Heal the Bay Blog

The only thing our Water Quality Scientists love more than “Safe Clean Water”, is love! Here’s Heal the Bay’s list of the cuddliest spots for couples, friends, first dates, and everything in between, along the local California shoreline.

Forget crowded restaurants and overpriced (environmentally unfriendly) roses: Unveil the perfect Valentine’s Day with sparkling waters and sandy toes! ️

This year, ditch tradition and escape with your someone special to a breathtaking beach paradise right here in Southern California. Picture yourselves strolling along the shore at sunset, the sky ablaze with color. Sounds pretty dreamy, right?

But wait, there’s more! We’re not just talking about beaches. We’ve curated a list of secluded, romantic havens (including beaches, lakes, and rivers) with A+ water quality ratings and positive environmental impacts that will warm the heart and beckon for exploration. No murky waves or questionable cleanliness here – just lovely local waterside wonders perfect for making unforgettable memories.

Whether you crave classic California sunsets or romantic river staycations, our list has the perfect destination for your love story, adventure with a friend, or self-love solo escape into the outdoors. So, pack your beach bag, grab your sweetheart, and get ready to dive into a Valentine’s Day unlike any other!

Ready to discover your ideal romantic beach escape? Your next friendly freshwater getaway? The perfect LA lakeside love nest? Scroll down and let the adventure begin!

Note: Many of these beaches contain hikes, PV trails, bike paths and pathways that may have recently closed due to land movement and recent storm events. Please check the Los Angelese County Park and Recreation website before visiting any trails and heed any closure signs.  

Here are the top spots we love for love (and their great Beach Report Card water quality grades too!):

Point Dume State Beach and Natural Preserve, Malibu

Source: Heal the Bay MPA Watch Team (

What we love about it:Prepare to be mesmerized by two miles of scenic bluff trails at Point Dume State Beach and Nature Preserve. Whether you’re seeking a romantic stroll hand-in-hand or an invigorating hike, these trails offer breathtaking ocean views encircling a Marine Protected Area where wildlife thrives. Parking is a breeze at Point Dume. A conveniently located lot sits right next to the preserve, and additional free parking options are available along Westward Beach Rd. and Grasswood Ave. This accessibility makes Point Dume ideal for beach lovers, hikers, and anyone seeking a nature escape. 

What to do here: Embark on diverse hiking trails, each offering unique perspectives. Look out for curious sea lions sunning themselves on the bluffs below, playful dolphins flitting through the waves, and, during their December-April migration, magnificent gray whales breaching in the distance. Witness the thrill of surfers riding the waves on the north side or (when safe to do so) delve deeper into the underwater estuary with snorkeling or scuba diving. Point Dume even caters to adrenaline enthusiasts with its popular rock-climbing spots. Prepare for an abundance of onshore and offshore recreational activities!

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements:  Rest assured, the water quality at Point Dume is pristine. According to our Beach Report Card, it boasts an A+ rating, signifying excellent water quality and guaranteeing a safe environment for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring.

Ginger Rogers Beach, Malibu


What we love about it:Love knows no bounds, and neither should your Valentine’s Day celebration! Escape the ordinary and head to Ginger Rogers Beach, a cherished haven for Los Angeles’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community since the 1960s. Embrace the ocean breeze on this special stretch of Will Rogers Beach, just 15 miles from West Hollywood. Accessibility is a breeze: convenient parking, a dedicated bike path, and the Santa Monica Blue Bus 9 stopping nearby ensure stress-free arrival. So, ditch the traditional and celebrate your love in a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere where every couple shines just as brightly as the California sun.

What to do here: Proudly stroll hand-in-hand along the shore with laughter echoing amidst volleyball games, and maybe even join one of the spontaneous beachside dance parties this spot is known for as the sun sets. Celebrating “big love” with your whole crew? Don’t forget to take some group selfies at the #Pride Flag Lifeguard Station. Whether you’re seeking sun-kissed relaxation or playful competition, Ginger Rogers Beach offers something for every love story.

