December 7, 2017
Volume 48, Issue 18
Truffle hunter Billy’s Bells Swimming with jellies
QB Alexander Surf Fry All 50
2017 Beach Gift Guide
2 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
2:00 pm Pier Holiday Concert
4:30 pm SUP/Paddle Craft
5:30 pm Boats
Main Channel of King Harbor
Best Parade Viewing Locations
- Free Bleacher Seating in King Harbor Marina
- Sea wall by the Sportfishing Pier
- Portofino Hotel and Marina sea wall
- Seaside Lagoon sea wall
- Come early for best viewing
Enjoy dinner at one of the many harbor and marina view restaurants including
BaleenKitchen, Joe’s Crab Shack, The Portofino Hotel Lobby Bar, R10 Social House,
Ruby’s, Samba or Sea Level at Shade Hotel. Stroll the harbor, boardwalk, and pier
shops and view the Holiday Harbor Lights along harbor residence balconies. Family
fun arcade, boat rides, cocktails, live music, seafood & more!
Gift cards make great holiday stocking stuffers or business gifts!
Book your holiday parties or order catering now!
For more information and details about the event, visit khyc.org
Ad generously donated by King Harbor Association
Considering A Major Remodeling Project?
REMODEL THE DESIGN/BUILD WAY - EVERYONE YOU NEED UNDER ONE ROOF!
Enjoy The Remodeling Process From Concept to Completion
Get inspired at our state-of-the-art Design Center in El Segundo.
It’s the perfect place to see an array of ideas for your home.
For information on upcoming seminars and events:
December 7, 2017
Volume 48, Issue 18
12 Sounds from the sea by Kevin Cody
Billy Meistrell converts outdated scuba tanks into memorial bells.
16 Grounded in Kindergarten by Mark McDermott
Grand View Teacher of the Year DIna Moll views kindergarten
as education’s foundation.
24 Bay bomber by Scott Tapley
Former Junior Lifeguard and Rolling Hills High swimmer Amy Gubser
fights cold and jellies while swimming across Monterey Bay. Next up –
the Santa Monica Bay.
28 Handoff from dad by Randy Angel
Quarterback Jack Alexander’s stellar season at Redondo might not have
happened if his dad hadn’t stepped up to save local youth football when
his son was seven years old.
32 50 states without a plan by Tony Cordi
The first lesson of traveling is to be open to a change of plans, a Hermosa
Beach family learns after visiting all 50 states.
34 Truffle hunter by Richard Foss
Chef Michael Mazzotta and his dog Capo train to hunt for one of the
culinary art’s most valued ingredients.
36 Fry the surfer by Ryan McDonald
Alex Fry leads perennial surf powerhouse Mira Costa into the new era.
And it’s not all in the water.
10 Manhattan Beach Tree Lighting
ON THE COVER
Grand View Teach of the Year
14 Mama Liz Thanksgiving Dinner
20 Holiday Gift Guide
PUBLISHER Kevin Cody, ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Richard Budman, EDITORS Mark McDermott, Randy Angel, David
Mendez, and Ryan McDonald, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Bondo Wyszpolski, DINING EDITOR Richard Foss,
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Ray Vidal and Brad Jacobson, CALENDAR Judy Rae, DISPLAY SALES Tamar Gillotti and
Amy Berg, CLASSIFIEDS Teri Marin, DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL MEDIA Hermosawave.net, GRAPHIC DESIGNER Tim Teebken,
DESIGN CONSULTANT Bob Staake, BobStaake.com, FRONT DESK Judy Rae
EASY READER (ISSN 0194-6412) is published weekly by EASY READER, 2200 Pacific Cst. Hwy., #101, P.O. Box 427, Hermosa
Beach, CA 90254-0427. Yearly domestic mail subscription $150.00; foreign, $200.00 payable in advance. POSTMASTER: Send
address changes to EASY READER, P.O. Box 427, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. The entire contents of the EASY READER newspaper
is Copyright 2017 by EASY READER, Inc. www.easyreadernews.com. The Easy Reader/Redondo Beach Hometown News
is a legally adjudicated newspaper and the official newspaper for the cities of Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. Easy Reader
/ Redondo Beach Hometown News is also distributed to homes and on newsstands in Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Torrance,
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6 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 7
S O U T H B AY
Saturday, December 9
Build me a sandman
The South Bay may not have
snow but there’s sand…How
about building a sand snowman?
Arrive early to claim a
prime site. Registration starts
at 8:45 a.m. north of the Hermosa
Pier at shoreline and
building commences at 9 a.m.
Prizes awarded. Judging begins
at 11:15 a.m. For more information,
Resources Department at (310)
318-0280 or hermosabch.org.
Christmas car show
The Christmas edition of
Cruise at the Beach. Stroll
among some of the finest examples
of Southern California
car culture. Judging begins at 9
a.m. with the trophy presentation
at 2 p.m. In keeping with
the spirit of the season, please
bring an unwrapped toy to
benefit Cheer for Children
Christmas Toy Drive. Ruby’s
Diner, 245 North Harbor
Drive, Redondo Beach. If you
wish to display a car or require
more information, contact
Larry Neville at (310) 962-
7438. Registration is $20.
Enter Fezziwig’s warehouse
replete with Victorian decorations
and several Dickens’
characters. Fagin and the Artful
Dodger from Oliver Twist
will teach how to pick pockets.
Come dressed in Victorian
style! 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The International
315 W. Torrance Blvd., Carson.
$25 per guest, $80 groups of 4.
(310) 515-7166 or visit printmuseum.org.
Yoga on the Pier
Free yoga on the Redondo
Beach Pier. Everyone is welcome
to take part in this all
level yoga class. Meet at the
Octagon, where the Pier meets
the International Boardwalk.
10 - 11 a.m. 100 Fisherman’s
Wharf, Redondo Beach. redondopier.com.
Free holiday concert and
Santa on the Redondo Pier presented
by Redondo Pier Association.
Take a selfie with
surfing Santa. Free holiday
parking. Free holiday activity
book for the first 150 kids.
Bring a new unwrapped toy
valued at $5 or more for a
chance to win pier prizes. 2 - 4
p.m. 100 Fishermans Wharf,
Redondo Beach (west end of
The Pier behind Tony’s). Redondopier.com.
Annual Christmas Faire at
Alpine Village. Santa photos,
strolling Christmas carolers,
festive music, wine tasting,
live entertainment, food samples,
holiday gift vendors, and
Alpine Express Train rides. 3 -
8 p.m. Alpine Village, 833 W.
Torrance Blvd., Torrance. For
questions call (310) 327-4384.
Brightly decorated boats and
paddle-craft parade through
the marina trying to capture
one of the event trophies. 4:30
- 10 p.m. King Harbor Yacht
Club, 280 Yacht Club Way, Redondo
Beach. For more information
contact Denise (Dede)
Harkins (310) 892-7475 or
Tracey McMartin (310) 962-
Concert for Sandy
The Manhattan Beach Rotary
Club and Mira Costa High
School Interact Club present
classical guitarist Felix Kellaway
with the MBMS Madrigal
Singers and Joel Ruben.
Sandy Casey, a special education
teacher at Manhattan
Beach Middle School, was
among the victims of the
Route 91 Harvest Festival
tragedy. Proceeds provide a
scholarship to a student with a
demonstrated interest in teaching
children with special
needs. 7 p.m. Mira Costa High
School Theater, 1401 Artesia
Blvd., Manhattan Beach. Tickets
$20 at benefit.mbrotary.org.
Candy Cane Lane
The 1200 block of East Acacia
Avenue in El Segundo has
magically transformed into
Candy Cane Lane every holiday
season since 1919. The
homes are festooned with
lights and decorations and
Santa’s sleigh stops for a visit
on certain nights through December
23. The street will be
closed to thru-traffic through
Christmas night, and most
houses still have lights up
through New Year’s. From
sunset until about 10 p.m.
Sunday, December 10
The community is invited
for a special reading of The
Polar Express and photos with
Santa. Face painters, balloon
animals, crafts, hot chocolate,
cookies and tours of the museum.
Noon - 4 p.m. $15 per
family and includes everything.
Tickets are available online
at lomita-rr.org or at the
door the day of the event. The
Lomita Railroad Museum,
2137 W. 250th Street, Lomita.
For additional information and
ticket purchase, visit lomitarr.org/calendar.
Let it snow
Green Hills Let it Snow Holiday
Festival & Memorial Tree
Lighting. Free. Santa photos,
snow sledding, sleigh rides,
arts & crafts, and holiday
music. 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. Green
Hills, 27501 S. Western Ave.,
Rancho Palos Verdes. For questions
call (310) 521-4460.
The El Segundo Chamber of
Commerce and Chevron presents
the annual Holiday Parade
beginning at 1 p.m. and is
expected to end about 3 p.m.
The route begins on Main
Street at Imperial Avenue and
proceeds south to El Segundo
Boulevard. Grandstands will
be located at Main Street and
Holly Avenue. Floats will be
theme decorated and Saint
Nick will make his appearance
at the end of the procession.
e l s e g u n d o c h a m b e r. c o m /
Manhattan Beach’s signature
holiday event gets underway
at 4 p.m. with a concert
by the Hyperion Outfall Serenaders
followed by award-winning
Mira Costa Jazz Ensemble
at 5 p.m. and local favorite,
Joe’s Band, at 6 p.m. Lou Giovannetti
will be Master of Ceremonies.
Skechers’ Snow Park
will be open from 4 - 6:30 p.m.
with five 50 sled runs, two
snow play areas and snowmen
available for family photos. A
donation of canned goods,
cash or a new, unwrapped toy
is requested for admission to
the Snow Park. The Bounce
Park will have two huge slides
and the Fire Dog bounce for
smaller children. Fireworks
start at 7 p.m. and will be synchronized
to holiday music
with an extended grand finale
sponsored by Belkin. This is a
hugely popular event so be
sure to arrive early to nab
prime seating. Bring your own
beach chairs and blankets. For
additional information, visit
Since 1953 Neighborhood
On Dec. 9, bring family and friends, shovels, scarves and
mittens because in Hermosa Beach where you can’t make
snowmen, you have to make SANDMEN. Registration
starts at 8:45 a.m. north of the Hermosa Pier at shoreline
and building commences at 9 a.m. Lara, Tyler and Tristan
Shea won Most Traditional award at the 2016 Hermosa
Beach Sand Snowman Contest. Photo by Beverly Baird
Church presents its Christmas
Pageant as a free gift to the
community. Two shows: 5:30
& 7:30 p.m. Arrive early (5:15
or 7:15 p.m.) to enjoy the prepageant
music by the church
bell choir in the Sanctuary. Appropriate
for all ages. 415
Paseo Del Mar, Palos Verdes
Estates. (310) 378-9353 or
Tuesday, December 12
Parent+child = fun
A morning of fun and learning
with your babies and toddlers.
Talk to experts on early
childhood literacy, development,
and health while kids
learn through play and art. For
ages 0-3 years and their caregivers.
10:30 - 11:45 a.m. Hermosa
Beach Library, 550 Pier
Ave. Registration required:
(310) 379-8475 or kwantuch
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support
Group is an open gathering
of people who come
together to share their feelings,
thoughts and experiences in a
safe environment. Attendees
learn ways to better cope with
and manage the challenges of
dementia. (323) 930-6256 to
RSVP. 3 - 5 p.m. Miller Children’s
& Women’s Hospital
Long Beach Conference Room
A1/A2, 2801 Atlantic Ave.,
Long Beach. For more Senior
Plus events, visit Memorial-
The votes are in
Pages’ Publisher Reps from
Penguin, Random House, and
Simon & Schuster will talk
about their favorite books for
the holidays. Reception begins
at 6:30 p.m., presentations at 7
p.m. Books and prizes will be
raffled off. Refreshments.
(310) 318-0900. 904 Manhattan
Ave., Manhattan Beach.
Friday, December 15
Cozy stories, crafts
Snuggle up for a family storytime
celebrating warm feelings
and winter. Then create a
seasonal card to share good
wishes. Parents: food will be
served. 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. Hermosa
Beach Library, 550 Pier
Ave. Contact Kay Wantuch for
questions at (310) 374-0746 or
The magic returns! 37th Anniversary
by Uta Graf-Apostol. One
weekend only Sat. Dec. 16 at 7
p.m. and Sun. Dec. 17 at 1
p.m. & 5 p.m. $35 for adults,
$25 for children. Norris Theatre,
27570 Norris Center Dr.,
Rolling Hills Estates. (310) 544-
0403 x221 or palosverdesperformingarts.com.
8 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 9
MANHATTAN BEACH PIER LIGHTING
PHOTOS BY MARK MCDERMOTT
1. Santa Claus shares a
moment with a friend in his
sleigh, which was parked at
2. Cindy Grutzik and Lenora
Marouani hang out outside the
latter’s shop, The Souk, with her
kids Sura and Pash.
3. Sonia Davis brought her 2-
year-old elf Mackenzie to see the
4. Monika Crook and her kids
Nathan and Aviele.
5. The Manhattan Beach Middle
School Madrigal Singers.
6. The Yoga Loft crew and its
7. The Hyperion Outfall
Serenaders performed along
Manhattan Beach Boulevard.
8. Aspiring bakers apply the
finishing touches to cookies at
9. Anna Iantuono sings lead
with the Dietz Brothers Band.
10. The Harmony Carolers
sang up and down Manhattan
10 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Billy Meistrell with a retired scuba tank he made into a bell. Photo by Kevin Cody
A member of a pioneering diving family recycles retired scuba tanks
by Kevin Cody
As the early ‘50s era Dive N’ Surf shop remodel
was being completed in 2014, Billy
Meistrell hit upon the idea of converting
one of his dad Bill’s and uncle Bob’s discarded
scuba tanks into a memorial bell. The twins’ dive
shop was among the first in the nation and remains
the nation’s oldest.
Billy sawed off the bottom of the old gray tank
and inside, for a clapper, suspended a chrome
ball from a trailer hitch. Then he replaced the
regulator valve at the top of the tank with a sailboat
shackle and hung the bell in front of the one
remaining cinder block wall from the original
The sound from the nearly quarter-inch thick,
steel tank has the low, long traveling ring of an
offshore weather buoy.
“During tours of the store, I tell people to ring
the bell twice to say hi to Bill and Bob ‘up top’,”
12 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Shortly after the store reopened, resident Al
Walsh brought in a scuba tank with a mermaid
on it that had belonged to his wife’s dad Dudley
Wheeler. He asked Meistrell to make it into a
bell, like he had with his dad’s and uncle’s. Requests
for dozens of other memorial dive tank
“Instead of scraping the tanks, now they will
last for generations,” Meistrell said.
“Divers’ families and friends want the tanks
left dinged up so everyone knows the person
being remembered was a real diver. But now
non-divers are asking for ornamental bells. One
lady asked for a bell to hang from a tree in her
yard, where she had buried her dog. She gave me
the dog’s leash for a pull rope,” Meistrell said.
“‘This is much nicer than a tombstone,’ she told
me when she picked it up.”
“Bells are rich in symbolism and each one has
a unique ring. I made a pink bell for a breast cancer
fundraiser and a purple bell for a pancreatic
cancer fundraiser. Hawaiian artist Brad ‘Tiki
Shark’ Parker applied his tiki artwork to one of
the dive tanks and sold it through a Hawaiian
gallery for $1,500,” he said.
New scuba tanks costs $200 to $400 and their
diving lifespan is limited by law. To prevent the
costly, solidly made and aesthetically appealing
tanks from going to a landfill, Meistrell is constantly
inventing new uses for them.
Some of the uses include wine chillers, table
legs, planters, serving dishes and phone charger
stations. For the holidays he painted three bells
red, white and green and hung them side by side
in front of the Dive N’ Surf store. When the wind
blows they ring like church bells.
