Surf's Up! (virtually)

"Surfing the 'Net" gets a literal twist as the "Southern California Sea Grant Guide to L.A. Beaches" - a new USC-created World Wide Web page - brings cyber cruisers detailed maps and visitor's information on 55 beaches along Santa Monica Bay.
by Meg Sullivan
Project architect Phyllis M. Grifman, logged on to the World Wide Web site of the "Southern California Sea Grant Guide to L.A. Beaches." Plans for expanding the beach guide by year's end include visitors' information on beaches throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Photo by Irene Fertik
"Tourists will call up this beach guide and figure out what they want to visit when they come here," said Phyllis M. Grifman, the project's architect.

International symbols indicate the availability of lifeguards, rest rooms, bike paths and boat rentals, and the suitability of a particular beach for swimming, diving, fishing and surfing.

The directions are printed in five languages: English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese.

The cyber bay watch also provides addresses and, in some cases, telephone numbers for beaches from Point Dume in Malibu to Abalone Cove in Palos Verdes.

Beach lovers can "hang ten" - fingers, that is - on the home page for the Southern California Sea Grant, based at the university. Sea Grant is a nationwide network that conducts marine research, technology transfer and marine education with state, federal and university funding.

"You can download the information and print your own maps," said Grifman, Sea Grant's assistant director for outreach programs at USC.

Grifman conceived the project, which was assembled by graduate students in USC's Geographic Information Systems Laboratory. Part of the university's Department of Geography, the lab specializes in computerized mapping.

Plans call for expanding the beach guide by year's end to include visitors' information on beaches throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. Organizers also hope to add photographs, safety tips and descriptions of geological formations and marine and plant life. The Web page already includes links to other sites with information on marine education and boating and mariner safety. But Southern California Sea Grant envisions installing links to additional Web sites of interest to ocean lovers, including reports on boating, fishing, tide and surfing conditions.

"The Southern California Sea Grant Guide to L.A. Beaches" has tidbits that may enlighten even savvy, resident beachcombers. For example, it shows entry points to beaches in the famed Malibu Colony, a star-studded strand commonly - but wrongly - believed to be private. Hiking opportunities in Palos Verdes, interpretive centers in Malibu and "pocket" beaches along Pacific Coast Highway are among the guide's other listings.

Organizers hope the beach guide will act as a teaser for other offerings on Southern California Sea Grant's home page, which includes descriptions of marine research and environmental projects.

"As one fo the largest groups of marine scientists in Southern California, we're on the cutting edge of marine research and we think the public could benefit from our work," said Douglas J. Sherman, director of Southern California Sea Grant and geography department chair. "Also, part of the Sea Grant philosophy is increasing public benefit from the coast. We believe that our Web services fulfill that mission."

The guide, which ultimately will encompass every beach from Leo Carrillo to San Clemente, replaces a popular line of printed pocket guide produced by Southern California Sea Grant. Since 1986, the project has provided tens of thousands of maps of Los Angeles and Orange County beaches to harbor masters, visitors' and convention bureaus, coastal conservancies and travel agents.

Hitting the beach? Check out the "Southern California Sea Grant Guide to L.A. Beaches" at

For more information, send email to Phyllis M. Grifman at