Mornings in the Coronado Cays you’ll see kids dressed in wetsuits, walking barefoot with their surfboards tucked under their arms, and heading to Silver Strand Beach. But Cays kids aren’t the only ones enjoying the breaks. Alongside them you’ll also see a real estate broker, a chef, an international business man, a partner in a tech staffing firm, a firefighter, an author, and other bona fide surf dudes paddling out in the ocean.
Though their backgrounds are as varied as a set of waves, Daron Case, Ken Irvine, Scot Beall, Steve Lock, Dave Orozco, Chris Grim, and Rolf Yngve are middle aged men living the Endless Summer on the Strand. They call themselves the Cays Surf Crew, and their common bond is to ride the waves together as often as they can.
“If the surf is good, the Cays Surf Crew surfs every day,” said Daron Case, a.k.a. Captain of the Cays. Case is the de-facto leader of this motley crew since he brought the group together. Raised in the Cays, Case returned to raise his family here after living and working in Hollywood. “Because of the Strand’s remote geography, the isthmus’ local surf break tends to get few visitors,” Case explained. But he wanted to surf with more people. “On August 6th, 2014, I flew my drone at the Silver Strand to capture some footage of dolphins… there were also two surfers in the water,” said Case. “I jumped in the water and met Cays residents Dave Orozco and Scot Beall. The Cays Surf Crew was born!”
“It was really Daron who brought everyone together as a crew, said Scot Beall. “And the crew keeps growing, again mostly thanks to Daron. We call Daron ‘Captain’ for this very reason,” Beall added.
They’ve all given each other surfer nicknames, too: Dave Orozco (Dave-O), Chris Grim (Grim Ripper), Ken Irvine (ShakaChef), Steve Lock (Lock-n-Load), and Scot Beall is Old Guy Ripping or OGR. He’s also “the most photographed man on the Strand” according to Case.
You’re likely asking yourself, how do these working-age men find the time to surf? I wondered, too. So I asked them.
Beall starts work with South America around 5am, and works with Asia in the afternoons. “I take a coffee break around 8:30am to go surfing,” said Beall. This is lunch time in Brazil, too. OGR, as he’s known to Cays Surf Crew members, has a name for his routine, “I call it a board meeting.”
Steve “Lock-n-Load” Lock is a partner in a small information technology staffing firm, and has some freedom in the mornings to catch some waves. “I am a much better person, co-worker, and husband when I get in the water. It definitely grounds me,” Lock said.
The Cays Surf Crew members agree that surfing regularly helps them with stress, maintain overall health, and to strengthen core muscles. “If you can stay relatively healthy, in reasonably good shape, and somewhat flexible, surfing is a great way to stay active into the later years of life. That’s my plan anyhow,” Lock said. And it sounds like a good one!
To stay on top of water conditions, they use the human eye as well as their own Facebook Page where they post information and other matters of interest to the crew. But the most important function of the page is to share their awesome photos and videos of each day’s ride!
Since Beall lives closest to the water in the Coronado Cays, he gets a visual and then gives the crew the morning surf report via text. If conditions are good, the crew meets at the entrance to the Cays by the overpass or “Entrance.” They’ve named the different areas along the Silver Strand where they meet. To the south is Yoga Point and Yoga Point South. They call the expanse between the Silver Strand Beach and Imperial Beach “No Man’s Land.” If they’re surfing on the north side, they’ll refer to their meeting spots as Windsock, Riptide Alley, Buoy, Tower, or RV Park. If you’ve been to the Strand Beach, then you’ll recognize these landmarks.
However, as peaceful as surfing the Strand can be, the Cays Surf Crew has faced its share of adversity in these waters. And boy, do they have a whale of a tale to tell!
“There are some months, like October 2014 and October 2015, when the surf was exceptional,” said Case. But Mother Nature and man-made obstacles have kept the crew from hitting the waves more often. The last sewage spill from the Tijuana River affected the ocean from Imperial Beach all the way to Coronado. So the crew’s daily “board meetings” were postponed. Part of the surf crew was also in the water the day the Great White shark sighting was reported. They continue to surf, but with a little more caution.
Ripping barrels on the ocean can look like a breeze. But Lock admits that “the most dangerous thing a surfer encounters out on the water is his own board.”
“Some of the guys have had had the fins of their board slice them up pretty bad requiring stitches,” Case said. But these audacious surfers have also encountered a true “Surfin’ Safari” on Silver Strand Beach.
Ken Irvine, owner and executive chef at Bleu Boheme and Sea180 restaurants, and VP of the Cays Homeowners Association, was unlucky on one of the crew’s surf outings. He had an up close and personal encounter with a sting ray. “I got sliced across the top of my foot by a stingray barb last August. It hit a vein and also severed my extensor tendons on my foot that control the ability to raise toes. Had reconstructive surgery; 32 stitches inside and out with a cast for 3 months, and 2 months of rehab,” Irvine recounted.
The Captain’s photos and videos are legendary in Coronado and in the Cays. Case regularly shares his gorgeous GoPro videos with the community.
One of the more spectacular close encounters the crew had with ocean dwellers was of the whale kind. In 2015, The Captain captured footage of he and Dave-O in the water next to a gray whale! This footage was featured on ABC World News (25 seconds into the segment). A second whale encounter landed the surfers on 10News and FOX5.
The Cays Surf Crew also welcomes the next generation to join them in the sea. Their children, teen and college-aged, and their friends often join the guys when their school schedules allow it. It must be quite a sight to catch these veteran wave riders with the novices.
Is it unusual to see mature guys out on the waves? According to Lock, “If you go to the beach on any given day, you can see men and women in their 40s, 50s, and even well into their 60s surfing.” The short film, “King Neptunes of the Southern Seas” supports his claim.
These middle-aged surfers usually hit the waves after making breakfast, packing lunches, seeing their kids off to school, closing a few trades, writing the next chapter, keeping homes and people safe from fires, or wheeling and dealing on the phone in the morning. Their occupations couldn’t be more diverse. But it’s their love and respect for the sport of surfing, together, that has kept them riding the endless waves of friendship and commitment to the water so strong.
“They are really good dudes, and I think we’ve come to realize we can count on each other for life beyond surfing,” is how Lock summarized the Cays Surf Crew’s water-tight bond.