Date, Tide, Temperature, Conditions

Del Mar in the 70’s, Part 1

Josh Rose
7 min readApr 1, 2022

Del Mar, circa the Seventies. View from Sea Grove Park. Photo by Jim Lischer.

Date: Summer, 1978
Tides: Low 6:26, High 1:20
Temp: Air 70, Water 68
Conditions: 5–6 Perfect

As he straddled his bright pink surfboard, legs dangling into the water on either side, eyes fixed on the horizon, Jon had a split-second decision to make. A swell was forming, a big one, but it would break left. Taking a left at his current position would mean crossing into the no-surf zone — an area marked on the beach by a yellow flag with a black ball. And this particular black ball flag sat directly in front of the lifeguard tower under the careful watch of a lifeguard named Mike. Mike’s eyes squinted, his hand hovered over his bullhorn.

Surfing was a way of life in Del Mar. But so too was lifeguarding. Far more than a summer job, lifeguarding was the town’s version of working at a local mine, factory or university. A job deeply intertwined with the city itself.

Del Mar Lifeguards in the 70’s. Photo by Jim Lischer.

Jon went ahead and took that wave, straight into the swim zone. He knew the consequences, but did it anyway. Not because he wanted to risk the safety of children and not because he had any beef with Mike, but because he was a surfer. And because it was a perfect wave.

Del Mar in the 50's.

At one point, Del Mar was just a nice beach town of little renown, developed before the turn of the century. It gained sudden notoriety in the 30’s with the one-two punch of both a new fairgrounds and a racetrack. The latter of which was organized and funded by none other than Bing Crosby. To this day, his little dedication remains the opening song to every meet.

Where the turf meets the surf
Down at old Del Mar
Take a plane
Take a train
Take a car
There is a smile on every face
And a winner in each race
Where the turf meets the surf
At Del Mar

Josh Rose

Filmmaker, photographer, artist and writer. Writing about creator life and observations on culture. Tips very very much appreciated: