Toll Road Imperils San Clemente Surf Spot A toll-road extension on I-5 near San Clemente, Calif., may keep the San Mateo Creek from dumping sediment into the ocean. Surfer Ronnie St. Jean tells Scott Simon the road project is bad news for the unique surf breaks at The Trestles.
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Toll Road Imperils San Clemente Surf Spot

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Toll Road Imperils San Clemente Surf Spot

Toll Road Imperils San Clemente Surf Spot

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Surf's up at the Trestles in San Clemente, California, but maybe not for long. A proposed toll road extension would restrict the flow of sediment from the San Mateo Creek into the Pacific Ocean. It's the sediment that creates the unique wave breaks at the Trestles. And if the extension is built, many surfers believe it will be the end of an iconic surf spot.

Ronnie St. Jean(ph) surfs the Trestles. He joins us now from San Clemente.

Mr. St. Jean, thanks for being with us.

Mr. RONNIE ST. JEAN (Surfer): Thank you.

SIMON: And what's so special about the Trestles?

Mr. ST. JEAN: What's special about it is, here in San Clemente we have a beach pretty much to ourselves. It's mainly a surfer dominant beach. We don't really have any, I guess - we like to call them 909ers - down here taking up our territory.

SIMON: A 909er? I don't know what that is.

Mr. ST. JEAN: Kind of another word we use for inland people and the people in the 909 area.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I get it. 909 - it's an area code.

Mr. ST. JEAN: Yeah.

SIMON: All right. I'm sorry. I didn't know that.

Mr. ST. JEAN: But yeah, pretty much we have a special beach from everything else because no one else comes here except for people that surf Trestles on a regular basis.

SIMON: What are the waves like? Are they different?

Mr. ST. JEAN: Different every day, but Trestles definitely has the best waves around in South Orange County. You can pretty much go there on almost any given day and find at least some sort of wave to surf. Right now the waves are about three to four.

SIMON: Three to four feet, that is.

Mr. ST. JEAN: Yeah.

SIMON: And why is it called the Trestles? Do you know?

Mr. ST. JEAN: Because of the railroad, the trestle of the railroad. Just kind of named after that.

SIMON: Well, what would it mean to you and other surfers if the waves were - do we say impacted, changed?

Mr. ST. JEAN: If the waves are changed at all it would be a completely beach. It wouldn't even be Trestles anymore. There's a chance there might not even be any waves to surf at all. And not only that, but the beach will become polluted with a bunch of, you know, people that don't come to the beach on a regular basis and don't really respect the beach.

SIMON: This would...

Mr. ST. JEAN: So it goes beyond just the waves not breaking anymore. It also has to do with pollution and over-populating the beach.

SIMON: Hmm. How many people are out there today, would you guess? You and fellow surfers?

Mr. ST. JEAN: On an average day maybe anywhere from 10 to 20 people out there. Usually more though.

SIMON: Hmm. And you're worried that could rise to like 50 or 60?

Mr. ST. JEAN: Yeah. Well, when you have 50 or 60 people surfing in one spot, it gets pretty hectic. It gets dangerous too.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. ST. JEAN: You have people dropping in on other people and aggression starts happening.

SIMON: What's your best memory of surfing the Trestles?

Mr. ST. JEAN: My best memory? I would have to say just surfing on a perfect five to six foot day, maybe one foot overhead, sunny, nice warm water. And the thing is, there's a lot of those memories, and if the toll road goes through, there won't be any of those for the next generation or for the rest of my life.

SIMON: Mr. St. Jean, thanks very much for speaking with us. And good surfing today to you, sir.

Mr. ST. JEAN: All right. Thank you.

SIMON: Ronnie St. Jean, on his way to surf, talking to us about the Trestles, which is under the threat of a proposed toll road extension along Interstate 5 in San Clemente, California.

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