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements:This beach boasted an A+ rating on January 21st, 2024, but check the Beach Report Card app for real-time updates as recent storms may impact water quality. (

Torrey Pines, San Diego

Source: Dan_H, flickr

What we love about it: Torrey Pines State Beach has picturesque views of the San Diego coastline and the adjacent Torrey Pines State Reserve is filled with little trails leading down to the shore. We recommend that you only take marked trails and watch your footing, but the views are worth the adventure.

What to do here: We love the Torrey Pines Trail to Black’s Beach in the morning for a beautiful way to start your day. Fair warning: some nudists like to visit this beach as well.

Water Quality: The only sampling site at Torrey Pines is at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon outlet. That site received good grades in our most recent annual Beach Report Card.

La Jolla, San Diego

Source: Wikipedia Commons

What we love about it: This spot is great for lovers and families alike, with plenty of adventure to be had by all ages.

What to do here: This is the perfect spot for a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) adventure, snorkeling, kayaking, or even just a picturesque walk along the beach. For stunning ocean views over dinner, check out the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Water Quality: La Jolla Shores received great grades in our annual report last year.

Victoria Beach, Orange County

Source: Daniel Peckham, Flickr

What we love about it: Straight out of a fairy tale, this shoreline spot is guarded by La Tour, a 60-foot castle-inspired tower.  Built in 1926, the structure provided beach access for a home on the cliff above.

What to do here: Looking to be someone’s knight in shining armor? Look no further. To get here, walk to the north end of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, around the bluff, and past another sandy section of beach. (This is a privately owned structure, so while you can walk up to it, please do not try to go inside or climb on the structure.)

Water Quality: Victoria Beach received A+’s across the board in our last annual report.

Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County

Source: Wikipedia Commons

What we love about it: With such a long swath of open sandy shores, this is an ideal spot for a romantic seaside stroll, or perhaps for a love-inspired photoshoot.

What to do here: If you’re looking for post-beach walk eats with an ocean view, the Beachcomber Café is a fun option.

Water Quality: Crystal Cove has great water quality in the summer or whenever the weather has been dry. Given the buckets of rain we have (thankfully) gotten this year, make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see.

Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles

Source: Mark Esguerra, The Marke’s World

What we love about it: We love the PV areas so much, that we had to lump the whole peninsula together as one of our top locations. Palos Verdes wraps around from the base of the South Bay down to San Pedro and features beautiful neighborhoods, coastal trails, clean beaches, and tidepool adventures.

What to do here: For those seeking marine biology-inspired adventures, plan your visit during low tide to explore the tidepools at Abalone Cove. For a scenic hike and a secluded rocky beach, don’t miss Palos Verdes Bluff Cove. 

Water Quality: Seeking a beach escape with guaranteed sparkling waters? Look no further than Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, a jewel nestled within the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Not only is Abalone Cove recognized as an Honor Roll beach, signifying top-notch amenities and impeccable upkeep, but the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula boasts an A+ rating on our Beach Report Card, assuring pristine water quality for swimming, sunbathing, and creating unforgettable memories.

El Matador State Beach, Malibu

Source: Elliot McGucken, 500px

What we love about it: El Matador Beach is characterized by dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and even secret sea caves, evoking the atmosphere of a Hollywood romance scene. Whether you’re igniting a new flame or spending time with a longtime partner, El Matador is sure to kindle your passion. Keep in mind that accessing the beach requires descending stairs. 

What to do here: Explore the dramatic landscape, take Instagram-worthy photos, find little hideaway spots for you and your date to share secret kisses, and wrap up your evening with a gorgeous sunset view. Please note that parking can cause a little heartache as spaces are limited. 

Water Quality: Beyond the captivating rock formations and breathtaking scenery, El Matador Beach boasts another hidden gem: impeccably clean, A+-rated water quality. As recognized by our Beach Report Card, this Honor Roll beach guarantees safe, clean, sparkling waves perfect for a day at the beach.

Arroyo Burro, Santa Barbara

Source: Damian Gadal, flickr

What we love about it: Santa Barbara is the perfect little getaway for a weekend of romance. If you’re looking for some time together to rest, rejuvenate, and rekindle the fire, Santa Barbara is the perfect place.