Scuba tank bells are available at Dive N’ Surf,
504 N. Broadway. Meistrell can be reached at email@example.com.
COMMUNITY GATHERS FOR
Mama Liz Thanksgiving dinner
ver 50 cooked turkeys and even more pies
were delivered to the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis
and Rotary halls Thanksgiving morning.
The donated fixings were just enough to serve the
more than 400 guests who attended the 34th Annual
Absolutely Free Mama Liz Thanksgiving Dinner. The
dinner is organized each year by Berkshire Hathaway
Realtor Donna Dawick and the Easy Reader staff.
Readers donate cooked turkeys. Sandpipers donates
the pies. Real Estate West Realtor Jonathan Coleman,
of the band Abrakadabra, organizes local musicians
who perform throughout the day. Dennis “Balloon
Man” Forel and Vince “Bubbles” Ray entertains the
kids. Hermosa Celebrations’ Sandy and Michael decorate
the Kiwanis Hall with brightly colored, helium
balloons. This year’s chefs were Enrique and Ava
Ramirez and rolls were donated by Panera Bread.
Hermosa Kiwanis made their hall available for the
diners and the neighboring Hermosa Rotary Club donated
use of its kitchen for carving the turkeys.
PHOTOS BY KEVIN CODY
1. Donna Dawick and
2. Ellen Jenkins of the
delivers a turkey to the
carving crew — Marc
Hamilton, Neil Boyer
and Jessi Aispuro.
3. The morning crew's
Ben Morse with sons
Henry and Jack.
4. Jerry "The Piano
Man" Rothschild has
been performing for
the Mama Liz Dinner
for over 20 years.
5. Chefs Ava and
6. Phoebe Benya, Teri
Dawick and Alicia.
7. Jessica and
8. The Harrow family
Michael, Corey, Talia
9. Humble Harry sings
"A Boy named Sue"
with Johnnie Pal on
10. Music director
11. Server Jessie Kay.
14 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
CUT * COLOR * STYLE
New Smiles Dentistry
Stephen P. Tassone, DDS
Northwest Corner of
Crenshaw Blvd. & Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance
~ For Information, Call 310.534.0411
A LA CAZE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY PROJECT
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 15
by Mark McDermott
Grand View Elementary Teacher of the Year Dina Moll in her kindergarten classroom. Photos by Brad Jacobson (CivicCouch.com)
Early on a Thursday afternoon in November,
a chorus of “ehs” were echoing in Room 12
at Grand View Elementary School.
Twenty-five kindergartners sat in a semi-circle
around teacher Dina Moll, who was making a
game out of a lesson regarding the pronunciation
and drawing of the letter “e.” This was the 59th
day of the school year; the students were on their
second time through the alphabet.
“E is one of those letters that is tricky,” Ms.
Moll told the class, as she demonstrated how to
draw a small “e” starting with the line in the middle.
“Draw the diving board, then jump up, and
An overhead projector illuminated a series of
slides featuring a barnyard full of animals, including
a cheerful elephant and some chickens with
eggs. As if it were a game show, Ms. Moll called
up different kids to identify the right letter to use.
The large projector screen was a touch screen, so
the kids could drag each appropriate “e” to a
bucket in the bottom corner to win.
“I have an ‘e’ before a ‘y’ in my name,” said one
“That is why you are an ‘e’ professional,” said
Every child in the classroom was paying full attention,
which for a group of two dozen five-yearolds
only two months into their educational lives
counted as no minor miracle. When an elf appeared
on the screen, Ms. Moll reminded the
class of the elf who’d appeared in their classroom
not so long ago.
“This is what I was for Halloween,” she said.
Welcome to the magical kingdom that is Ms.
Moll’s classroom, where learning is joyful and
the ringleader of 25 buzzing little beings is the
most energetic of all. A class never goes by in
which Ms. Moll has not made direct eye contact
and interacted with each and every child in the
room. Ms. Moll compares her role in the classroom
to that of an actor, because she can’t take a
single moment off — she has an audience glued
to her every movement. But it’s hardly a passive
audience. The students are ready to model their
teacher’s every behavior, and she never forgets
it. Her mood is always buoyant.
“Whatever is going on in your personal life
doesn’t matter when you walk through that
door,” Ms. Moll said. “I feel like I am on stage performing...At
this age, they are sponges. They pick
up on everything I say and everything I do. If I’m
excited about a project, they are going to be excited.
If I am not into a project, they are not going
to care about it.”
“You are on every second of every day. There
is no down time. You don’t get to pass out a test
and say, ‘I’ll be here at my desk.’”
Ms. Moll was named Grand View’s Teacher of
the Year last June in part because her colleagues
recognized the depth of her dedication, something
reflected not only in her ebullient, attentive
classroom presence but in the hours of painstaking
preparation that make her lessons fun, riveting,
and effective for kindergartners.
Grand View Principal Nancy Doyle said that
Ms. Moll is usually the first person at the school,
arriving at 7 a.m. each morning. The work she
puts into planning, Doyle said, makes her teaching
appear almost effortless. But a lot of effort
goes into the structure of each day.
“First of all, it’s the smile that is on her face, so
welcoming to each child as they walk in that
door, and you just know in your heart they are
going to have a happy and productive day,” Doyle
said. “Once inside the room, she is carefully organized.
She fastidiously plans her lessons….Each
16 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
is designed to engage, designed to keep the kids active. Little sound bites
happen throughout the day; five-year-olds’ attention spans wax and wane.”
Kindergarten instruction is foundational. Ms. Moll’s classroom is brightly
adorned, but with specific purpose. “There are so many beautiful reasons
to be happy,” says a sign above her desk. Between her desk and the chalkboard
a polka dotted tarp hangs with the words to “The Silly Squirrel” song
pasted on via green construction paper squares.
The song is part of a poetry series used to emphasize tracking when reading,
sight word practice, grammar, punctuation, and how to change your
voice to match the contours of the lyrics. Ms. Moll uses songs to help teach
many lessons. There’s a clean-up song, a sit down song, and a goodbye
“Most songs are used to help with transitions, or times when children
are moving from one activity to another,” she said. “It keeps them focused
and on task.”
Nearby, a “sharing schedule” was written on a marker board with each
student’s name assigned with others for each day of the week. The students’
desks are shared, two-foot high tables encircling a rainbow-colored
carpet, where the kids sit when Ms. Moll gathers them for group instruction
intermittently throughout each day. Behind her desk, laying peacefully
in a cage, was a kindly-eyed golden labrador named Quinta. Ms. Moll volunteers
for a non-profit that trains service dogs, and though Quinta will
only be in the classroom for a month, the kids are happy to be part of the
“When you are creating a foundation, the first thing is you have to get
kids to want to come to school,” said Doyle. “She fills her classroom with
a sense of community, and the students’ days with a myriad set of activities.
So the day is super varied. They experience everything they need to
experience in their little developing minds. The way she does it seems so
seamless, but I know she is working super hard.”
“That service dog, too, really shows she is an example to the kids, of selflessness,
of being responsible, and that really sets a tone,” Doyle said.
“Everything is intentional, but it looks effortless. Whether it’s life lessons
about being respectful, or learning an academic lesson on the meaning of
four plus four, they are doing it effortlessly but extremely intentional under
The “e” lesson wasn’t on the day’s schedule, but the kids had finished
an art project 20 minutes earlier than planned. Ms. Moll, attuned to the
mercurial nature of her students, always has alternative plans built into
the school day. In fact, part of the reason she loves students at this age is
their inherent spontaneity. No two days are alike.
“They are so funny, to me,” she said. “I just can’t predict what they will
say, and what they will do.”
The art projects each student put together were made out of eight different
pieces of colored construction paper cut to form the sun and the sky
above two green trees and the ocean, with the inscription, “I am thankful
for the blue water” at the bottom.
“Ms. Moll, I want to take this home today,” said one curly-haired little
Dina Moll teaches a group lesson to her students at Grand View.
