Up Front | Around Town

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For some Laguna Beach High School students, summer seemed to come early as a group of ninth- through 12th-graders headed out to Riverside County’s Lake Skinner in mid-May to compete in the Solar Cup, a three-day boating competition hosted by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The Laguna team placed 22nd out of 40 teams and earned second place for a video the students created about their project, a 16-foot single-seat boat they built and raced. In addition to constructing the boat from a plywood kit, the students also equipped the vessel with steering, a motor, batteries and solar panels. This was the third Solar Cup appearance for the Laguna team, which was sponsored by the Laguna Beach County Water District and supported by Laguna Beach High School physics teachers Jennifer Merritt and Parta Perkins. —K.M.



The world’s most talented skimboarders hit the Aliso Beach shorebreak June 28-29 for The Vic skimboarding contest (previously known as the Victoria World Championship of Skimboarding). Now in its 38th year, The Vic drew approximately 150 participants—in age categories of “8 and under” to “40 and over”—who entered into the prestigious competition over the weekend. Additionally, the event attracted 500 spectators who eagerly watched from the sidelines. In men’s pro, Sam Stinnett placed first, Austin Keen placed second and Teddy Vlasis came in third. In women’s pro, Casey Kiernan came in first, Tia D’Ambrosio in second and Erin Carpenter in third. (thevic.victoriaskimboards.com) —A.T.


Yoga bags and other items from The Peace Exchange benefit women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The simple purchase of a beautiful yoga bag, placemat or pillow through The Peace Exchange, a Laguna Beach nonprofit, can help struggling women half a world away. These colorful fabric satchels and other items in traditional African prints are created by women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—often victims of rape and genocide—at sewing centers established by the local grassroots group founded in 2012 by Katie Bond, a Laguna resident with experience in fair trade efforts. Money raised from the sale of these items helps more than 50 women feed their children and keep their kids in school. But Katie doesn’t want to stop there: She aims to expand to five developing nations including Nepal where fair trade centers will be set up for women to create handmade jewelry next year. Handcrafted textiles are available at Art of Fitness, Laguna Coffee Co., Vertigo Home, Isla Boutique, The Chakra Shack Seaside Interiors and on the organization’s website. (thepeaceexchange.com) —S.S.



No Botox necessary: Laguna’s greeter, the statue of Eiler Larsen, just needs a little touch of paint for a face-lift. Local artist Mike Tauber was the “doctor” in this cosmetic upgrade, using his sculpting tools to give the statue a softer look—a scowl, known to frighten young children, was reshaped into a welcoming smile highlighted by rosy cheeks. With small touches, the statue, which was first installed in the 1960s, now has a more lifelike feel, allowing the greeter to continue welcoming visitors to Laguna for years to come. —K.M.



Science, technology and the arts are getting a boost at local schools this year. Eighth-graders at Thurston Middle School may try their hand at robotics, architecture and environmental design in a second STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) course launching this fall. And Laguna Beach High School will gain three STEM classes—with topics from forensics to veterinary medicine and biotechnology, approved as part of the budget in June. The school district also received $300,000 from local nonprofit SchoolPower to maintain existing programs such as K-8 music, a zero-period class at Thurston and another high school counselor. And, SchoolPower’s Fund-A-Need initiative raised $138,230 to purchase 144 iPads, 144 Chromebooks and eight storage carts, as well as Apple TVs and monitors for all four schools. Meanwhile, the SchoolPower Endowment provided $182,417 to support the existing strings music program, foreign language classes at the elementary schools and teacher grants. All those numbers add up to better education for Laguna’s kids. —S.S.



This summer, hikers can expect to find trails enhanced with more interpretive signs in the 4,500-acre Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. In fact, crews recently installed 66 brand-new signs, designed to offer more access information and provide interesting facts about the area’s history and habitat. The signs’ pleasing colors and shapes are a welcome addition to the park and allow visitors to easily identify different species of animals and plants, as well as trail directions, further enhancing the park’s cultural, environmental and recreation appeal. Now, who wouldn’t want to take a hike? (949-923-2200; ocparks.com) —K.M.