What to do here: We love Arroyo Burro for a sunset walk, and with plenty of parking and restroom access it’s a stress-free beach walk experience.

Water Quality: Arroyo Burro has great water quality in the summer or whenever it has been dry enough that the creek hasn’t been breached. Make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see if you’re feeling like taking a dip. But if the creek is flowing, be sure to stick to the sand over the waves.

Freshwater Sites

Madrona Marsh, Torrance

Source Safe Clean Water Team (

What we love about it: More than just a mall neighbor, Madrona Marsh is a vibrant ecosystem thriving in the heart of Torrance. This beautiful seasonal wetland boasts unique vernal pools teeming with diverse life, from fascinating birds and insects to curious animals and aquatic wonders. Escape the hustle and bustle by venturing onto the multiple trails that weave through the pools and wetlands, immersing yourself in nature’s tranquility.  

What to do here: It’s a wonderful place to take a walk with a loved one and enjoy nature. Slow down, soak in the vibrant hues of California poppies and sunflowers and become captivated by the symphony of birdsong. Let the serenity of the marsh wash over you as you reconnect with nature and each other.

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements: Beyond its beauty, Madrona Marsh plays a vital role in environmental sustainability. The marsh uses nature-based solutions to treat stormwater from the surrounding neighborhood! Water is pumped into a modular wetland system where it is cleaned using a pre-filtration chamber, biofiltration with vetiver (a non-invasive perennial grass) that removes pollutants, and then the filtered water is pumped to wetlands at the marsh. 

L.A. River at Benedict St. in Frogtown, Los Angeles

2023 Heal the Bay Stream Team

What we love about it:  No need to kiss this frog to turn it into the “prince” of Valentine’s Day destinations. Frogtown, nestled between the bustling I-5 and the vibrant LA River, is a vibrant neighborhood. Chic outdoor cafes beckon with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, perfect for cozy hand-holding moments. Imagine the gentle murmur of conversation blending with the soft city breeze, setting the stage for an unforgettable date. (Heal the Bay would like to acknowledge that gentrification has taken place here and would like to pay respect to the original neighborhood landmarks and communities).

What to do here:  Embark on a hand-in-hand adventure along the picturesque LA River Greenway Trail. Cycle leisurely side-by-side, weaving through sun-dappled paths and enjoying the refreshing green spaces. If a slower pace beckons, find a quiet spot by the river’s edge, to sip a coffee from a nearby cafe and watch the water flow serenely next to your loved one. we advise against entering the water right now and outside of the open recreation season (May-Sept), but the scenic backdrop guarantees a picture-perfect memory. 

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements:During the 2023 summer Stream season, the L.A. River at Benedict St. achieved an impressive A+ rating on the River Report Card, confirming its excellent water quality permitted recreational activities during designated open seasons.

 Rock Pool, Malibu Creek State Park 

Source: 2023 Heal the Bay Stream Team (


What we love about it:  Nestled roughly 1.5 miles from the parking lot, the journey itself to Rock Pool is a shared adventure. Prepare to be mesmerized by the picturesque surroundings – towering trees and lush greenery frame the crystal-clear waters. Trust us, the entrance fee is completely worth it. 

What to do here: The swimming hole at this location is of considerable depth, perfect for a refreshing dip after a lengthy hike. After an exhilarating dip, spread out a cozy picnic under the shade of the trees or simply relax and dip your feet in the water.

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements: This natural haven earned an A+ on the 2023 Summer River Report Card, signifying excellent water quality, guaranteeing a refreshing and safe escape for your love story. 


Machado Lake in Ken Malloy Regional Park, Harbor City 

Source: Safe Clean Water Team (

What we love about it: This natural lake isn’t just a body of water; it’s a vibrant ecological hub and a haven for recreation within the sprawling Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park. This impressive park, one of the largest in Los Angeles, boasts a remarkable diversity of habitats, including Machado Lake itself, a seasonal freshwater marsh, a thriving riparian woodland, and even a nonnative grassland.

