Reader Rant: ‘New Pier Designs Will Destroy OB’s World-Class Surf’

by on September 13, 2023 · 20 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Anonymous Surfer

I’ve been surfing OB for decades and as a teenager I remember the 1966 World Class Surfing Contest held at Ocean Beach. Every year since there’s been important surfing contests in the waves right off the OB Pier.

I think now that the new designs for the OB Pier are horrible and will destroy the very surf spot that has put OB on the surfing map.

Crowd at 1966 World Class Surfing Contest at OB

Any widening of the current pier’s footprint will have to eat into the surf on both sides of the pier. This is crazy!

Photo by Albert C Elliott Nov.4, 2016

Does anyone else feel this way? Anyone else upset about the loss of OB surf?

I also remember how OB people stood up during the summer of 1970 and loudly and plainly said ‘no!’ to the city’s plans for a jetty that would have destroyed the surf down at what’s now Dog Beach. We used to call it “North Beach.”

OB surfers unite!



{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris September 13, 2023 at 11:42 am

Well it does come down to the fact that the current pier can’t remain there forever at this point. So what should be done?


Frank Gormlie September 13, 2023 at 2:03 pm

The Rag wanted to get anon surfer’s views out there and we obviously helped with graphics but we don’t necessarily agree.


Chris September 13, 2023 at 2:34 pm

Totally fair, but unfortunately it’s a situation that can’t be avoided.


Akwhitty September 13, 2023 at 3:48 pm

The original design was at the bottom of Narragansett st.
Better for fishing . Not screwing up the surf at Newport.


Geoff Page September 13, 2023 at 8:25 pm

One thing everyone agrees on is that moving the pier from its current footprint would be a major complication without a great reason. And, like I said, if they really do widen the gaps between the sets of pier columns, that break could be easily available to surf again.


Geoff Page September 13, 2023 at 5:02 pm

Surfing has come up in every discussion about the pier. It was originally placed in a spot where it ruined the left off the reef to the south, unless you wanted to shoot the pier. Engineers are saying that improvements in materials and designs will allow for much wider gaps between sets of pier columns making it much less dangerous to surf under the pier. That would be a welcome change, I’m sure.


Greg September 14, 2023 at 11:42 am

It’s not a very good surf spot let alone “world class”. Seems like a lot of hand wringing here.


Geoff Page September 14, 2023 at 12:15 pm

Maybe not world class but it is a nice left and the only place nearby with a reef to beach break.


sealintheSelkirks September 14, 2023 at 10:42 pm

Nobody really knows what the sand flow is going to do or what ocean rise will do, nor how much the reef is going to change with the removal of the old pier and re-implantation of the new pilings for the new one no matter which design is agreed to and funded (expect penny-pinching, though!).

From old pictures I’ve seen, historically the beach was much wider from the sand flow. the foot of Newport and on the shallow reef out from the pier parking lot. I imagine that most of that came from very shallow False Bay before it was turned into an aquatic park and cutting off that natural replenishment. At least in the pics I’ve seen (late 1800-early 20th), it was a very different beach.

And I’m really sad to report that OB just doesn’t get world-class surf. Sorry, it hasn’t about as long as I’ve been a surfer or the little surfer kid I was watching from the top of the cliff before the pier was put in. As a former Southside local that knew the break intimately, and had often paddled out on very big outside days to ride the winter swells that broke at the cafe while doing the piling to piling Northside paddle out to break up the sets and not get washed in before I would shift through. From what I’ve seen for years from the OB Hotel surf cam (that unfortunately stopped sweeping north to south last winter and is now frozen), the daily streaming pictures of both it and Riptide Rights just don’t happen much anymore. Even when decent swells come in it. Not just in my memory but from the decades of still photos in the photo totes. Both were always very fickle anyway depending on sand flow, but bluntly, it acts mostly like just a beach break.

The reef could have been called world class before the Pier was put in, like Dana Point before the harbor. I remember seeing that huge left start peeling way the hell outside to the south and grind its way down the beach as a little kid up on the cliff visiting granny…



nostalgic September 15, 2023 at 7:49 am

The designs for the new pier are not likely to last through the first winter storm, so it will be a problem for surfers when it falls in the water. The dip in the current pier was because it was designed in the summer and built in the winter.


Frank Gormlie September 15, 2023 at 10:05 am

“Designs for the new pier” or the new pier itself? You imply that after the next winter storm, the designs will have to be shelved. Haha.


Geoff Page September 15, 2023 at 12:15 pm

The dip in the pier was to get fishermen as low to the water as possible using summertime wave data that proved to be inadequate when the winter wave data became apparent.

Why would you think a newly designed pier would fall into the water when this one has lasted more than 50 years?


nostalgic September 15, 2023 at 3:19 pm

My apologies to the two OB Grammarians of note. Not sure what Lori Saldana’s problem was; perhaps you can help her too.


Honesty September 16, 2023 at 11:10 am

Device as a noun (computing):
A peripheral device; an item of hardware.

I think that the pier itself could be “a design.”


Honesty September 16, 2023 at 4:23 pm

Oh yeah:
How many computer scientists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
None. It’s a hardware issue.


Chris September 16, 2023 at 4:09 am

Wow so you really don’t have a of confidence that the designers and engineers can come up with a pier that won’t collapse by Winter time?


Ken Jones September 15, 2023 at 9:24 am

Instead of blasting the designs you should be grateful homage has been given to surfing in several ways. What you need to remember is that the pier was built for fishing and the initial funding, recognition, and publicity always recognized the fact that it was and is primarily intended to be a fishing pier. The process currently underway tries to achieve a balance and response to the requests of locals who want a variety of additions. Some will make it to the final design and some not. Still, it remains a fishing pier. Surfers have hundreds of miles of shoreline and surf to practice their sport while pier anglers are very limited in the space available on piers. Too bad that so many surfers seem to think they own the ocean.


Frank Gormlie September 15, 2023 at 10:04 am

Ken, just to round out some of your comments, when the “new” pier was promised for fishing, back in the early 50s, surfing hadn’t yet taken off. But by time the pier opened, it had been well established, and the fact that the 1966 World Championship was held here says something.


Ken Jones September 15, 2023 at 9:46 am

BTW, To call this a world class surfing spot is more than a slight exaggeration. Travel up to Huntington Beach or Santa Cruz and you will see true world class surfing spots near piers. I would imagine that even the waters by the Oceanside Pier rank higher on a list of surfing spots. None of the pier anglers that I know, ones who are also surfers, rank Ocean Beach high on their list of surfing spots in San Diego County let alone the state.


Geoff Page September 15, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Maybe that is the case because the other piers were not built across a perfectly good reef to beach break. How would OB rank if the pier did not interfere there?


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