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 17
Students from Dina Moll's first class at Grand View Elementary, as a pre-k
teacher in 2004, returned just before graduating high school last spring.
Photo courtesy Grand View Elementary
“You are taking this home today,” Ms. Moll said, leaning down near the
girl, smiling. The little girl did three celebratory leaps with another girl. “I
am so excited!” she exclaimed.
Ms. Moll is in her 14th year teaching at Grand View. She graduated from
Loyola Marymount in 2003. She was a psychology major before focusing
her aspirations on teaching.
“I knew I wanted some type of job that helped others,” she said. “I spent
a lot of time thinking about how impactful certain teachers were in my
life. I knew I needed work that made me feel I was doing some good for
the world. Teaching was that for me, the fit.”
She briefly taught at an inner-city elementary school in L.A. A teacher
friend told her about Grand View, describing it as “the Disneyland of
schools.” She was hired first as a pre-kindergarten teacher and then as a
kindergarten teacher. It was a grade level she had never aspired to teach.
“I didn’t really choose it,” she recalled. “I thought I preferred older kids.
But after that first year at Grand View, I just fell in love with the innocence
of the children of this age group. Looking out into a classroom and seeing
how totally new they are to education, and how their bodies and faces
transform into awe and wonder — it’s probably the greatest feeling as an
adult that you can have. They are so excited by the little things. Sometimes
you are the first person to explain to them why we have rain, how rain
falls from a cloud — you don’t necessarily think about that as something
cool, but then you sit and talk about it with the kids and see them begin
to understand. It’s like a physical shift, how it lights them up. There are
things I am the first person to tell them, about how the world works and
how to be a good person in that world — it’s fun and exciting for me, so
much energy, so much to talk about, so much to learn.”
Ms. Moll’s students practiced their “e” skills on worksheets, trying out
big E’s and small e’s and identifying cartoon animals whose names begin
in “e.” She inspected each student’s work, applying a rubber stamp seal of
approval that shows an apple with a bite out of it and the word “Terrific!”
She gave a high five to one little boy wearing a T-shirt that said, “Class of
2030.” The kids ended their day singing the goodbye song to each other,
and to their teacher, who sang along.
“I love what I do, and I feel that it matters,” Ms. Moll said after her students
gleefully departed at the song’s end. “I am teaching kids how to be
responsible, kind human beings. Obviously parenting plays the biggest part
in that, but I feel that this is the foundation of how they are going to feel
about school for the rest of their schooling.”
The reality of this sentiment was brought specially to life last year. A
group from the first class Ms. Moll taught at Grand View, back in 2004,
returned to celebrate their high school graduation with their very first
teacher. A dozen of her former students came, celebrating their graduation
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18 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 19
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December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 21
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December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 23
With encouragement from a Junior Lifeguard instructor and a fellow Junior Lifeguard she married,
Amy Appelhans Gubser has completed over a dozen marathon swims in just two years
Seeptember 22, 2017 8:19 PM, Santa Cruz, CA: It’s a quiet night.
The beaches are empty and the ocean is calm. The sky is clear and
the air feels cold on bare skin, reminding us it’s the first day of fall.
Amy Appelhans Gubser, 49, stands beside a rock jetty, near the
Santa Cruz boardwalk, wearing a swimsuit, cap and goggles. She takes a
deep breath and wades into the chilly Monterey Bay and starts swimming.
The Monterey Bay, between Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove, is 25 miles
wide, nearly five miles wider than the English and Catalina channels. The
Bay plunges to a depth of 2,600 feet and the water temperature hovers
around 55 degrees. Afternoons are windy so swims are attempted at night.
There are more than 1,000 species of jellies in Monterey Bay. Of these, the
biggest threat to swimmers is the Pacific Sea Nettle. Their 24 tentacles grow
to 15 feet in length and they reproduce quickly into massive armies, over a
There had been just 11 previous attempts and only three recognized, successful
attempts to swim across the Monterey Bay. The first successful attempt
was in 1980, by Los Angeles County Lifeguard Cindy Cleveland, of
Palos Verdes. Cleveland finished the swim in 15 hours, 20 minutes. The second
successful Monterey Bay swim wasn’t until 2014, when Patti Bauernfeind,
of Dublin, completed the swim on her fourth attempt in exactly 13
hours. She was followed that same year by Kim Rutherford of Capitola,
who finished in 22 hours 6 minutes. Only one man has swum across the
Monterey Bay and he did it in a wetsuit.
Monterey Bay Swimming Association rules, like those governing Catalina
and English Channel swims, prohibit wetsuits. Swimmers must depart from
land and finish on land under their own power, wearing only a swimsuit,
a single swim cap and goggles.
A promising Junior Lifeguard
Amy Appelhans moved with her family to Playa Del Rey from Illinois in
1978, when she was 10. Her mother, a swimmer in her youth in Wheaton
Illinois, encouraged her daughter to swim at the Westchester YMCA. But
Amy preferred bicycling to Toes Beach, where longtime Toes lifeguard Mike
Maurry introduced her to surfing and convinced her to join Junior Lifeguards.
That year, she tried out as a swimmer for the local JG team that
was going to the Nationals Championships. After the swim, the 10 year-old
asked if she had made the team. You won the race, her JG instructor told
In 1981, her family moved to Palos Verdes, where she swam for Peninsula
Aquatics, the San Pedro/Peninsula YMCA and Rolling Hills High School.
“Our high school team had only five swimmers and one diver. But we all
advanced to the finals and our team placed second in CIF,” Gubser said.
Ten years after qualifying for the Junior Lifeguard Nationals team, she
qualified to become a Los Angeles County Lifeguard. Her first Lifeguard
boss was legendary ocean swimmer Cindy Cleveland. In 1976, Cleveland
swam the Catalina Channel, from the island to the mainland. The following
year, she swam from the mainland to Catalina and back to the mainland.
Two years later, one month prior to her precedent setting Monterey Bay
Swim, Cleveland circumnavigated Catalina Island, swimming non stop for
34 hours, 24 minutes, a distance of 46.4 miles.
“Cindy would workout for hours on her days off. I was in awe of her discipline,
both mental and physical. She was always encouraging me to swim
events like the International Surf Festival Pier to Pier Swim and the La Jolla
10 Mile Swim,” Gubser said.
One day, while lifeguarding at Hermosa Beach, Gubser rescued a young
24 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Former South Bay beach lifeguard
Amy Gubser swims across Monterrey
Bay. Her husband Greg, also a
former South Bay beach lifeguard,
drives her escort boat. Photo by
boy with assistance from a fellow
lifeguard named Greg Gubser,
whom she remembered from her
first year in Junior Lifeguards.
While lifeguarding a few days later,
she saw a paddler coming ashore
in her swim area. “I ran down to
scold him and was surprised to see
it was Greg. He had been fishing
and caught a huge halibut. He invited
me to dinner. That was our
first date and two years later we
In 1993, one year after the couple
married, Greg joined the U.S
Coast Guard and they moved to
the San Francisco area, where he
was stationed. Eventually, they settled
in Pacifica, a small beach town
just south of San Francico. The
area had no Junior Lifeguard program,
so Amy and Greg started
Surf Camp Pacifica. Amy also
worked in a Pediatric Intensive
Care Unit as a neonatal nurse.
Work and raising children Justin
and Holly left little time for swimming.
But in 2014, with her kids
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December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 25
having finished high school, Gubser
accepted a friend’s challenge to
swim in the San Francisco Bay. It
was in February and it had been
nearly two decades since she had
“I tried every excuse to get out of
it,” she recalled. “And when I
jumped in I lost my breath. I cried
and had a panic attack. Finally, I
relaxed. Every cell in my body suddenly
felt alive. I loved it.”
She began swimming year-round
in the San Francisco Bay in preparation
for marathon swims.
