don't understand, is you show the public where to get on to private/public beaches...but what about those people that worked day and night to pay for the houses on the beach in order not to get disturbed by the public? Since people have made such a big deal about these access ways, the Paparazzi now harass homeowners which are celebrities and sit on the beach. So are you really doing anything good? Or just disturbing the hard working people? There are plenty of public beaches, go to those. Maybe if everyone just worked hard enough they could afford a house on the beach. Is it just jealousy that you must be on "private beaches"? Can't you find a better cause.

For the record, the Urban Rangers have not yet surveyed the visitors to the public beaches--either those who live next door or those who come from far away--so we cannot comment on how comparatively hard-working those visitors are, nor on their motives for working as hard or as little as they do.

You can design your own Malibu public beach safari--whether you work four jobs or are just a lazy bum--by downloading the guide on the Los Angeles Urban Rangers website, or by downloading parts 1, 2, and 3 of the beach-by-beach guide on LA Observed, which is also reprinted on the Rangers site.

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