It’s officially summer! We’ve gathered Orange County landmarks from our favorite spots of the season: Huntington Beach Pier, The Fun Zone, Crystal Cove, and more. Everyone has a favorite spot here that evokes memories. We asked locals to share the intimate stories behind places with which you’re already familiar. Here are five related to the coast.

The Fun Zone as seen from the historic Balboa ferry. Photo by Emily J. Davis

Captaining the Balboa ferry

“My grandpa used to captain the ferry, and then my dad and his three other siblings worked on the ferry as well. My uncle was in the shop for 45 years doing all the maintenance on the boats. My aunt was running the boat, too, and I think she was one of the first female captains. I was there for seven and a half years, and I was captain for almost two years. I started working there when I was 16; it was my very first job. Everyone there is like a family. We all used to pull pranks on each other.

“You become friends with all the locals, and you meet so many people. I think the ferry takes thousands of people a year, which is kind of crazy. … We’d have Dennis Rodman come on. He was a local on the ferry. I remember my first time meeting him; he had on gold nail polish, and he came walking over saying, ‘Give me some love, give me a hug!’ He was super nice.

We had lots of Duffys hit us when we were parked in the slip. There were some nights when we had super strong winds and the current going the same direction, so it’s very difficult to get the boat into the slip. I miss that the most—those challenging nights. We did almost 100 dockings a day, so you get really comfortable with docking the boat.”

—Kayla Smith, former Balboa Ferry captain

Photo of The Wedge by Tyler Ramirez

Surfing The Wedge

“My favorite memories are riding my bike down there as a little kid from Newport Elementary. I’d go watch The Wedge and started body surfing when it was small with my friends. When I was around 13, I went out there and surfed it for the first time. I was pretty scared. I remember it was a big day and I wasn’t sure where to paddle out, but once I caught my first wave, I was hooked on it. The challenge of surfing (The Wedge) is my favorite. It’s far from the perfect wave, but it’s the biggest one we have on the Southern California coast. It’s a hard wave to surf from start to finish without getting smashed into the sand. I’ve tweaked my back pretty good, and hit my head on the sand a couple of times, but luckily nothing major. It’s definitely worth it. My favorite day out there was in 2017. I caught my biggest waves out there: 25- to 30-foot waves.”

—Tyler Gunter, professional surfer

Laura Davick stands near the Crystal Cove cottages. Photo by Emily J. Davis

Growing up in a Crystal Cove cottage

“My mother started going down there when she was 12 in 1937 to tent camp along the beach every summer. In 1940, my father’s family came down and they started tent camping as well, so my parents met there in 1940. They ended up acquiring Cottage #2, which is the cottage next to the Beachcomber, when I was just a year old … and I lived there until I was 42 years old. My fondest memories are spending time with my grandmother at the tide pools. There were a couple of pools in particular that I sat in as a young girl, and those memories are just etched in my mind. I had a horse at the Irvine Equestrian Center up on the bluff, so I used to wake up early in the morning, run down the beach and up the hill, and grab my horse. I’d ride him down and tie him up in front of the house for breakfast. I always loved to sleep outside on the porch, and I started doing that early on at Crystal Cove and just waking up out there and listening to the waves and being part of nature. The ocean is such a strong force and something I’ve always been really passionate about. It was a childhood that I can only describe as being pretty perfect.”

—Laura Davick, founder of Crystal Cove Conservancy

Laguna Beach lifeguard tower photo by Emily J. Davis

The lifeguard tower at Laguna’s Main Beach: By the Numbers


Year it was built


Years later that it was relocated by horse to Main Beach


Square feet in size


Days it was used each year until 1985

Seeing the aftermath of the Huntington Beach Pier falling in 1988

“It was huge waves, and all my friends wanted to surf. The waves were breaking so far out that you couldn’t really see where they were breaking. It was also stormy, so the water was all mixed up and it was hard to see. It was just really treacherous out there. It was hitting the bottom of the pier, which is gigantic. The Huntington and Seal Beach piers broke at the same time. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I saw it after and was kind of freaking out because (the surf) has to be so big for that to happen. They had to close the pier—a lot of people wanted to go on it, but it would’ve been too dangerous. I remember after it was broken down, it was weird to not have it there and they had to reconstruct it. Now it’s a completely different style. It’s a little bit taller. That pier had been there since the 1930s.

(A few days after the storm) I rode my bike to Bolsa Chica. I noticed a few surfers I knew were going out and it was gigantic; it was Hawaii-style. They were really good surfers; this guy, Scott Farnsworth, he was a famous surfer at the time and this other guy Ryan Keenan. I was like, what the heck. I couldn’t believe (they were going out). There was no one else but these two guys going out.”

—Rick Blake, Portola Middle School art teacher and cofounder of the Surfside Seventies and Sunset Sixties surf contests