In April 2015, she swam the 10-
mile-wide Strait of Gibraltar, from
Spain to Morocco. Four months
later, in July, she swam the 21.3
mile length of icy Lake Tahoe. And
a month after that, she and five fellow
members of the Nadadores
Locos completed a 59.4 mile, relay
swim from the Golden Gate Bridge
to the shark infested Farallon Islands
Then in 2016, Gubser swam the
Catalina Channel. She finished in
just under 15 hours, well off her
regular pace. After reaching shore
she was rushed to the hospital. She
had spent the last six miles struggling
to breath because of an anaphylactic
reaction to an algae
Pacific Sea Nettle jellies blanketed Monterey Bay during Amy Gubser’s swim across the bay on the first day of fall.
26 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Monterey Bay swimmers Amy Gubser, Kim Rutherford and Patty Bauernfeind,
signal with their hands the order in which they swam across the bay.
Rutherford is also holding up one finger for Cindy Cleveland of Palos
Verdes, who was the first person to swim across the bay.
bloom in the water.
“I only finished because I didn’t
want to have to do it again. A finish
is a finish,” she said afterwards.
The adverse reaction aside, Gubser
felt she hadn’t trained hard
enough for the channel swim. So in
preparation for the even longer and
colder Monterey Bay swim she embarked
on what she calls “no recovery
training.” Each morning in the
dark, she began a three hour workout
in the San Francisco Bay, where
water temperatures range from 48
to 60 degrees. Then she worked her
12 hour nursing shift.
“If you can’t find the time you
make it,” she said. In the six months
prior to her Monterey Bay swim,
she made time to swim across four
Arizona lakes in four days, and
Gubser cont. on page 39
FESTIVE MUSIC &
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December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 27
Jack Alexander Sr.
paving the path for
his son to lead the
Redondo quarterback Jack Alexander completed
his two-year varsity career averaging 162.2
passing yards per game while recording 3,731
yards and 38 touchdowns. Photo by Ray Vidal
by Randy Angel
When an email was sent to
families informing them
that the 2008 fall flag
football season had been cancelled,
eight-year-old Jack Alexander was
devastated. He put his uniform on
and, clutching his football, stayed
in bed the rest of the day sobbing.
Alexander loved playing sports,
beginning with T-ball at the age of
four, in the old North Redondo Little
League. It was then that he became
good friends with John
Jackson III whose father, a former
standout wide receiver at USC
known as JJ, was the coach.
In 2007, Jackson suggested to
Jack Sr. that their sons play flag
football in the Redondo Pacific
Coast Conference. Their team
went undefeated and then played
in the newly-formed South Bay
Youth Sports league in the spring,
which they also won.
So, the following year, when
South Bay Sports cancelled its fall
season two days before opening
day, Jack Sr. decided to take matters
into his own hands.
He called dads and coaches vowing
to save the season. The day before
the season was scheduled to
start, he went to Mira Costa High
School at 7 a.m. to ask permission
to use the football field. He was
told he would need permission
from both the the Manhattan
Beach Unified School District and
Manhattan Beach Athletic Foundation
Alexander wrote a check to the
foundation for approximately
$15,000, bought insurance for all
233 kids and, with the help of
foundation President Gary Wayland,
got the MBUSD to sign off.
28 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
At 6:10 that evening, he put the word out that the Beach Cities Youth Flag
Football League season was on.
“I had to do something not just to help my son, JJ3, and the other kids
in our neighborhood on our team, but for all of the kids in the beach cities,”
said Jack Sr. who became first president of the new league. “It was a wild
ride and helped change the culture of youth sports in our community, so I
am very proud of stepping up to start the BCS.”
BCS players, Jack Alexander among them, also helped change the trajectory
of Redondo Union High football. Alexander recently finished his
senior season at Redondo, after leading the Sea Hawks to the CIF-Southern
Section Division 4 playoffs.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound signal caller was a dual threat for Redondo, possessing
a strong arm and quick feet.
In 11 games, he averaged 196.2 yards passing per game, throwing for
2,138 yards and 18 touchdowns, with only six interceptions. He also ran
the ball 110 times for 724 yards (6.5 average) and nine touchdowns.
Alexander finished his prep career wearing the same No. 7 he wore since
he began playing football at the age of seven.
Alexander did not play quarterback until his first year of tackle football,
when he joined the Redondo Pop Warner team as an 8th grader.
Though originally slated to play wide receiver, he made an impression
on coach Tom Coate who told Jack’s father after the team’s first practice
he would need his own football because he was the new quarterback.
“It was during that season that I really fell in love with the game,” Alexander
said. “I knew I wanted a career in football and someday become a
coach. The passion and intensity in tackle football is extreme. You only
play 10 games a season. There is no other sport like it.”
Coate, the current head coach at Chadwick in Palos Verdes, saw something
special in Alexander.
“He was tall, athletic, and had a fierce competitive spirit,” Coate recalled.
“Once I saw Jack throw a football, I thought he was the ideal fit for a great
quarterback. He had an incredibly high football I.Q., was very coachable,
and was a leader. I knew then that he was not only going to be our quarterback,
I knew Jack was going to be a great quarterback for all his future
“What makes Jack special is that he is a humble and hungry warrior.
Jack always gives his best effort, is competitive and makes others around
him better – a leader in every sense. One of my greatest memories is coaching
this wonderful young man.”
In only his second year playing tackle football, Alexander was named
MVP of Redondo’s freshman team after throwing for 2,500 yards and 24
touchdowns with only one interception.
But Alexander wanted more. As a member of a devout Catholic family,
he had attended St. James Elementary School in Torrance and decided to
transfer to St. John Bosco as a sophomore.
“I wanted an opportunity to play with the best,” Alexander said. “Bosco
had recently won a national championship (2013). I carpooled with some
guys in the area. It was a year of learning and game experience against
But the carpool to the Bellflower campus was falling through and the
long, grueling days of getting up early and arriving home late took its toll.
Alexander decided to return to Redondo.
“I have no regrets about the decision,” Alexander said. “It was nothing
but football and academics. I wanted to fully enjoy the high school experience
and I really missed my friends. The Redondo community is great
and the school’s football program is strong with a lot of history.”
Alexander began his junior season as the Sea Hawks starting quarterback
and led the team to a share of the Bay League title. The team reached the
second round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, losing a heartbreaker to
top-seeded Sierra Canyon 41-34 in triple overtime.
Yet it was the season opener that Alexander considers the most memorable
moment of his career.
“It was my first varsity start and we beat a very good Rancho Verde team
28-22 in double overtime,” Alexander said. “It was among the top five
games I’ve played. I was anxious and nervous. It was breathtaking to take
the field as the starting quarterback for the first time. It’s those kind of
emotions that make football such a special game.”
Alexander led a late drive to tie the score then connected with Julian
Woodard on a 25-yard screen pass to win the game. It was one of only two
games Rancho Verde lost that season
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December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 29
Jack Alexander celebrates Senior Night in Sea Hawk Bowl with parents
Jack and Vicki. Photo courtesy of the Alexander family
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30 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Another highlight of his career
came in this year’s regular-season
finale when he played with a severe
“I’m all about winning and there
was no better feeling than beating
Mira Costa on their turf this year,”
Alexander exclaimed. “Coming
from behind and connecting with
Pierre Dawson for the winning
score was so exciting and I’m proud
to have beaten Costa in my junior
and senior years.”
The Alexander-Pierre connection
went deeper than on the field. Dawson,
a Canadian who wanted to
play American football, has lived
with the Alexander family since August.
Alexander has worked hard to
reach the level he is at, having
worked with former USC head
coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian,
former NFL quarterback Billy
Joe Hobert and a number of high
school and college coaches, including
Matthew Hatchette (LB Poly),
Ryan Campbell (Westlake), Chad
Johnson (St John Bosco), Seth Oseransky
(College of the Canyons) and
Eric Wilson (RUHS alumni who
played for the University of Washington).
Along with Coate, and of course
his father, Alexander considers John
Aponte (current RUHS offensive coordinator)
and private instructor
Danny Hernandez (Team Dime/Premium
Sports) as the major influences
in his career.
