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The Beach at Surf - Central California

Shoot Date: various

Literally in the middle of nowhere, and ten miles from the nearest inland town (Lompoc), Surf withstands the constant chilly buffeting of Pacific Ocean winds and serves as a landing place for locals within the vast sprawl of Vandenberg Air Force Base, which surrounds it.  Surf is also a nesting place for thousands of snowy plovers, tiny beach birds.  It's a bleak locale, but at the same time very beautiful.

On a chilly day, the sky at Surf is blue-gray and the beach grasses seem designed to keep the dunes warm, like the thick, matted fur of horses or cows in cold regions.  The wind is always blowing here.  A  jacket is advised if you're heading out this way.

At left: Bright days bring vivid colors to sea, sky and dunes, though the winds remain constant.  Area residents come to fish, walk the beach or bring their children to play in the sand, but the water itself  is off-limits due to a dangerous undertow.


Above: the railroad bridge that spans Surf's estuary.  Sometimes dozens of empty container cars sit facing the beach's salt spray, so many blank-faced, vacant observers along the iron road connecting northern and southern California. 

Sea mist rises from the beach in this view looking to the southeast, toward Point Conception, well-known to mariners as 'The Graveyard of the Pacific' due to its treacherous winds and currents.  During World War II, four U.S. ships ran aground in this area, with Lompoc residents responding to the calls for help in an effort to rescue survivors.

Surf's estuary, home to gulls, herons and various sea birds.

An abandoned, half-submerged fence creates fascinating, shifting patterns in the calm waters of the estuary.

Blue skies and brisk breezes combine to invest the visitor with a sense of energy and possibility on this picture-perfect afternoon at Surf Beach.

All photos bardsmaid 2005

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