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San Diego lifeguards cast wary eye on Pt. Loma surfers

Dolphins Tanks and Donuts trickiest spots

Sergeant Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, Nov. 6.
Sergeant Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, Nov. 6.

At about 8:30 a.m., on November 5, a walker at the Cabrillo National Monument park dialed 911 when he saw a distressed surfer down below. "A surfer had washed into the rocks near the tide pools at Cabrillo Park," said the SD Fire-Rescue's social media handler. "Fortunately, lifeguards reached him quickly."

In Sergeant A. Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, it appears there was one lifeguard onboard a watercraft who rescued a surfer wearing a black-colored wetsuit with a red-colored surfboard in tow in the 6-8 feet surf. There were at least two other first responders in between the overlooking cliffs and an eight-foot fence. "A very high tide made for a challenging rescue .... and he was safely returned to his boat."

"The rescue was in front of Dolphin Tanks and by Donuts."

"It's legally accessible by a boat that is anchored outside the breakers," Chris Mannerino, a known waterfront photographer, said to me on November 15. "The rescue was in front of Dolphin Tanks and by Donuts. You can access them by foot on low tide, but it's a huge fine from the park rangers."

"You definitely cannot hike it unless you like $2000 fines and/or getting [possibly] shot at by the military," commented a Redditor who lived up the street from the national park. "All these assholes from L.A. come down with their boats, or so I have heard. I don't know who in their right mind would go through that much effort to surf a mediocre right point break, but to each his own, I guess."

Naval Base Point Loma and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a federal military cemetery, are north of the tidepools' park; they share the cliffs overlooking the surf.

On November 15, I tried to talk to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department about the recent rescue and the surf by the bottom western edge of the Point Loma peninsula but did not get a response.

"Dolphins Tanks and Donuts are some of the best-kept secrets in San Diego," Marla Rothhouse said to me. "Maybe it's an excellent surf, and they don't want other people to go there."

Marla Rothhouse: "When I hear an ambulance drive by our store, I say, 'I hope that's not a surfer.'"

For the last 36 years, Rothhouse has sold surfboards and surf gear out of the Second Chance Sports store on Point Loma Blvd., about five miles north of where the rescue transpired. "It's kind of like the Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton documentary where they took a boat, and they surfed at these dangerous places. So it kind of reminds me of that."

A number of brave souls are depicted surfing on the Dolphins Tank and Donuts breaks on YouTube. Then there's Rob Rast's "I Got Destroyed - Surfing Dolphin Tanks From a Boat in San Diego" video, which garnered 69 likes — and 24 dislikes. "It'd be much better if you learned at your local beach break and didn't burn the people that know what they are doing while they keep this spot away from the radar," commented a local surfer. "Advice? Stay in the gym and trim your mustache. .... You are seriously creating animosity amongst the people that have surfed the area for many, many years and generations."

The Mexican Navy deployed a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue a surfer who wiped out south of Ensenada.

"Since the pandemic, lots of newbies got into surfing," Rothhouse continued. "And with the new surfers, so have the accidents. When I hear an ambulance drive by our store, I say, 'I hope that's not a surfer.'"

Last summer, Morgan, a North County bodyboarder, noticed the SD Fire and Rescue lifeguards hard at work. "Mad respect for you guys," she said. "I was in the water for 30 minutes in Del Mar and saw the guards pull out 12 people in that period of time." Then in January, there were back-to-back rescues involving surfers.

On January 6, a surfer with his surfboard assisted a woman who had jumped into the ocean off of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. by Froude Street in Ocean Beach; the surfer "kept her afloat while lifeguards were on the way," said an SD Fire-Rescue personnel. "Within minutes, lifeguard trucks arrived, and two lifeguards jumped into the water to relieve the surfer .... After a tremendous effort by the lifeguards, this critical rescue of the young woman was accomplished."

The day before, and over 100 miles south, the Mexican Navy deployed a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue a surfer who wiped out south of Ensenada, according to the El Imparcial news outlet. The Navy men utilized a winch and cable to extract the surfer from the waters.