“I appreciate Coach Aponte for
letting me showcase all my skills,”
Alexander said. “I really enjoyed
working with him.”
Aponte resigned as Banning’s
head coach after the 2016 season to
join Matt Ballard’s staff at Redondo.
“Jack is an amazing kid. I've
watched him go through ups and
downs and I've loved the way he
fights through it,” Hernandez said.
“This last year he lost two of his
best offensive weapons (running
back Jermar Jefferson and receiver
Julian Woodard), who decided to
transfer to Narbonne. He didn't cry
about it. He just got to work and understood
he was going to have to
shoulder the load. Jack is a playmaker
but I think I admire his mental
toughness the most. I know he's
undecided but the (college) team
that lands him will be happy because
they are getting a good one.”
Alexander sets very high goals for
himself and considers his ability to
extend plays to be the strength of
“I’m extremely competitive and
emotional, even when I’m just playing
video games like Madden,”
Alexander said. “I’m very proud of
some of my performances but numbers
never mean much to me – I
just want to win.”
Alexander’s high football IQ has
Alexander cont. on page 39
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Isabella Cordi embarks on a swim in Bingham Lake in Minnesota on the final day of her tour of all 50 states. Photo by Tony Cordi
by Tony Cordi
A Hermosa Beach family sets off on a tour of all 50 states,
leaving behind the careful planning that governs life at home
Ican’t recall how it all started. It may have been just a passing suggestion
from our then eight-year old daughter Isabella. It sounded daunting, but
for whatever reason, we relented and embarked on a journey that would
take us to all 50 states. Had we thought through just what this would entail,
we probably would have backed out. But, we broke from our habit of overplanning,
creating enough of a shift in our behavior to make room to thoroughly
engage in all of the magical moments we would encounter along
Over an 18 month period, beginning in December 2014, we made it to
all of the states we hadn’t been to before. It took seven separate trips and
by the time we finished, we had logged over 13,000 miles by car and close
to 30,000 in the air. We would see over 30 major colleges and universities,
25 state capitals, and several National Forests, Parks and Monuments. Our
only rule for the visit to count was we needed to spend the night or have a
full meal. We spent a total of two months away from our Hermosa Beach
It began with leaving Hermosa Beach for a road trip to several southwestern
states. We knew where we wanted to be and when we wanted to be
there. We even mapped out our food and researched restaurants in advance.
But as we would soon learn, over planning inhibited us from embracing
the adventures as they unfolded.
Our first epiphany on the benefits of unscripted travel hit us in Saguaro
National Park. The Arizona valley is surrounded by thousands of tall
saguaro cacti standing sentry to the majesty of the desert. We were struck
by the stillness, something we don’t experience often at the beach. It would
be a recurring experience in the Southwest in places like White Sands Na-
32 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
tional Monument and the Arches
and Canyonlands National Parks.
To interrupt Isabella’s increasing
dependency on her iPad during the
trips, we began to make random
stops. These respites paid off. In
White Sands National Monument
she rolled down the glistening hills
while laughing hysterically. The
same thing happened on the slopes
of Vail and sledding down Y
Mountain in Provo.
We committed to eating local
food and witnessing the culture as
much as possible. We couldn’t get
enough of Southwestern cuisine,
especially in New Mexico. Santa Fe
had fantastic food and offered opportunities
to visit enchanting
places like the pueblos of Nambe
and Taos and to shop at the Native
American vendors at the Palace of
the Governors. The uniqueness of
El Paso, Denver and Las Vegas
would add to the mix.
In the spring of 2015, we set out
to visit family and friends in the
Gulf States before venturing off to
several adjacent states. Experiencing
unfamiliar places with people
we enjoy who happen to know the
area greatly enhanced our travel.
Ruby Falls, outside Chattanooga,
is a 145-foot high, underground
waterfall, every bit worth the effort
of getting to it. Likewise, we will
never forget digging for diamonds
at Crater of Diamonds State Park
outside Murfreesboro, Arkansas. It
is the world’s only diamond-producing
site where the public can
do this. We spent hours, mostly in
mud, not even caring if we made a
We were also able to enjoy excellent
Southern-style cuisine in Alabama
and Florida in addition to old
school ribs in Memphis. Of course,
we had to try gumbo, jambalaya
and beignets in New Orleans.
We thought it would be fun to go
to the District of Columbia and
Philadelphia over Memorial Day
weekend and it turned out to be a
great decision. We didn’t need an
iPad for Isabella at all on this trip.
Because of timing issues, we had to
consolidate the D.C. trip and opted
to take a bus tour, which worked
out perfectly. We covered many
monuments and had the opportunity
to walk around most of them.
It was fun for our daughter to see
the White House and I had a
chance to meet up with a former
We had great food in Reading
Terminal Market in Philadelphia,
but missed out on seeing Liberty
Bell Center because the line was
300 people deep. We grabbed
Philly cheesesteaks to go instead
before meeting up with friends for
dinner in Cape May, New Jersey.
Our shortest stay in a state was in
Delaware with a stop for cheesecake
and we would only spend a
couple of hours in Harper’s Ferry
in West Virginia. Baltimore offered
fantastic soft-shell crabs, cannoli in
Little Italy, and a chance to burn it
off paddle-boating in the Inner
Later in the summer after Isabella
turned nine, we visited the
Pacific Northwest and brought our
travel to another level. We had an
exceptional trip to Idaho,
Wyoming, Montana, Washington
and Alaska. Everything about these
states made it easier and more enjoyable
to be spontaneous. We had
a blast, swimming in a sinkhole off
the Snake River by Shoshone Falls,
watching the Jackson Hole Rodeo
in Wyoming, and swimming in the
West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.
It helped that we had warm
weather and got to see bison roaming
up close, eruptions from Old
Faithful Geyser, and the beauty of
Big Sky while hiking.
Stops in Coeur D’Alene, Spokane
and Seattle all added to the adventure.
We got our Idaho potato fix
in, and a fantastic ferry ride at
night to view Seattle.
I could write volumes about our
time in Alaska with friends. We
went dog-sledding with Iditarod
competitors, rafting in a Glacier
river, toured Denali National Park,
ate incredible salmon, and stayed
on military bases. The signature
moment occurred on the way back
from a dinner cruise to Fox Island
in the Kenai Fjords. We stopped in
Emerald Cove and were blown
away by the sight of countless
moon jellyfish, sea lions trying to
scramble up a tiny island to escape
four approaching orcas, eagles on
the side of a bluff not far from
common murres, cormorants,
puffins, and a random mountain
goat. Definitely not something we
see every day.
Over Labor Day, we flew round
trip to Boston to witness the
pageantry of the change of seasons
and see all of New England. An
Tony, Isabella, and Janeth in South Dakota, celebrating the completion of
their 50-state tour. Photo courtesy of the Cordi Family
hour drive can change everything
there. We went to Pemaquid Point
Light to scramble on the cliffs and
tour the lighthouse before eating
lobster rolls in Boothbay Harbor.
Having Italian food was a must in
Boston before spending the night
in Cape Cod. Swimming at the
beaches of Nantucket Island and
just walking around the island left
an indelible impression.
Isabella had a chance to scope
out Harvard and Brown on this trip
and to see my childhood home in
upstate New York. We swam in
Lake George and enjoyed the company
of one set of friends in
Burlington and another set in Montreal.
It wouldn’t be until spring break
2016 before we made our next
trip – to Michigan, three of the
Great Lakes, the Rock and Roll
Museum, and Notre Dame. This
trip marked another turning point.
Isabella became far more proactive
in planning our activities.
She had us visit the incredible
Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn,
an indoor water park in Sandusky,
the musical “Matilda” in Chicago,
the Wizard of Oz Museum in
Wamego, Kansas, and later the Little
House on the Prairie site in Independence.
