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L.A. Popcorn Adventure #27
September 05, 2006

Our California Birthright

Step Into Liquid + Heal the Bay Coastal Cleanup Day

These days, more kids surf the net than surf the waves. Screening surf documentary Step Into Liquid gave our kids a thrilling ride alongside some of the world's most daring surfers. With film making so real, they caught the perfect wave and shared the exhilaration of being, in the words of surf legend Laird Hamilton, "in harmony with the sea." The kids, mouth agape, watched maverick surfers ride monster waves. They saw women competing atop razor-sharp coral reefs. They got their first glimpse of tow surfing, a new form of the sport, in which athletes are towed offshore to catch waves too far and too big to reach by paddling a board. By the time the credits rolled, our kids were ready to, as the song goes, "...tell the teacher we're surfin', surfin' U.S.A."

It's an easy sell to get your kids to spend a day at the beach. We wanted our kids to understand that it's everyone's job to keep those waves clean for surfing so signed up for the annual Heal the Bay Coastal Cleanup. On a sunny September morning, we threw bathing suits and boogie boards into the car and sang along to the Beach Boys as we headed west to the Santa Monica Pier to help collect trash. Donning rubber gloves, we joined over 10,000 volunteers and helped collect tossed candy wrappers, beer bottles and cigarette butts. The kids were astonished that there was so much litter. Finally, it was time to spread our towels on the (much cleaner) sand and hit the waves. We spent a blissful couple of hours on our boogie boards, trying to "hang ten" like the surfers in the movie and feeling "stoked" about a day well spent.

Film Title: Step Into Liquid
Directed By: Dana Brown
2001, Rated U, 87 minutes

Want to know what we learned by watching this film with our kids? Here are our buttery bits of wisdom:
  • Step Into Liquid is a great way to introduce the idea of a documentary film to your kids because the story line is simple and the action exciting enough to keep them riveted. The film is as well scrubbed as the handsome athletes it features, and we recommend it for kids as young as six.
  • Step Into Liquid's director, Dana Brown, is the son of Bruce Brown, the filmmaker who first taught the world about surf culture in his classic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer.
  • Sally Field fans will remember her as perky teenage surfer Gidget before she became the Flying Nun. Gidget was modeled on a real life Brentwood teenager who rode the waves alongside the pioneer surfers in Malibu. Her dad turned her adventures into a series of books that literally started the surf craze as we know it. The books were made first into a movie starring Sandra Dee, and later, into the television show which launched Sally Field's career.

Want to talk to your kids about the film?  Here are some conversation starters: 

  • A documentary is a living history of its subject matter, a portrait in time. If your kids were to choose a documentary subject, what would it be?
  • The filmmakers promise that Step Into Liquid is entirely real ("no stuntmen, no special effects"). Ask your kids how this film compares to big budget movies that rely on effects for excitement.


Heal the Bay Coastal Cleanup

September 16, 2006 or monthly, every third Saturday, 10 am -12 pm
Contact: 310-453-0395 or
Time Allotment: Two hours for clean-up; two more for water fun.
Age Recommendation: Over seven

Want to know what we learned by taking this adventure with our kids? Here are our buttery bits of wisdom:
  • Parents are required to sign waivers for any children under 18 who want to participate in beach clean-ups. Waivers are available on-line or at the beach.
  • If you have the hankering to hang ten, be prepared to spend a little money getting started. Private and group instruction is available all along the coast by outfitters happy to provide wetsuits and boards for the day. Our favorite surf school is Malibu Makos 310-317-1229. If you get hooked, used surf boards are often available at surf shops.
  • Because each beach has different breaks and reefs, it's always smart to check in with a lifeguard about where it is safe to be in the water. Will Rodgers and Malibu tend to have kid-friendly wave breaks for novice surfers.

Want to know more about environmental action groups in Los Angeles? Here are some tips:

  • Heal the Bay's Beach Report Cards: Heal the bay monitors beaches from Sonoma to San Diego county on a weekly basis, and grade each beach's safety from A to F.  Beaches less than a mile apart can have a radically different grade depending on fecal bacterial levels in the water.  Check your favorite beach's score before dipping your toes into the ocean.  
  • Stroller Babes: The UCLA Aquarium, under the Santa Monica Pier, is a pint-sized facility with touch tanks filled with starfish and other creatures that live off the pier.  1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, Tues-Fri (2-5 pm); Sat-Sun (12:30-5 pm), under 12 - free. Over 12 - $5.00 suggested, $1.00 minimum.
  • What Gidget started: Discovering new ocean sports may be California's coolest export: check out kite surfing in Malibu (a surfboard outfitted with a hang gliding sail, which flies the rider out to sea and back in seconds) or skimboarding in Laguna Beach (riders perform acrobatic stunts on a special board while skimming along wave breaks close to shore). 

Extended Adventure

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

Focus on documentaries - click here to see our picks at the Kids Off the Couch store at

Want to read more about oceans and surfing - click here for our favorite books on the subject at the Kids Off the Couch store at

Want to surf the net with your kids?  Here are some worthy cyberspace visits:

  • Heal the Bay has many volunteer activities for families. For those that catch the environmental bug, consider the speaker's bureau, adopt-a-beach programs and stream team creek restorations.
  • The local chapter of National Resources Defense Council is headquartered in a totally ‘green' building, "The Robert Redford Building," behind the Third Street Promenade.  Visitors are welcome visitors to see how their eco-friendly building operates, and to visit the environmental action center.  Tours run approximately one hour, Tuesdays at 11 am and Thursdays at 3:45 pm.  Call for reservations:  310-434-2300. 1314 Second Street, Santa Monica. 
  • This excellent national beach watch organization's mission is to protect and preserve the enjoyment of the ocean for all people through education, conservation, activism and research.
  •  Victoria Skimboards in Laguna Beach pioneered the modern skimboard. Kids can visit the factory nd customize their own boards. 2955 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach  (949) 494-0059.