What to do here:  Imagine your children giggling on the play structures, laughter filling the air during a family picnic at the designated tables, or the thrill of spotting diverse wildlife species. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck with catch-and-release fishing, adding to the diverse activities available. You might even hear whispers of Reggie, the resident alligator who once called the lake home (trust us, Google him – you won’t be disappointed!). 

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements:  Thanks to renovations originally funded by Prop O and other initiatives, the lake’s water treatment systems were revitalized to effectively remove pollutants like trash, bacteria, and even oil and grease. Now, thanks to the Safe, Clean Water Program, regular upkeep ensures the continued health of this vital ecosystem.

Ladera Park, Los Angeles


What we love about it:More than just a park, Ladera is a testament to sustainable practices and community connection where you can make a love connection. Thanks to funding from the Safe, Clean Water Program, this park has implemented smart solutions (like infiltration wells) to capture and permeate stormwater and non-stormwater runoff, ensuring a healthier environment for everyone. Here rainwater nourishes native plants instead of flowing into polluted waterways.  Stroll hand-in-hand with your favorite environmentalist through paths marked with educational signage or enjoy lunch in this living classroom for visitors of all ages. The perfect outdoor date for those committed to each other, and sustainability.

What to do here: This park has it all – areas for parties and barbeques, playgrounds, sports areas, walking paths, and lots of large sycamore trees. Wildlife abounds and there are frequently western bluebirds, hawks, and more.  

Water Quality/Water quality improvement elements:  The impact goes beyond the park’s boundaries. By capturing and treating over half a million gallons of stormwater annually, Ladera Park significantly reduces harmful pollutants like bacteria and metals from entering nearby waterways. This contributes to a cleaner Centinela Creek, Ballona Creek, and ultimately, the ocean, benefiting countless species and the entire community.

Looking for beaches outside of SoCal? See our previous blog and check out recent water quality with Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We grade more than 700 beaches weekly from Oregon to the Mexico border, assigning an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location.

Special thanks to the romantics on our Science, Outreach, and Water Quality Team:

Dr. Katherine Pease, Science, and Policy Director; Dr. Alison Xunyi Wu, Water Quality Data Specialist; Dr. Tania Pineda-Enriquez, Water Quality Data and Policy Associate Specialist; Nancy Shrodes, Senior Watershed Specialist, South Santa Monica Bay; Jillian Marshall, Communications Manager; and Leslie Griffin, former chief water quality scientist Heal the Bay. 

Take time to commemorate this Black History Month and learn about the African American environmentalists who helped shape our environmental history.

Advocating for Environmental justice is a pillar of Heal the Bay’s decades-long mission, but environmental justice cannot exist without racial justice. The historical reality is staggering: Black communities in the US have borne the brunt of pollution, climate change, and limited access to green spaces. This systemic injustice demands immediate action.

But amidst the struggle, hope emerges. Let’s celebrate some Black luminaries in the environmental movement who have paved the way for a brighter future. These inspiring leaders have created invaluable space and opportunities, empowering the next generation of young Black voices fighting for a just and sustainable planet.

Enjoy our micro-museum and let it inspire a more profound journey into the history of environmental justice and its pioneers.

Please view our list of resources, including a list of non-profit organizations established to engage and serve local black communities and beyond and events to continue your education and celebration of Black History Month!




Black leaders in both the American environmental justice and environmentalist movement.

Majora Carter

Dr. Robert Bullard

Inell Woods

Charles Young

Lisa P Jackson

Dr. John Francis

Margie Eugene-Richard

Nick Gabaldón


Majora Carter’s impact transcends titles from South Bronx activist to national changemaker. More than just an award-winning strategist and broadcaster, she’s a John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation Genius Grant” recipient whose groundbreaking work redefined urban renewal, environmental protection, and restoration. In the 1990s, she ignited hope in her community by transforming a mere $10k grant into South Bronx’s first waterfront park in 60 years, a testament to her unwavering belief that “no community should shoulder more burdens than benefits.”