She even managed to
get a horse ride in when we were
in Lincoln, Nebraska. We were encouraged
to visit Woolaroc, where
the free-roaming wildlife and the
extensive museum captivated all of
Food was a big part of this trip,
as well. We had brats with friends
in Milwaukee, baked goods in the
Czech Village outside Cedar
Rapids, and steaks in Omaha. We
even enjoyed a dinner in Tulsa and
great Thai food in Dallas.
On our last night, we pampered
ourselves at the Westin Galleria,
which gave Isabella an opportunity
to swim in the morning and ice
skate later in the mall.
This left us with three states to
visit. We flew into Minneapolis just
before Isabella’s 10th birthday and
enjoyed the city before checking
out the expansive Mall of America.
Not surprisingly, Isabella loved
Nickelodeon Universe and we
would make it back a couple more
times. We ventured off to Fargo
and then spent the night in Bismarck.
The next day we achieved
our goal of hitting our 50th and
final state when we made it to Ludlow,
South Dakota, without any
signs of civilization in sight.
South Dakota proved to be another
big surprise, with Mt. Rushmore,
Jewel Cave National
Monument, Crazy Horse Monument
and later Badlands and Sioux
Falls. We would punctuate the last
night of our last trip on this journey
with a spontaneous stop at
Bingham Lake in Minnesota for a
Our quest had come to an end.
When asked what her favorite
places are, Isabella offers New
York City and the big island of
Hawaii. She has vivid memories
from both areas. Our travels have
been an incredible blessing thanks
to making the shift from a heavilyscripted
approach to a mindset of
just embracing the opportunities as
they come. B
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 33
Chef Michael Mazzotta and his
Lagotto Romagnolo, Capo, on the
hunt for truffles.
Photos by Brad Jacobson
34 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
y Richard Foss
A Basq Kitchen chef Michael Mazzotta and his dog Capo train for one of the
culinary arts’ most prestigious competitions
Chef Michael Mazzotta and Capo relax at A Basque Kitchen.
If you hang around Redondo Beach you may have seen a mustachioed
man on a bicycle being towed down The Eslpanade by a small dog
with curly brown and white fur. At one end of that leash is Redondo’s
next media sensation, but it is not yet clear which end.
Meet Michael Mazzotta, chef at A Basq Kitchen, and Capo, a bouncy,
friendly dog of an unusual Italian breed called Lagotto Romagnolo. The
two will soon be competing at an Oregon event where they hunt one of
the prizes of the culinary world, a musky, pungent fungus prized by gourmets.
Truffles are related to mushrooms and grow on underground tree roots.
They are one of the few plants that humans have been unable to domesticate.
Top quality specimens sell for over $5,000 a pound.
As Mazzotta explained, “Truffles have the allure of being something humans
can’t create or control. It’s a foraged product that grows in unpredictable
places, so that humans can only find them with the assistance of
partner animals. They used to use pigs, but recently switched to Lagotto
Romagnolo dogs, originally bred as retrievers trained to hunt birds on the
lakes in Italy. At one time the lakes dried up, and the breed almost went
extinct until they found a new use for them. Truffles saved this breed.”
The use of these dogs to hunt fungi instead of avians only goes back a
few decades. The fact that humans bond with dogs better than pigs is a
major advantage, said Mazzotta.
“Pigs have an acute sense of smell and are good hunters, but they’ll
happily eat the truffles, so if you find it and he eats it you’re back at
square one. Dogs are better for the job, and it’s not just that he doesn’t
eat what we’re looking for. Capo wants to please, and we have a strong
bond. The way he reacts to the scents blows my mind. The look in his
eyes – he’s experiencing something no human can ever understand. There
are levels and levels of scents that he has access to. With his mind and
his nose, and his desire to excel at this, it’s incomparable to what a pig
Though he had dogs as a child Mazzotta had never trained one before.
But after buying Capo as a three month old puppy he started burying
truffles and challenging the dog to find them.
“Training him was easy. They’re such smart animals that he understood
immediately that this was the game, to use his amazing sense of smell
and instinct to dig to unearth these gems. I just bonded with him, and it’s
just us reading each other. Without words we communicate back and
forth like that.”
on the prize
Experienced dogs learn to ignore immature truffles and only dig up
those that are ripe. This is one of the skills that will be graded at the North
American Truffle Dog Championship, which will be held in Eugene, Oregon
in late January. Oregon forests are home to both a native truffle and
colonies of transplanted European truffles that now grow wild. This year’s
competition is the third annual test of dogs and their partner humans. It
will be the first competition for Mazzotta and Capo, and they’ll be up
against both two and four legged pros. The challenges come in two stages,
only the first of which is open to the public.
“The first round is indoors, and there’s a set circuit where the truffles
have been hidden. After that you’re out in the woods, foraging for the
natural truffles. We’re going up early so we can do some foraging before
the competition, really putting him to the test in a real world situation.
It’s really exciting to be able to do that without flying to Europe.”
There are plans to document the trip with a video, and Mazzotta has
started a GoFundMe page, offering dinners using the truffles Capo finds
as an incentive. Those dinners will be held shortly after their triumphant
return, because the prized fungi deteriorate soon after being unearthed.
“The shelf life of a first-rate truffle is very short. Use it within a week
of it being found if you want to experience what it really has to offer. You
only get them fresh during a short period, which differs depending on
the variety and where you are. There are summer truffles and winter truffles
in Italy, and in Oregon they’re best from December through March.
The rest of the year you have to use truffle oils, which is the only way of
preserving the flavor.”
When asked whether there is any substitute for this temperamental and
elusive plant, Mazzotta was emphatic. “There’s no way to recreate the flavor
using any combination of other ingredients. It is such a unique product…
For some reason when you add a truffle to a dish it elevates the
other ingredients. You can’t pinpoint exactly what that is, it’s magic.”
Man and dog will be put to the test on January 25, and will come back
with stories, a video, and some funky, musky, luggage containing some
of the most prized plants on Earth. Until then, Capo will get his exercise
practicing his scenting skills and riding down the Esplanade towing
To find the contribution page go GoFundMe.com/capo-the-puppy B
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 35
Wave of passion
Alex Fry putting it on rail during an NSSA contest in October. Photo by Steve Gaffney (SteveGaffney.com)
Mira Costa’s Alex Fry relies on internal drive as a rising South Bay surf star
by Ryan McDonald
or a good portion of last year, Alex Fry ate breakfast in the car.
The Mira Costa High School junior did not have a problem with his snooze button.
In fact, he had already been up for some time. He was in the water, squeezing
in a surf before school. Fry is a top competitor on the school’s championship
surf team, but unlike many of his fellow surfers, he was playing another sport,
tennis, on top of it. Participants on the surf team usually hit the beach in the
morning and start the day late, filling out the remainder of their schedule in
periods two through six. Fry’s place on the tennis team meant that he did not
have an extra period to spare, and so he crammed in time and meals where he
This year he has put tennis aside, making it Fry’s first year in which surfing
will be his sole athletic focus. But he retains the spirit of an athlete willing to
do whatever it takes to succeed.
Along with his contributions to Costa’s perennial powerhouse team, Fry has
racked up impressive performances in National Scholastic Surfing Association
events, including a third-place finish in his division at last year’s West Coast
36 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Though not a fan of aerials, Alex Fry proves he can break loose his fins, if he wants to. Photo by Steve Gaffney (SteveGaffney.com)
His path to success reveals how much surfing has come to resemble other,
more established sports. Fry has little in common with the loose-limbed
slackers that formed part of the sport’s identity. Those who know him say
that he stands out for the intensity of his focus.
Leo Schleyer is Fry’s teammate on the Costa team, and also his neighbor.
He typically catches a ride with Fry when the two are on their way to a
“He’s a super competitive person, probably the most competitive person
I know. Sometimes before contests, we’ll be driving there, and you can tell
he’s thinking about it. He’s sitting there, just super focused,” Schleyer said.
Schleyer said that Fry’s passion tends to make those around him better.
