‘There Is More Than Just Water in the Pacific Ocean Off Ocean Beach’

by on April 14, 2021 · 5 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

An Introduction To A “Trash Man”

By Judi Curry

Several weeks ago I met a very interesting resident of Ocean Beach and in the course of our getting to know Steve Tatro, I found out that he had a BA degree in journalism.  I asked him if he had had anything published and he said a few small things. He realized that he could not make a living as a writer, so he left that field and went to work doing other things.  Suffice it to say,  he has been quite successful in his other endeavors.  (I hope that you can tell by that statement that he is not a homeless resident.)

As we continued talking, he told me that frequently he goes down to the beach to pick up trash.  He feels that he is helping the environment, and, as a surfer, helps clean up the very area that he will surf in.

I asked him about the various items he finds and cleans up. So often I hear about people picking up the three “c’s” – cigarettes, cans, condoms, etc. and I wondered what he was picking up.  As he began telling me about those things he was finding, a light went off and I told him I thought he should write an article letting people know just what he was finding.

At first he was reluctant to do so, but as we talked more, I could see the excitement growing.  Finally he said to me, “I’ll do it!”.  And he did.  Here is that article. I hope there are more to follow.

Surfer and trashman – Steve Tatro

There Is More …

By Steve Tatro

I’ve always liked trash. My dad was a trashman in Yellowstone Park, so maybe it’s in my blood. (His Dad became a physicist in New Mexico after the stint in Yellowstone.)  Now I’m a trashman in Ocean Beach, but not a professional, just an amateur. I pick up trash when I want, where I want, and the bigger the better.

My current project is a 455 cubic inch Oldsmobile boat motor half-buried in the sand at the end of Coronado Avenue. The pleasure boat that it once propelled washed up on the rocks during a storm about twenty years ago, where it was soon dashed to pieces. The seven-hundred pound motor settled into the sand, waiting for me to trip over it many years later.S

By the time I found the rusting hulk, the only way to dismantle it was by demolition, so I picked up the biggest rock I could and slammed it down on the carburetor, which didn’t stand a chance. After a few afternoons of this, I had hauled up to the trash cans most of the peripheral bits, including the alternator, fuel pump, and water pump. Now I’m down to the cylinder heads, which are coming off in small chunks of iron, but the summer sand is rising, so soon the shrinking motor will be buried until October.

Just above the boat motor, in a depression I call shipwreck rocks, there appeared one stormy morning a white plastic dinghy. It was about 10 feet long, and held together by holes, so my hacksaw and I cut it in two and hauled first the bow, then the stern up to the trash cans, checking first to make sure the professional trashperson wasn’t around, lest they chastise me for burdening them with so much truck filler.

One time I found a microwave oven buried in the sand below a cliff. When I dug it out I couldn’t believe how heavy it was, I could barely move it! So I got the door open to find it was completely full of wet sand! How it got in there, I’ll never know.

There used to be a steel trash can chained to a sign at the foot of the stairs at Santa Cruz Avenue. I must have dragged that trash can out of the water five times before someone finally threw the sign in too. When I pulled it above the surface, it said, among other things, “NO LITTERING.”

Lobster traps, don’t get me started on lobster traps!

I have hauled 41 lobster traps up from the beach, some of which I found in twenty feet of water. If there are lobsters inside, I pull the funnel-shaped entrance inside out, and they escape. Storms wash the traps inshore, or break the float lines, and then they become my problem.

Sometimes the waves smash them into crevices between rocks, and then my trusty hacksaw goes to work, even underwater, and I pull them out in pieces. I’ll never eat lobster again.

My refrigerator always has drinks in it, hard and soft, compliments of beach castoffs. I seldom have to buy shoes or clothes, because I find so many at the beach, but I can pay for them with the $60 per month I get for beach recyclables. Knives and drugs I find occasionally, and throw away, but not coins, bills or jewelry!

I once found a fifty dollar bill in an old Walmart bag! I have a drawer full of cigarette lighters, but I don’t smoke. I always have sunglasses and beach toys to give away.

For sheer quantity of trash, I prefer the San Diego River. I’ve dragged 64 shopping carts out of there, mostly under bridges. To tackle these big game, I wear a wetsuit, booties & gloves to guard against cuts from sharp things in the mud, from razor clams & oysters to broken bottles & bike spokes. The mud is like quicksand, but a person can float on quicksand, unless that person is trying to carry a shopping cart.

I became unpleasantly acquainted with several lifeguards and police officers over the years as they caught me floundering in the “No Trespassing” zone. But they never ticketed me after they found out what I was doing; they just shook their heads and sent me home.

I pulled a motorcycle out from under the Ingraham Street bridge, in pieces, and several bicycles. But my biggest trophy is a twenty-foot open boat like those used by smugglers from Mexico. There was no motor, but plenty of holes in the wood and fiberglass bottom. My hacksaw and I had a field day in 1-3 feet of water.

Near there, between Ingraham and Nimitz, I saw something artificial poking out of the river, and it turned out to be the edge of a jacuzzi! I think it was once on a yacht, since it was near the Mission Bay boatyards. That one took some doing, but I got it loose from the mud and into shore without the help of two slightly perturbed lifeguards who were driving by.

I found a big old picture tube TV bobbing in the river once, and dragged it to shore by its cord like a toy boat. The fun continues…

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Judi Curry April 14, 2021 at 1:18 pm

Typo error 3rd line of Steve’s article. The word should be “Stint” – not “stink”! Big difference!


Frank Gormlie April 14, 2021 at 1:32 pm

After a hearty laugh, I got it.


Steve Tatro April 15, 2021 at 9:27 am

Thank you very much for publishing my article? I have at least two more to send you, any ideas?


Laura Dennison April 14, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Way to go, Steve! We all appreciate what you are doing! Keep us informed as to the treasures you uncover. A jacuzzi, a microwave, a motorcycle! One wonders at the path they took to get to you. Thanks!


Rhonda April 15, 2021 at 6:02 am

All I can think of to say is Thank You for being a good citizen and pulling more than your weight. Can you imagine an ob without litter? Let’s all adopt a block, and keep it tidy . Just one block. This man has taken on the whole oceanfront! Just one block!


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