This wasn’t just a park; it was a catalyst. Carter went on to found Sustainable South Bronx, empowering residents to reclaim their environmental rights and fight for green spaces. Today, her Majora Carter Group continues this legacy, equipping low-income communities across the US with the tools and strategies to build healthier, revitalized environments, fostering prosperity and resilience.

Inspired? Dive deeper into Carter’s journey through her powerful TED Talk “Greening the Ghetto” and learn more about her fight for environmental justice.

Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto | TED Talk

#Enviornmentaljustice history is still being made. #Black history is environmental history.


Dr. Robert D. Bullard, a sociologist and American academic, is regarded as the “father of environmental justice.” His decades of leadership as an advocate and educator continue to shape the future of environmental equity for marginalized communities.

From Marine Corps sergeant to “father of environmental justice,” Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s life is a testament to tireless advocacy and groundbreaking research. After serving his country, Bullard dedicated himself to academia, earning degrees in government studies (Alabama A&M), an M.A. in sociology at Atlanta University (Clark Atlanta University), and culminating in a Ph.D. (Iowa State University). His dedication bore fruit in the 1978 landmark Bean vs. Southern Waste Management lawsuit, where he led research exposing the discriminatory placement of toxic waste facilities near communities of color. His findings revealed that “Black neighborhoods were the predominant site for most of the solid waste disposal sites in Houston, yet they represented only 25% of the total population,” and that race was the “driving force behind this environmental injustice.”

His research, later published in Solid Waste Sites and the Black Houston Community,” sparked national outrage and became the first major study to document environmental racism.

Bullard’s impact extends far beyond one case. He co-founded the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, fostering collaboration and establishing core principles of the modern environmental justice movement. These principles were championed by Bullard at the federal level, influencing the Clinton administration’s Executive Order on environmental justice and earning him a recent appointment to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council under President Biden.


Community activism and environmental justice go hand-in-hand.

Although Woods was not primarily known for environmental work, this tireless community activist who championed fairness and inclusion for South LA will soon have her legacy etched in green space. After a decade of dedicated work on the part of Heal the Bay, local government officials, and the community itself, the empty lot that once encouraged the very disparities that often impact inner-city communities of color across the street from her long-time home will finally become a “safe green space” bearing the name “Inell Woods Park.”

More than just a park, this space embodies the values Mrs. Woods fought for throughout her life. From rallying for seniors and organizing meal programs to advocating for green spaces in neighborhoods like the South LA community of Green Medows, she understood the interconnectedness of community well-being and environmental justice.

Recognizing this connection, the park itself is designed with sustainability in mind. Native plants will reduce long-term potable water needs, and shade trees will be added as a crucial step in addressing the urban heat island effect that disproportionately impacts regional communities of color like South LA.

Beyond aesthetics, Inell Woods Park is a testament to community activism’s power and ability to create lasting positive change. As South LA’s first “stormwater park,” the space was designed to capture rainwater, and a Permavoid system will be used to treat stormwater. The park’s innovative stormwater system is designed to reuse 16,000 gallons of water, starkly contrasting traditional irrigation methods and showcasing a commitment to environmental responsibility.

This long-awaited space is more than just a park; it’s a symbol of hope, resilience, and a thriving future for South LA, forever intertwined with the legacy of Mrs. Inell Woods.

At the future park’s community awareness event in 2022, City Councilman Price took time to commemorate the namesake of the site: “I am honored to name our newest park Inell Woods, in honor of a community champion who spent her life advocating for fairness, inclusion and ensuring the South L.A. community was supported,” Price said. “This park is the community’s gift to Mrs. Woods and the tremendous legacy she has left behind.”


After ten years of work, plans have been finalized to break ground on this space in the Spring of 2024. Learn more about the park: Inell Woods Park 2024 Fact Sheet


Charles Young was the highest-ranking African-American commanding officer in the United States Army from 1894 until his death in 1922. He also served as the first African-American superintendent of a national park, overseeing Sequoia and [Kings Canyon] National Parks while commanding a troop of Buffalo Soldiers in the years before the creation of the National Park Service.

Born to enslaved parents in Kentucky in 1864, Young’s parents, Gabriel and Arminta Young, moved to Ripley, Ohio, in 1866 with their two-year-old son Charles to improve their prospects after the Civil War. In 1889, Charles Young was the third African American to graduate from West Point.