Tracy Geller, head coach of the Costa surf team, described him as “a born
leader.” The team has begun working out with a fitness trainer, and splits
into groups for smaller sessions. But the groups were uneven: the one immediately
after school was crowded to the point of chaos, while the later
one was sparsely attended. Fry, Geller recalled, took it upon himself to talk
to teammates about their schedules and help balance attendance at the
Despite the changes surfing is undergoing, it remains unavoidably different
from other sports. (Whether it even is a sport has been the subject of
dozens of magazine stories, from “Surfer” to “The Atlantic.”) Even when a
wave is reduced to a decimal-pointed average, good surfing still requires
liveliness and unpredictability. And at a time when more and more of the
kids Fry faces in contests are approaching competitive surfing with a kind
of parent-assisted monasticism, Fry lives a pretty typical life. He usually
forgoes afternoon surfs to focus on homework. He still gets in the water
every day, but does so in the frequently closed-out waves of the South Bay.
When I asked if he thought growing up here was an asset or a liability as
a surfer, I half-expected him to reply with some bromide about learning to
get to your feet quickly. What he offered instead revealed an understanding
of surfing, as well as the world outside it.
“It’s an asset. Compared to kids that live in the inner city, where I live is
a dream. But compared to the kids I compete against almost every weekend,
the waves I surf are nowhere near what they have. And most of them are
homeschooled,” Fry said.
His voice carried no hint of bitterness or excuse, just recognition of the
Climbing the ladder
Fry’s dad Kurt introduced him to surfing when he was about six, but
there was no thought of world-tour domination in those early tours through
December 7, 2017 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 37
Fry with his mom Nicole and dad Kurt. Photo by Ryan McDonald
“I never thought I would be doing what I am now. It was just kind of like
a hobby, for whenever I wasn’t playing other sports. It was just fun,” Fry
Fry is a natural athlete with springy legs, erect carriage, and a surprisingly
strong grip. He embodies what Geller has identified as a key transformation
in the sport: the increasing acceptance of surfing as a competitive endeavor,
and the ensuing willingness of sport-inclined parents to commit their children
to it. (Along with tennis, Fry played club soccer, and baseball when
he was younger.) Competitive surfing is now being suffused with a talent
pool that a generation ago might have thought of it as just, well, fun.
Fry entered his first surf contest, with the local South Bay Boardriders,
in fifth grade. The joy his initial successes brought revealed to him how
much he enjoyed competition, and winning. He gradually expanded his
sights, entering contests in the Western Surfing Association, and now describes
himself as committed to the NSSA.
Attending these contests gave Fry his first taste of the challenges a South
Bay surfer faces. The closest contest location is Huntington Beach. Others
can require driving more than two hours, and he is thankful that his parents
were willing to help him get there.
“We’ve always been supportive of him and his surfing. It’s fun to go watch
him, even though he has a driver’s license now. You just hope he makes it
out of first heat. It’s a bit of a bummer to go one-and-a-half hours for a 15-
minute heat,” dad Kurt said.
These early experiences also revealed another obstacle: many of his competitors
are reared on pointbreaks or cobblestone reefs, which tend to provide
longer rides and more open wave faces than South Bay beach breaks,
and allow for more opportunities to practice maneuvers.
It can be hard to discern any such disadvantage from watching Fry surf.
He is attuned to the tiniest shifts in the ocean. Once to his feet, he moves
with the taut precision of a running back, goal in sight, but constantly adjusting
to things trying to knock him down. His carves and hacks land with
such force that they seem to come from some place beyond his still-growing
The only maneuvers Fry does not do are airs, even though many young
surfers increasingly define themselves with their aerial repertoire.
“I’m not sure if it’s a decision I made, or something that just kind of happened.
I definitely think that my rail work sets me apart from a lot of kids
who are doing airs. I don’t even know how to do airs, but I can still get
pretty far in contests sticking to my guns,” Fry said.
Geller has encouraged Fry to explore airs, less as something required to
win heats than as a way to inject excitement into his approach.
“Kids like Alex, they know exactly how to do the turn and the time to hit
the lip to get the score. But it’s just a little bit controlled or safe. I’ve been
encouraging him to just send it. Don’t throw away the wave at the end, just
send it. If you’re going to fall, fall trying something new,” Geller said.
With another season of competition, Fry said improving his wave selection
will be key to going further in contests. But this will hardly be the only
thing on his mind. Along with his team and his family, there is a full schedule
of classes to occupy him. Fittingly for someone who embraces challenge,
Fry’s favorite subject is history, one he has struggled with at times, but
nonetheless finds fascinating.
“We’ve always wanted Alex to be well-rounded. We want him to focus
on school, and get good grades. Surfing is an important part of life, but it’s
not the only part,” said Fry’s mom Nicole. B
38 Easy Reader / Beach magazine • December 7, 2017
Gubser cont. from page 27
swim across the Santa Barbara
Channel, from Santa Barbara to
When fall approached, the 49-
year-old said, she felt like she was
in the best shape of her life.
September 22, 2017 8:24 PM,
Santa Cruz: A sliver of moon slips
behind the mountains, revealing a
thick blanket of stars. Gubser’s
team waits offshore in two small
boats and a kayak. Her husband
Greg, retired from the Coast Guard
and now the Deputy Harbormaster
for San Mateo Harbor, was driving
one of the two escort boats.
The team sees the waterproof
light on the back of her goggles as
she enters the water. To monitor her
pace, they listens to the rhythm of
her hands. Slap, slap, slap. 70
strokes per minute. The bright lights
of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk fade
slowly into the background. Gubser
stops every 30 minutes for liquid
carbohydrates and the occasional
sports gel. At every stop, she shares
a smile and a joke or a silly song. It’s
not long before she reports her first
jellyfish sting. The water temperature
is 54. The night air is two degrees
colder and she is swimming
against the current. The crew is
bundled in heavy coats and hats,
but Gubser appears unaffected by
the elements. When dawn arrives,
the crew sees what Gubser has
been swimming through most of
the night. Pacific Sea Nettles are just
below the surface, in every direction.
As she nears the Monterey
Peninsula the wind picks up, the
current threatens to push her off
course, and every stroke is paid for
with another sting. Finally, she
reaches the protected cove outside
Monterey Harbor and works her
way through clumps of kelp until
her feet can touch the bottom. Seventeen
hours, 49 minutes after leaving
Santa Cruz she becomes only
the fourth person to have swum
solo across the Monterey Bay. Family,
friends and beachgoers all cheer
as she walks ashore, unassisted.
“I felt amazing, physically and
emotionally. It was a big swim,” she
On June 7, her 50th birthday,
Gubser plans to return to the South
Bay to swim across the Santa Monica
Bay. To date, only two people
have completed the 26 mile swim.
On March 16, 2013 marathon
swimmers Jen Shumaker and Forrest
Nelson departed together from
Point Dume in Malibu and finished
together at Lunada Bay in Palos
Verdes in 13 hours, 10 minutes, 35
For more information about Amy
Gubser’s Monterey Bay swim, visit
Alexander cont. from page 30
transferred to the field from the
classroom where he holds a 4.2
“I like math and English and
enjoy writing,” Alexander said.
“But my favorite class is government
taught by (RUHS girls volleyball
coach) Tommy Chaffins. He
makes the class so enjoyable.”
Alexander wants to play football
as long as he can and is looking for
a university that has a strong combination
of athletic and academic
“I want to play in college and get
a free education with a scholarship,”
Alexander said. “I’ll see
where the game takes me. I am so
passionate about football and I
hope to coach one day, passing my
knowledge on to young players as
others have done for me.”
Alexander is considering the
University of San Diego and Azusa
Pacific and has been contacted by
Benedictine University (Chicago),
Arizona State, and Washington
State, as well as USC offensive coordinator
He plans to major in business
with a focus on business management
and would like to follow in
his father’s footsteps by running
his own business.
When not on the gridiron,
Alexander enjoys playing video
games and pickup basketball
“I also enjoy hanging out at the
beach with friends whom I consider
part of my family,” Alexander
said. “I want to spend as much
time with them before we all go
away to college. But I keep things
in check and keep my name on the
positive side.” B
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