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Sergeant Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, Nov. 6.
Sergeant Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, Nov. 6.

At about 8:30 a.m., on November 5, a walker at the Cabrillo National Monument park dialed 911 when he saw a distressed surfer down below. "A surfer had washed into the rocks near the tide pools at Cabrillo Park," said the SD Fire-Rescue's social media handler. "Fortunately, lifeguards reached him quickly."

In Sergeant A. Marino's rescue photos posted that Friday, it appears there was one lifeguard onboard a watercraft who rescued a surfer wearing a black-colored wetsuit with a red-colored surfboard in tow in the 6-8 feet surf. There were at least two other first responders in between the overlooking cliffs and an eight-foot fence. "A very high tide made for a challenging rescue .... and he was safely returned to his boat."

"The rescue was in front of Dolphin Tanks and by Donuts."

"It's legally accessible by a boat that is anchored outside the breakers," Chris Mannerino, a known waterfront photographer, said to me on November 15. "The rescue was in front of Dolphin Tanks and by Donuts. You can access them by foot on low tide, but it's a huge fine from the park rangers."

"You definitely cannot hike it unless you like $2000 fines and/or getting [possibly] shot at by the military," commented a Redditor who lived up the street from the national park. "All these assholes from L.A. come down with their boats, or so I have heard. I don't know who in their right mind would go through that much effort to surf a mediocre right point break, but to each his own, I guess."

Naval Base Point Loma and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a federal military cemetery, are north of the tidepools' park; they share the cliffs overlooking the surf.

On November 15, I tried to talk to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department about the recent rescue and the surf by the bottom western edge of the Point Loma peninsula but did not get a response.

"Dolphins Tanks and Donuts are some of the best-kept secrets in San Diego," Marla Rothhouse said to me. "Maybe it's an excellent surf, and they don't want other people to go there."

Marla Rothhouse: "When I hear an ambulance drive by our store, I say, 'I hope that's not a surfer.'"

For the last 36 years, Rothhouse has sold surfboards and surf gear out of the Second Chance Sports store on Point Loma Blvd., about five miles north of where the rescue transpired. "It's kind of like the Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton documentary where they took a boat, and they surfed at these dangerous places. So it kind of reminds me of that."

A number of brave souls are depicted surfing on the Dolphins Tank and Donuts breaks on YouTube. Then there's Rob Rast's "I Got Destroyed - Surfing Dolphin Tanks From a Boat in San Diego" video, which garnered 69 likes — and 24 dislikes. "It'd be much better if you learned at your local beach break and didn't burn the people that know what they are doing while they keep this spot away from the radar," commented a local surfer. "Advice? Stay in the gym and trim your mustache. .... You are seriously creating animosity amongst the people that have surfed the area for many, many years and generations."

The Mexican Navy deployed a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue a surfer who wiped out south of Ensenada.

"Since the pandemic, lots of newbies got into surfing," Rothhouse continued. "And with the new surfers, so have the accidents. When I hear an ambulance drive by our store, I say, 'I hope that's not a surfer.'"

Last summer, Morgan, a North County bodyboarder, noticed the SD Fire and Rescue lifeguards hard at work. "Mad respect for you guys," she said. "I was in the water for 30 minutes in Del Mar and saw the guards pull out 12 people in that period of time." Then in January, there were back-to-back rescues involving surfers.

On January 6, a surfer with his surfboard assisted a woman who had jumped into the ocean off of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. by Froude Street in Ocean Beach; the surfer "kept her afloat while lifeguards were on the way," said an SD Fire-Rescue personnel. "Within minutes, lifeguard trucks arrived, and two lifeguards jumped into the water to relieve the surfer .... After a tremendous effort by the lifeguards, this critical rescue of the young woman was accomplished."

The day before, and over 100 miles south, the Mexican Navy deployed a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue a surfer who wiped out south of Ensenada, according to the El Imparcial news outlet. The Navy men utilized a winch and cable to extract the surfer from the waters.

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