Colonel Charles Young’s story and leadership are symbolic of the experience of the Buffalo Soldiers during difficult and racially tense times.

In 1866, the Congress established six all-black regiments, later consolidated to four, to help rebuild the country after the Civil War and to patrol the remote western frontier.

“The Buffalo Soldiers were an important part of the early history of America’s national parks. Before Congress created the National Park Service in 1916, the U.S. Army was critical in administering several parks. The Army sent the Buffalo Soldiers to manage Yosemite, [Kings Canyon], and Sequoia National Parks in California. The Buffalo Soldiers blazed early park trails, built roads, produced maps, drove out trespassing livestock, extinguished fires, monitored tourists, and kept poachers and loggers at bay.”



Lisa P. Jackson, the first African-American EPA Administrator, has created a powerful legacy for Black History Month and beyond. She has spent her career breaking barriers, championed critical environmental advancements during her tenure with the EPA (2009-2013), and was featured on Time magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”. There is so much she has done and continues to do to protect our planet!

“During her tenure from 2009 to 2013, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson focused on seven priorities for EPA’s future: taking action on climate change; improving air quality; cleaning up our communities; protecting America’s waters; assuring the safety of chemicals; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building stronger state and tribal partnerships.” (EPA.GOV)

Jackson tackled climate change head-on, paving the way for EPA action with her 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. Her focus extended beyond improving air quality, cleaning communities, protecting waterways, and ensuring chemical safety. She didn’t just talk the talk – she implemented clean air standards and a groundbreaking clean cars program, leading to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But Jackson’s impact goes deeper. She prioritized environmental justice, empowering historically underrepresented communities and strengthening protections for vulnerable groups. This legacy of action, inclusion, and progress makes her a true inspiration for environmental movements everywhere.


The collision of two oil tankers and the subsequent environmental destruction wrought by this infamous oil spill sent Dr. John Francis, known as “Planetwalker,” on a remarkable journey that transformed him into a renowned conservationist, educator, and bestselling author. After witnessing the devastating San Francisco Bay oil spill in 1971, Francis made a radical choice: he walked. For 22 years, he shunned motorized vehicles, traversing the US and Latin America on foot, all while earning a Ph.D. in Land Management.

But his commitment went beyond movement. He took a powerful 17-year vow of silence to amplify environmental awareness, breaking it only on Earth Day 1990. From then on, Dr. Francis dedicated himself to conservation, becoming an influential voice in policy and education.

His achievements are as impressive as his journey. He is the National Geographic Society’s first Education Fellow, a UN Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador, and an acclaimed author. He even played a crucial role in crafting oil spill regulations after the Exxon Valdez disaster, earning recognition from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Dr. Francis’ story isn’t just about walking; it’s about action. He inspires us to challenge norms, speak up for our planet, and dedicate ourselves to creating a more sustainable future.


In Norco, Louisiana, the predominantly Black community of Old Diamond found itself squeezed between a Shell Chemical plant and an oil refinery. Fear of accidents and the harsh reality of elevated cancer, congenital disabilities, and respiratory issues were everyday life. These stemmed from decades of environmental contamination.

 After years of being subjected to these environmental risks and following her sister’s death from a rare bacterial infection, Margie Richard founded the Concerned Citizens of Norco (CCN) in the early 1990s. This environmental justice group demanded a solution: fair resettlement. Years of tireless leadership, including commissioning a community-based air quality study, finally paid off. In 2002, CCN secured a historic agreement with Shell, leading to the relocation of Old Diamond residents to safer communities.

 Margie Richard’s unwavering efforts made her a pioneer of the environmental justice movement. In 2004, she became the first African-American to receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, a testament to her impact.

Margie Eugene-Richard (1941-present) is a powerhouse in environmental justice. Her campaign to stop significant corporations from polluting her family home led to one of the most significant environmental lawsuits in recent history.


