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Stories by Chris Ahrens

San Diego immigrants sound off on race

I grew up in the United States with a German-American father and a Mexican-American mother. Her name, Lupe, was a common feature of racial jokes at the time, but I could camouflage my Hispanic roots ...

August 19, 2020
Oceanside – eclecticism reigns

Homes at end of Oceanside Blvd. claim emergency The city never got approval,” says Mackin. “They just started doing it. These homeowners had carte blanche to put as much rip rap as they wanted on ...

Bobbi and Mark sleep above the lions in Alpine

Lions and tigers and bears. Is it possible to say the words without at least thinking of Dorothy’s punch line? But a stronger exclamation might be appropriate as Nola the 600-pound white tiger leaps ten ...

July 1, 2020
A San Diego dumpster diver's honor

“We’re a wasteful country. A study by the USDA from 1997, but still in wide use, reports that ‘5.4 billion pounds of food were lost at the retail level in 1995.’ The ‘retail level’ applies ...

June 10, 2020
San Diegans who will be ready for any disaster

I don’t recall when I first heard the word “prepper,” but it was definitely derogatory, perhaps a step above — but certainly related to — “hoarder.” A prepper, as I understood it then, was someone ...

May 6, 2020
The holy ghost of Archie Moore

His was once the most celebrated name in boxing—“The Old Mongoose,” “Ageless Archie,” or simply Archie Moore, the longest-reigning light heavyweight champ. Archie was born in Benoit Mississippi, as his mother claimed, or Collinsville, Illinois, ...

January 29, 2020
Oceanside – California's best kept secret

From the moment we spotted the billboard proudly shouting: “Oceanside, California’s Best Kept Secret,” as we wheeled in from L.A. on southbound Highway 101, my brother Dave and I were frothing. Crossing that imaginary line ...

October 16, 2019
Jacumba – the far edge of San Diego

A quiet street and an old hotel Jacumba is a kind of living ghost town out in southeast San Diego County, on the Mexican border, in what’s called, the Mountain Empire district. It has come ...

Ryan Burch and Carl Eckstrom – outlier surfboard designers

While the world seems geared toward breeding out individuality, surfing celebrates those who successfully break predetermined boundaries. Still, in a time not long ago, fog shrouded our tribe’s favorite activity, and we tumbled into what ...

July 10, 2019
Surfing owes a lot to Baja

The Baja Peninsula is a Rorschach test. Visitors see heaven or hell in an arid landscape. Three million-plus citizens see a homeland free of the congestion of their northern neighbors. Surfers see a crooked finger ...

April 17, 2019
Taylor Guitars’ master guitar designer, Andy Powers has built guitars for Taylor Swift, Zac Brown, Edge from U2 and others

Andy Powers plays a little ditty he made up on the spot on a guitar he built by hand, in the home he rebuilt to perfection. Powers, who ranks among the best guitar makers in ...

Find money, fins, and Frisbees in the "stank bank"

The great kelp forests off our coast grow up to two feet a day under ideal conditions. At their peak, individual strands can reach over 100 feet in length. Usually, however, they are ripped from ...

March 5, 2019
Algae-based surfboard foam produced in Ensenada

After 44 consecutive years in business, Gordon “Grubby” Clark, closed his doors for good. Clark’s company, Clark Foam, once produced most of America’s surfboard blanks, the foam cores essential to building surfboards. His closure resulted ...

March 4, 2019
Oceanside’s link to “Once Upon a Time in the West” pedal steel great Buddy Emmons

Nothing cries as convincingly as a pedal steel guitar. While that sound breaths emotion into Hawaiian, country, and even rock n’ roll music on occasion, it is more often associated with Nashville than Oceanside. Yet ...

February 28, 2019
The five-star surf spots of San Diego

Tijuana Sloughs in the south and Cotton’s Point in the north bookend the 70-some miles of San Diego coastline. Sandwiched between these two deep-water reefs is one of the lushest wave gardens on earth. Prime ...

February 26, 2019
In-ko-pah flying saucer tour

If I were ever going to see a UFO, I figured it would be in the desert. Then, last Tuesday while innocently driving through In-Ko-Pah, near Desert Tower, that rock edifice standing lookout over a ...

Mat riders in Point Loma and Encinitas

Before the invention of the Morey Boogie Board in the early ‘70s, the surf mat was the vehicle of choice for the novice wave rider. Until that time, liquor stores along the coast rented these ...

February 19, 2019
Surf lingo revisted: 1976 to 2019

When Jim Mullin wrote about “San Diego Surf Lingo” for the Reader in 1976, most surfers in our area were riding seven-foot single fin surfboards, smaller twin fin, Fishes, or the newly revived longboards. Progressive ...

January 28, 2019
Emerald Isle Golf Course concerned with every little bird

It’s been over half a century since comedian Jack Benny cut the ribbon signaling the opening of Emerald Isle Golf Course in southeast Oceanside. Since then the course has doubled its original hole count from ...

January 21, 2019
Sleepers – they look slow and drive fast

Michael Bream’s original down to the oxidized paint 1965 VW twin cab pickup is what auto racers call a “sleeper.” Sleepers are cars that look slow and drive fast. Bream’s vintage VW qualifies by appearing ...

September 17, 2018
The advantage of a custom board

“When you add it all up, a surfboard costs a few cents a wave.” — Legendary surfboard shaper, Bill Caster Generally ranging between 800 and 1,200 dollars each, custom surfboards seem expensive until considering the ...

January 2, 2018
Another surfer-turned-manufacturer

Carl Ekstrom began surfing in 1948, four years after his brother, Woody, had mastered the sport at Windansea, from where the family was nearly forced to move after their rent was raised from $12 to ...

DIY surfboard shaping — cool but not too cool

In the early 1960s, surf shops, which had been little more than beach shacks where balsawood blanks were sculpted into surfboards, were replaced by storefronts where surfboards were sold along with T-shirts and trunks. By ...

September 12, 2017
Tiny surfboards

Paipo boards are small wooden surf craft made to be ridden prone. Alaia boards are paipos’ bigger brothers and can be surfed while standing. While known in Encinitas for building and riding both traditional-style paipos ...

Tim Bessell will make you an Andy Warhol surfboard — for $8,000 to $40,000

Artist Andy Warhol became famous for finding art in things as common as soup cans. While surfboards are not that common, pop art’s crown prince did have a brief brush with the functional art form. ...

Where are Mike Doyle, Mike Hynson, Skip Frye, Joe Roper,Chris O'Rourke, Chris Godfrey, Larry Gordon, Tom Bessell now?

Just prior to the advent of the pro surfing tour in the mid 1970s there was a group of San Diego-based surfers who set the pace for the sport. They helped dictate everything from how ...

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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