Neil Pearlberg, The Perfect Write: Word is, wave won’t be changed by seawall

Posted: 08/23/2009 01:30:06 AM PDT

Chuck Wells knows he is being watched.

Wells is the project superintendent of the $6.2 million Pleasure Point seawall project, now taking form between Pleasure Point and 36th Avenue. After he arrived in Santa Cruz from Discovery Bay in April, it didn’t take Wells long to realize how important and delicate this project is to the surf community.

“We have been carefully watched, albeit with the utmost respect from everyone,” Wells said. “Even the surfers who weren’t too pleased to see us when we began the job have been very supportive, though from the very beginning made it known to us that we were working on something as precious as the Queen of England’s crown jewels.”

Wells said the project is “halfway there.”

To the Pleasure Point surfers, the obvious question and the one most asked of Wells and his crew is, “Will it change the wave?”

The simple answer? No.

“The thick three-layered wall is finished with an architectural shotcrete that is sculpted and stained to resemble natural rock,” Wells said. “Yet it will retain the area’s natural charm, prevent erosion, and most importantly, because we have followed the natural contours of the cliff the seawall, will not effect the wave in any way.”

That’s good news for surfers, but not for the construction crews.

“The waves and tide have been the biggest challenge for this demanding geotechnical project,” Wells said.

Drill Tech Superintendent Abel Cresson is very aware
of the strict rules of the Coastal Commission, which ban be any construction waste in the ocean.

“The equipment and crew working at the base of the wall have a small window to work on a low tide,” he said while looking down from East Cliff Drive at his crew below.

As he watches the incoming tide of the sea lapping against the tracks of a forklift, he goes on to explain, “Not a drop of oil can touch the ocean. Every piece of equipment working at the base of the wall is cleaned every day, has back-up parts on board, and there is an immediate plan in place for anything to be removed from above by crane if there is a problem.”

For 71 years, Don Gleason has been coming to his family’s beach home on East Cliff Drive overlooking Pleasure Point. Now, with construction equipment parked in front of his home, he reminisces back to more peaceful times and to a beach that stretched as far as the eye could see.

“Of course I wish they would’ve done this work 50 years ago,” he said. “My family and I would still be crossing the two lane road that led all the way to Santa Cruz, and walking across 40 feet of lawn to enter the lavish entrance to what was then called Breakers Beach.”

Wells has a wish of his own, but it will have to wait until his crews finish the rest of the project. He wants to take a maiden paddle on a surfboard and head out to the lineup at the Point — not to admire the finished sea wall, but to admire how his team managed not to change one of our most precious waves.