This summer, swimmers and surfers may notice cleaner water at Aliso Beach thanks to a new filtration and treatment system that reduces the amount of polluted runoff reaching the shore. After more than a year of construction and testing, the South Coast Water District flipped the switch on the $2.8 million Aliso Creek Water Reclamation Facility in May in Aliso Canyon. Partly funded with a $500,000 grant from state Proposition 50 and $25,000 from the city of Laguna Beach, the new facility will treat up to 800,000 gallons per day of urban runoff—rainwater that flows from storm drains to Aliso Creek—and mix it with water from an existing treatment system to reduce salinity of recycled water that’s used to irrigate golf courses, park turf and other landscaped areas. This process conserves drinking water and keeps the ocean cleaner, giving new meaning to the phrase: “Come on in, the water’s fine.” —S.S.



Soccer players at Moulton Meadows Park can expect better fields soon, as renovation to the popular venue is underway. Through September, Los Angeles-based STL Landscape will even out the worn-down turf. This process will involve digging down a foot below the fields to replace the dirt with better draining soil and improve the irrigation system. Not a fan of soccer? You can still celebrate: The $1.22 million project will rejuvenate the park’s lawns, replace barbecues and add new curbing and fitness trail equipment for the enjoyment of all visitors. STL is also renovating Lang Park this summer, with construction expected to be completed sometime between August and September. —K.M.



In an era where video games have replaced kickball and tree climbing as normal childhood activities, one new organization aims to connect kids to their community and prepare them for a bright future. The Laguna Club, a group created specifically for youngsters in Laguna Beach, offers multiple programs that each focus on a specific need or passion to help children engage with each other and their town. For example, the Rake and Bake program is based on a farm-to-table philosophy, allowing participants to see nature at work and then apply it to everyday life. For exploratory youngsters, the Adventure Club teaches self-confidence, athletic skills and nature education through activities such as paddleboarding and hiking. And, to teach the importance of giving and philanthropy, the Helping Hands program encourages kids to pioneer their own service groups within the community. Whatever talent or interest a child has, the Laguna Club surely has a program to match it, all in a safe, educational environment. (thelagunaclub.com) —B.B.



Laguna centenarian and longtime philanthropist Herbert Nootbaar was honored this spring with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lincoln Club of Orange County and an Ellis Island Medal of Honor (U.S. presidents and Nobel Prize winners are also among its recipients), which was presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.

Herbert—son of a German immigrant—made many contributions to the agriculture industry, working his way to the top of several large companies and serving as president of the National Grain and Feed Association.
Not to mention, he has traveled to more than 120 countries, meeting and working with many heads of state and ambassadors, and also donated $10 million with his late wife to establish the Herb and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine University, among other charitable contributions.

Now 105, Herbert impressively renewed his driver’s license at 100, receiving a perfect score on the written exam and passing the vision test without glasses, showing he’s more than young at heart. —S.S.






POPcycle 2.0 opened in April
POPcycle 2.0 opened in April


Shopping with a conscience isn’t a new concept, especially for the generous folks of Laguna. Now, the practice just got a bit easier thanks to the recent addition of THE SOUL PROJECT’S flagship store on South Coast Highway. A grand opening celebration was held on June 21 to welcome visitors to the new shop, which donates $1 of every item purchased to local organizations that benefit children—such as the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach—and the environment. (949-494-0489; soulproject.com)

Spin junkies now have a new place to sweat and cycle to their heart’s content. POPCYCLE 2.0 opened on North Coast Highway in April and already has a dedicated following of spinners who love the full-body workout they get in the studio’s dance club-like atmosphere. Participants should arrive hydrated, energetic and be prepared to “sweat like a popsicle.” (949-494-0044; popcycle2k.com)

Just opened this year, RELAXING CENTER provides Thai, Swedish, deep tissue and hot stone massages in addition to facials at their spa, conveniently located on Forest Avenue. Its certified therapists also offer reflexology, sport massage and prenatal massage to cater to specific needs, and their services can be booked in either 60- or 90-minute sessions. (949-607-6822; relaxingcenterspa.com)

An eclectic shop, Z-TOPPER opened this spring at North Coast Highway and Fairview Street. Stocking everything from grab ’n’ go snacks to gift items, ice cream treats and even fresh flowers, the store also offers daily Boogie board rentals. (408-821-0022) —B.B.

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