I'm not a big beach guy. Don't get me wrong, I love the beach, and would spend more time there if I could... but living on the East side (yes, I live East of the Los Angeles River, so I'm saying that right), we just don't make the trek to the shore often enough. Nonetheless, having lived in Hawai'i, I know what great beaches are all about. So allow me to be a little bit of a snob and complain about beach tar.
This Sunday we traveled down to Manhattan Beach, and the water was chilly as usual -- but at an acceptable level to get inside. But not acceptable was the amount of tar washing up on the shores. The stuff sticks to your skin, and it takes a great amount of baby oil and scrubbing to get it off.
Tar? On the beach? Yes, it's a Southern California tradition.
Heal the Bay explains what's causing all that tar:
"Natural oil seeps are present in the Santa Monica Bay off the coast of Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach. They are a natural geological occurrence and are not caused by any human activity. On average, about 10 barrels (420 gallons) of oil from the seeps reach the sea surface daily in Santa Monica Bay. Surface oil generally drifts northward, towards the shore, reaching the beaches from Redondo Beach to Malibu in a few days. Tar on Santa Monica Bay beaches also comes from natural seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel. Geologic activity, like earthquakes, can affect the flow of natural oil seeps."
The tar is much worse in Santa Barbara; I remember staying once at a beachside hotel and wondering why it smelled like an oil refinery.