Parks honoring surf legends and PCH history break ground as part of new Dana Point development

February 17, 2017

Two parks – one based on the city’s origins as the spot the surfing industry was born and another dedicated to California history – are moving ahead.

While recent rainstorms have delayed the progress, city officials said Friday that sculptures and artwork planned for both parks are being created and landscapes and custom pieces could be in place as early as June.

Among the first pieces to go up will be a monument to Hobie Alter – creator of the foam surfboard and the Hobie Cat. The monument will be the centerpiece of the surf park across from Doheny State Beach and sit atop shell-embedded pavers that replicate the beachfront on Copocabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Life-sized sculptures of other local surfer legends will be created by artist Bill Limebrook, who grew up on Beach Road, where many of the surfers lived. Those pieces will be installed in four-month increments following the Hobie installation, said Ursula Luna-Reynosa, the city’s director of community development

A model of the monument, which has Hobie’s likeness riding a Hobie Cat, was debuted two weeks ago at a groundbreaking ceremony at Doheny for the 168-unit South Cove luxury condo project. Encinitas-based developer Zephyr donated the land for the two parks.

“Doheny Beach is surfing,” Mayor Debra Lewis said following the Jan. 26 ceremony. “It began here. The two are inextricably linked. Nothing will remind people of the fact better than the life-sized Hobie Cat with Hobie at the helm.”

Phil Edwards, the first surfer to ride the “Banzai Pipeline” in Hawaii and to have a signature model surfboard released with his name on it, made a surprise appearance. Edwards, who shaped boards with Alter in his Dana Point surf shop, will be one of the local surfers memorialized with a statue in the new surf park.

“In too many ways to mention, the stars have aligned on this project,” said Luna-Reynosa, who is coordinating the surf park project with notable local surfers like Dick Metz.

She said she was pleased that Zephyr selected Limebrook as the sculptor for the statues.

“He grew up with many of the subjects and has personal stories about his interaction with some and his admiration for all,” she said. “It’s like he’s part of the story and I don’t think you can get any more authentic than that.”

Dana Point officials say the parks will help reclaim the city’s surf ranking among other such notable towns as Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz, which have waged legal battles over the claim to “Surf City.”

Alter first shaped and sold boards in Dana Point. Surfer magazine was born there. And it was the home of Killer Dana, a right-breaking wave just off the headlands that was famous for producing huge surf until construction of the Dana Point Harbor in 1966 stopped the break.

The city is also working with surf industry stakeholders to move the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center – now in an industrial park in San Clemente – to Dana Point. Programs and the size of the museum are being evaluated.

Chris Beucler, chief operating officer for Zephyr, calls the Dana Project the most exciting private-public partnership he’s worked on in 35 years. This is the company’s first Orange County development.

“The parks will be a forever landmark,” he said. “The surf park is as relevant with my 14- and 16-year-olds as it is with 70-year-old surfers from the area. It’s neat when we can say that about our project.”

Zephyr bought the 9-acre site in 2015 for $50 million. The location was a old trailer park.

“The first time I looked at it, I said we’ll make this a barefoot community,” Beucler said. “Where else can you live and walk to the beach and never have to cross the street. You tie in the surf community, you tie in the history of Dana Point and you tie in Hobie. Everybody gets excited about surf because it’s Southern California.”

Models for South Cove are expected to open this summer. Homes will range from one to three bedrooms and from 883-2,341 square feet. Prices will be $800,000 to $1 million.

Homes will have attached garages, balconies and rooftops decks. Residents will have immediate access to Doheny State Beach via the Pacific Coast Highway pedestrian bridge and access to walking and biking paths along the San Juan Creek Bike Trail, Beucler said.

Ten of the homes will have a live and work component with storefront opportunities along Pacific Coast Highway, he said. And 17 will be affordable housing.

Beucler and city officials said the two parks will be a big draw for residents, tourists and anyone traveling down Pacific Coast Highway.

The history park will present Dana Point’s history in California, including a topographic map of the state’s surf spots from Trestles to Mavericks in Northern California. Interpretive signs and a timeline will depict the history of Highway 1. Another sign will explain the California Coastal Act, which regulates coastal development and public access.

In the surf plaza, a panel will tell the story of the famed Killer Dana surf break. And current world-class surfers, such as Capistrano Beach’s Rachel Tilly, who took first place in China a year ago, will be recognized. A real-time feed from Surfline will update visitors with water temperatures and surf conditions.

“When I first saw the images, they’re not just cool, they’re life-sized and fantastic,” Beucler said.