Serge Dedina

Thanks to everyone who made the Mayor’s Breakfast a great success! Last Friday, July 15, we celebrated a wonderful start to the annual Sun & Sea Festival by gathering together at Veteran’s Park. Imperial Beach Job Corps provided a tasty breakfast, the Imperial Beach Woman’s Club provided coffee, and our local Imperial Beach Girl Scouts led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to my council colleagues Paloma Aguirre, Jack Fisher and Ed Spriggs for their participation as well as Port Commissioner Dan Malcolm. 

Former Councilmembers Lorie Bragg and Robert “Bobby” Patton along with Commissioner Malcolm, received Mayor Community Service Awards for their decades of impactful community service. All three are distinguished public servants who have spent their careers helping to improve the quality of life for all in Imperial Beach. I am grateful to be able to work with them (they are all still very active in civic affairs). 

Our newest Assemblymember David Alvarez also attended. David has been a longtime supporter of Imperial Beach and I appreciate having someone represent our wonderful city in the State Assembly who is so focused on investing in making our cities safer and more equitable for all. I’m also grateful to South Bay Union School Trustees Marco Amaral and Melanie Ellsworth for their participation and as always their support for the children and families of Imperial Beach. 

I have immensely enjoyed working with the trustees and leadership teams at the Sweetwater Union High School District as well as the South Bay Union School District. We could not have made so many improvements to make our streets and neighborhoods safer without their collaborative partnership. Finally, thanks to our wonderful City of Imperial Beach staffers who put the Mayor’s Breakfast together and once again brought our community together in happiness! 

This week we experienced some of the biggest summer surf in years. That reminded me of Allan “Dempsey” Holder, our first ever Parks and Recreation Director, Lifeguard Captain and surfer (who our Lifeguard Station is named after), who was joined in the 1940s and 1950s out surfing at the Tijuana Sloughs by a who’s who of surfing legends. When giant swells hit the California coast, surfers up and down the coast would get a call, “Surf’s up,” and they would join Dempsey with their heavy surfboards and paddle out at the Tijuana Rivermouth (without wetsuits!) to ride the mysterious and then unknown waves of the Sloughs. 

California and North Shore surfing legends such as Ron “Canoe” Drummond, Peter Cole, Patt Curren, Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison, Miki Dora, Jack “Woody” Eckstrom, Flippy Hoffman, and John Blankenship among others all surfed with and revered Dempsey, who they called an “Ironman.” Or as Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz told me, “Dempsey was a big-wave surfer. A big solid guy. Low-key. Not much for bragging.” Dempsey, who spent his life in service to Imperial Beach, passed away in 1997. 

One of the first surfers from Imperial Beach to join Dempsey out at the Sloughs was Imperial Beach Lifeguard and Mar Vista teacher and swim coach Verne Dodds who built one of the first houses on south Seacoast. Verne’s sons Kimball and Jimmy (who I grew up surfing with) like their father, also became lifeguards and Sloughs surfers. Kimball went on to work as a Firefighter for the City of San Diego and has since retired and now divides his time between Imperial Beach and the North Shore of Oahu. 

Back in the mid-1950s, Santa Monica surfer Peter Cole, who had been a swimmer at Stanford, was teaching in National City, so driving down to surf the Sloughs with Dempsey was an easy journey. Back in 1993 when I was researching the history of surfing the Sloughs for what eventually became an article in The Longboard Quarterly, Cole told me that, “The Sloughs has the biggest waves of any place in Southern California. It doesn’t have the jack-up of a place like Todos Santos or the North Shore, but it’s comparable to the outer reef breaks in Hawaii. It’s really an impressive wave.” 

After graduating from Stanford and teaching in National City and surfing the Sloughs, Peter moved to Oahua in the late 1950s where he was a pioneering and well respected big wave surfer, surfing statesman, and waterman. He was an influential teacher at the Punahou School and even taught “Mr. Pipeline” Gerry Lopez. Cole won the 1958 Makaha International Surfing Championship just after moving to Oahu. 

Kimball, recently sent me a description of a recent memorial service for Cole who passed away this past February. Kimball wrote, “Peter’s memorial was fitting for a man of his importance and Mana. The event was held at the beach park at Sunset Beach. His younger brother Lucky shared personal memories of their childhoods with a light and personal touch that transported us all back to California in the 1940s. Son, Peter, guided the event with skill, appreciation, and Aloha. Clyde Aikau gave thanks for Peter’s mentorship. Clyde and brother Eddie made their start surfing Sunset with Peter. The event was capped with a paddle-out. A sailing canoe was anchored in the bay to accommodate his wife Sally. She was delivered with the help of the local water patrol, on hand for the event. A who’s who of North Shore faces, and their Keiki, were in the water. A beautiful song ‘Aloha Hawaii’ was sung by the crowd and Peter was set on his journey… Aloha nui loa.”

Thanks Kimball for sharing that story of a life filled with love, joy, family and friendship that brought tears to my eyes. It reminds us that a life well lived is a life worth living.

Vol. 38, No. 29 - Thursday, July 21, 2022

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