We stood safely and privileged on the edge of a small insignificant patch of tall wild grass growing undisturbed in a protected wetland. We were in the United States, across the wetland we could see the buildings and city grid of Tijuana, Mexico. We parked in-between condos alongside the Tijuana Estuary that separates the United States from Mexico. We were in the conterminous US’s Western-most corner, bordered by Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. No wall, fence or border patrol visible; just a small grassy patch with the international boarder hidden somewhere within its ambiguity.
A quiet family-oriented neighborhood called Imperial Beach with uncrowded beaches, funky art and a beautiful pier that darts drastically out into the sea. It is the charming undiscovered international seaside community you find departing any metropolis for the refuge of the coast: Italy, Croatia, and a thousand times over around the Mediterranean you would find this unassuming seaside town.
We strolled the sea-misted community under the spell of the hypnotic lapping waves and laughing children. In one of the local cafes, we sipped espresso as good as the espresso we sipped in Paris. Shops, parks, and restaurants sporadically dot the boardwalk where lounging and loitering are encouraged. At the end of the 1,491 feet long wooden pier is Tin Fish Restaurant. It’s a cheap walk-up restaurant that serves large no-nonsense simple fish sandwiches on paper plates. You eat surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, 1,491 feet into the sea among the birds, fishers and skater on the creaky pier under the glittering sun – it is divine.
Imperial Beach is is home to the Tijuana Slough, an ocean area with the largest waves in the continental US. Many surfers training for the Hawaiian waves train in the Tijuana Slough waves. Imperial Beach has been attracting surfers since the 1930s, and legendary surfers such as Bob Simmons (“father of the modern surfboard”) have called Imperial Beach home.
The pier was built to accommodate fishers; there are over 20 types of edible fish that can be caught from the pier. We saw many anglers along the pier casting, catching and cleaning a variety of fish.
The US’s southernmost pier opened Saturday, November 23, 1963. Highly anticipated by fishers and the San Diego community at large, there were many celebratory festivities planned for the pier’s grand opening. Tragically though, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated the day before. The nation was in shock and mourning, but the local residents still came to the pier’s opening to mourn together. Somber instead of jubilant, the fishers, surfers, and locals, 3000 of them for the next several weeks, bonded on the pier. As did, Shanda and I:
If you like the beach and not the crowds, Imperial Beach is the place for you. Surfing, fishing, swimming, shopping, and eating and drinking…IB (as the locals call it) has it all with elbow room.