Amidst the discriminatory Jim Crow era, Santa Monica Beach reflected the harsh reality of divided shores. “Inkwell Beach,” a meager 200-foot zone restricted to Black beachgoers, served as Nick Gabaldon’s unlikely launching pad. Here, he defied boundaries, teaching himself to surf on a borrowed lifeguard’s paddleboard, carving his name as the first documented African American Latinx surfer of Santa Monica Bay.

But Nick’s spirit couldn’t be confined by ropes or prejudices. Undeterred by the lack of a car, he embarked on 12-mile paddle journeys to Malibu, the epicenter of West Coast surfing. Despite being the only Black surfer, he found acceptance among the predominantly white community.

Then, on June 5th, 1951, tragedy struck. Nick, drawn by the allure of an eight-foot swell, paddled his usual 12 miles to ride the mythic Malibu Pier righthander. After catching a legendary wave, he attempted a daring maneuver – shooting the pier itself. Sadly, his board was found, but his body wouldn’t resurface until days later. Nick, at just 24, lost his life to the sea’s unpredictable power.

Eerily prescient, Nick had penned a poem titled “Lost Lives” for his Santa Monica City College literary magazine six days before his fatal attempt. Its haunting lines echoed the ocean’s dark allure:

The sea vindictive, with waves so high
For men to battle and still they die.
Many has it taken to its bowels below;

Without regard it thus does bestow
Its laurels to unwary men.

Nick Gabaldón, the trailblazing surfer, left behind a legacy not just of his skill, but of his courage and spirit, forever etched in the waves of history.


The “Black in Marine Science” Spotlight

Swipe through the Black in Marine Science List of “6 Black Marine Scientists You Should Know About“. Follow @blackinmarinescience  to learn more about this “premier organization aimed to celebrate Black marine scientists, spread environmental awareness, and inspire the next generation of scientific thought leaders.”

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Get Engaged- Check out this list of Black History Celebrations and activations in Los Angeles.

Get Activated Download this list of  Non-profit Organizations established to engage and serve local black communities and beyond.

Check out the full 2023 Coastal Wrap-Up Book:


Check out our Coastal Cleanup Day Highlight Stats! 

Updated September 27, 2023, 3:00 PM

Coastal Cleanup Day 2023 Stats

Los Angeles County Numbers (Heal the Bay Sites)

  • 47 Cleanup Sites Reported
  • 7, 337 volunteers
  • 1, 646 volunteers who brought their own cleanup supplies
  • 16,211 pounds of trash
  • 429 pounds of recycling
  • 97.5 miles of beach, river, underwater, and neighborhoods sites cleaned.
  • 15 Inland Cleanups, 31 Coastal Cleanups, 2 Dive Cleanups

According to the California Coastal Commission as of 5PM 9/24 with 50% reporting (including Heal the Bay)

  • 25,570 volunteers participated statewide.
  • Those volunteers picked up 126,605 pounds of trash at cleanup sites all along California.
  • An additional 7,041 pounds of recyclable materials were collected. 
  • A total of 133,645 pounds or 67 tons of refuse were removed from watersheds all over California. 

Thank you to all who joined Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County on Coastal Cleanup Day 2023, and a special thank you to our 2023 Coastal Cleanup Day Sponsors:

A Wave of gratitude for our 2023 Coastal Cleanup Day Sponsors

2023 Coastal Cleanup Day Sponsors:

Pacific Premier Bank @pacificpremierbank

Ocean Conservancy @oceanconservancy

Water Replenishment District @wrdsocal

City of Santa Monica @cityofsantamonica

Department of Beaches and Harbors, Los Angeles County @lacdbh

California Coastal Commission @coastalcommission

Northrop Grumman @northropgrumman

Water for LA @waterforla

Councilwoman Traci Park (Council District 11) @councilwomantracipark

Councilmember Tim McOsker (Council District 15)

Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky (Council District 5) @cd5losangeles

Long-time friend of Heal the Bay, and former Board Member, Nancy Akers passed away in December 2022, leaving behind an impressive legacy of social consciousness and environmental stewardship.

