Friday, October 18, 2013

On beyond Zuma

Today was a perfectly beautiful day, clear and sunny but not too hot. A perfect beach day, and the perfect day for tide-pooling, since low tide came at 3:49 pm.

North of the popular surfing and swimming beach at Zuma in Malibu, El Matador is a hidden beach because of its tricky access, a precipitous hike down a steep bluff and then some rickety stairs.

My visit started out with serendipity - I pulled into a parking place in the gravel-paved parking lot, and the window of the car next to me rolled down. "Hi, ma'am would you like to take this?"

A guy handed me his parking receipt, good until 6 pm. "We just paid eight dollars but only stayed for a few minutes, so you're welcome to use it."

Wow, how kind! I felt a little guilty, because parking fees support the California State Parks system, but - hey, who could turn down a favor like that?

As you make your way down to the beach, the huge rocky crags and monoliths come into view, along with the startling blue water. Today at low tide, a broad stretch of the beach was exposed, the flat wet sand glistening.

El Matador is such a dramatically beautiful beach it's often used for filming and photo shoots and, indeed, today a clutch of industry types gathered around the big rock, a bikini-clad model knee-deep in the waves while a production assistant panned a hand-held silvery reflector at her.

I wandered west on the sand. Rocks dotted the surf, some high and dry now, mussel shells clamped tight against the bright sun, and others bathed in the foam that surged around and over them, sea-grass flowing like coarse hair.

This is a great beach for exploring. The massive rocks are cleft and riddled with tunnels and passageways to explore. South of here, a beach lined with expensive glittering houses reminds you we're in Malibu, but here the beach is wilder, rougher, and secluded. Sunbathers nestle against the shoulder of the rocks, protected from the winds, or huddle beneath the craggy bluffs that rise up from the beach.

Cormorants and other sea birds perched on the rocks out in the surf, watching for food.

As you walk in the waves at low tide, you can see the abundant life of the tide zones.

Green sea anemones are everywhere, of course, clinging to the rocks. The smaller aggregate anemones cluster lower in the water.

And here, purple and orange sea-stars cling to the rocks, holding on against the surging surf.

I pointed one out to a couple of teenage girls, and they squealed as they tried to feel its knobbly-textured body.

Barnacles and mussels find a home inside the shelter of a huge cleft rock. When the tide is in, this space is underwater.

Periwinkles cluster in the shoulder of an exposed rock.

The rocks are so rugged and craggy that, even exposed, they harbor small reservoirs where pools of water nurture small colonies of creatures.

Up above the bluffs was a big, fancy-looking mansion, and I wondered which famous person or important executive lived there. Could it be the middle-aged man walking down the beach? The young couple lounging beneath an umbrella? The elderly woman with her wee dog? The high school kids with their boogie boards, watching the bikini model? It's nice to imagine - and it's nice to know that we all have access to the beach below the high tide line.

The wild, sweet smell of the sea belongs to all creatures - as it should.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

What a beautiful beach!

I would have parked there for free, too.

smalltownme said...

So beautiful.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Gorgeous! No beaches like this in Florida. Love our white sand but you get so much more to explore.