As August approaches, so does the end of a 50-year-lease granted to San Onofre State Beach, one of the top five most-visited state parks in California — and a beach that used to be a members-only surf club. Spectrum News visited San Onofre, or San O, and talked with a local who has witnessed the park’s history through the decades. 

“My dad took me out. I remember going out when I was probably 4 or 5 years old and just holding onto the nose of the board and water kind of spraying up in my face. And [being] kinda scared,” said Don Craig, a 72-year-old surfer who has been surfing the same breaks since the beach was a private surf club. Before him, his father surfed the same breaks, too. 

In 1952, with permission from the Marine Corps, which owned the property, the club started at 400 members. People began parking their vans, posting up for the summers. Craig called it a “kid’s nirvana.”

 In 1971, the 50-year lease was granted to the state. There are talks of a three-year extension, but future access to the beach — full of memories and reminders for Craig of the people he’s met and grown up with — is uncertain. 

“I feel so blessed to have grown up here,” he said. 

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Watch the Spectrum News 1 special “Swell Beaches” at 9 p.m. on July 6 and 7 to find out what makes Southern California’s coast so special.