Heal the Bay will be forever grateful for the generosity, entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship of former Board Member Nancy Akers. When the Akers Family launched one of the country’s first certified organic cotton clothing lines, O Wear, they partnered with Heal the Bay to create the organization’s first branded organic cotton t-shirt, and an important relationship was born. Nancy served as a member of Heal the Bay’s Board of Directors for more than a decade as both the Vice President of Marketing and co-Chair of the Bring Back the Beach gala where Nancy became friends with Heal the Bay founder, Dorothy Green, who she loved dearly.

“It was wonderful to work so closely with Nancy for over a decade.  Her boundless energy, determination, passion, leadership and marketing expertise were so critical to Heal the Bay’s success. She will be sorely missed. ” – Mark Gold

Nancy’s creativity, perseverance, and passion for the environment earned her awards and accolades from Heal the Bay, the United Nations Environment Program, and President Clinton’s Council On the Environment for her many sustainability efforts.

Throughout her career, Nancy’s wide variety of philanthropical achievements reached across both social and environmental nonprofit worlds touching many lives through her tireless work. She served on the Board of Directors for The Dallas Children’s Theatre; And notably, she has a long and impressive career with American Women in Radio and TV (AWRT), as President of the LA Chapter of American Women in Radio and TV, as well as the Vice President of Programming and Professional Development for the National Chapter in New York. She was also a member of the National Chapter Board of Directors, and At-Large-Trustee of the Foundation of AWRT and directed the first American National TV campaign to address Women’s Rights in the workplace for CBS and AWRT.

Nancy will be missed dearly by her husband George, daughter Deirdre, son Christopher and her loyal canine companion Kristy.

Heal the Bay will continue to honor her legacy and years of success in its commitment to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean.




Cigarette filters made from single-use plastic are a huge environmental problem, butt (pun intended), upcoming California legislation offers the first steps toward a solution.

Cigarette Butts are the #1 thing we find at our Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanups.

Heal the Bay cleanup volunteers have removed a total of 953,756 cigarette butts from beaches in Los Angeles since 2008. Although we are proud of this impact, the pollution problem is never-ending and what is especially concerning is that the filters in cigarettes are made from plastic, which never goes away. Cigarette butts are not only the most prevalent thing we find on our beach cleanups, they are the most littered item on Earth. For an item so small, they have a massive negative impact on marine habitats.

Not People Friendly, Not Planet Friendly

But aren’t cigarette filters an important public health and safety measure? Contrary to popular belief cigarette filters do not offer health protections. In 1964 the Surgeon General judged cigarette filters to be useless in reducing harm to the average smoker and the health benefits of filters have been called “fraudulent” by the World Health Organization.

Cigarette filters are unhealthy for fish and wildlife too. When cigarette butts with filters are thrown onto the street, they make their way through the storm drain system that flows out to the ocean, carrying the chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes with them. About 90% of filters are made from plastic and end up as micro-plastics in our ocean, which have infiltrated the food web, from fish to humans. Butt, a plan to take single-use plastic filters out of the equation is on the horizon.

Butt, a change is coming!

This year, The Smoking Waste Pollution Prevention Act looks to phase out the sale of single-use, non-rechargeable vaping devices and cigarette/cigar “filters” in California. When our state makes big moves toward change it gives other states the opportunity to follow and before you know it there could be nation-wide change. Use your voice to bring this change to California first. How can you help?

Call or email your California Legislators and ask them to vote YES on AB 1690 at the Assembly Health Committee on March 29 (it takes 3 minutes).

  1. Find your rep here: Find Address (
  2. Call your rep and say:
    1. My name is (your name).
    2. I live (state the city you live in).
    3. I want you to vote YES on AB 1690!
  3. Email your rep and say:
    1. My name is (your name).
    2. I live in (city you live in).
    3. I want you to vote YES on AB 1690

Or download this long form email template you can customize and send a message to your assembly member that could make a huge impact.

Download Email Template

Put an end to butts on the beach (the bad kind!)

Spread the word and share what you’ve learned on social media using the hashtags #AB1690, #CircularEconomy, and #CAMustLEAD! Most people have no idea that cigarette butts are so detrimental to the environment, but when we share what we know we can empower others to help make change.