Delivering Supplies To Fire Devastated Malibu Communities By Sea With Alex Gray And Co
Currently, in Los Angeles’ North County, the only way in and out is via the water.
Since the devastating Woolsey fire started burning Malibu to the ground last Thursday, Pacific Coast Highway, the main artery into and out of the area, has remained closed. This has left those who stayed behind to defend their homes and neighborhoods to essentially fend for themselves.
With basic supplies like food, water and gasoline running low, a handful of industrious surfers have banned together to help get relief into Point Dume and other hard-hit areas.
On Saturday night, while the fire was raging, U.S. Veteran and waterman Brian Toal reached out to surfboard builder Ryan Harris, who had made a post on Instagram that he was going to organize a relief mission for Sunday. They secured two small boats to make a run up the coast from Redondo Beach to Paradise Cove, Point Dume and Zuma Beach.
With devil winds whipping on Sunday, they had to scuttle the mission early in the morning due to a small craft advisory, but fate was on their side. Matt Meistrell stepped up and offered his 40-foot sport boat, “Que Paso.”
“Matt was literally there in the harbor loading supplies onto the boat in less than 30 minutes,” marveled Harris. “He stepped up huge.”
The crew was able to get up to Paradise Cove on Sunday, where they were joined by charger Alex Gray, who had driven his jet ski up to help. Harris and company secured a SUPSquatch to the back of Gray’s ski to ferry supplies into the beach.
“The water was oil glass through the South Bay, but as soon as we hit Topanga the wind switched on,” said Gray. “I just felt like I had to do something. I’ve got my ski and I was just going to bring gas up there so people could at least fuel up their vehicles. It’s grown into this amazing team effort.”
“There are a lot of different people helping in different ways, this is our part,” continued Gray. “There are literally people sitting on the docks in Marina Del Rey hoping somebody will give them a ride into Malibu. I heard of a yacht owner that took 15 strangers up there to see their homes just because it was the right thing to do.”
Because communication into the fire zone has been limited at best, the intrepid crew of surfers initially struggled to find a point of contact to deliver the supplies, but as word got out the battered community rallied.
Harris was able to make contact with Ian Zamora and Carla Zamora, who he describes as his “Malibu Ohana.”
“They’re longtime Malibu locals that moved to a Thousand Oaks about a year ago,” said Harris. “A powerful husband and wife team that are my key contact points. They’re very well connected in the Malibu community—they know everyone. Carla is a professional longboarder and surf coach. Ian is a shaper and professional photographer. Without their help we wouldn’t have been able to organize the drop point and deliveries.”
By Monday the momentum of the relief effort had picked up considerably.
“Seriously, their morale up there is rock solid right now,” said Gray. “This is a community that really loves and cares for one another. I’ve never seen anything like how they’re all coming together.”
Jamie Meistrell, Matt’s cousin, also joined the effort. Operating Body Glove Wetsuits and the Dive N’ Surf shop in Redondo, the Meistrell family is basically South Bay surf royalty, and they’ve dedicated themselves to helping those in need in their community.
Dive N’ Surf has now been established as a drop-off location for supplies and the 60-foot Body Glove boat is planning to make a run up to Paradise Cove on Wednesday.
“While we motored up to Paradise Cove, Jamie reached out to our local Redondo Beach community. By the time we got back from our successful trip, Jamie had gotten the Dive N’ Surf shop set up as a local donation/supply collection point and Body Glove has stepped up to take their big boat to bring supplies,” said Harris. “There was a line around the corner at 10 this morning of people waiting to drop off donations. We are committed to making these boat runs every day this week until PCH is open. Then we’ve got people that want to donate the use of trucks to deliver more supplies.”
In terms of putting all of the pieces in place, Gray noted that they still need a lot of hands, but it’s important not to become part of the disaster scenario.
“Let’s put it this way, the people we’d love to have help from are the people that know who they are,” said Gray. “There are a lot of people in this area with resources and the skills to have an impact, and they know who they are.”
At present, the fire has scorched nearly 100,000 acres and is only at 35-percent containment. Cal Fire officials are currently estimating that approximately 435 homes and structures have been destroyed. Two people have been killed.
The National Weather Service is forecasting more northeast winds today, blowing an upwards of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 55 mph.
There are a number of ways to donate to help the victims and firefighters that are battling this blaze. Harris and company have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to buy necessary basic survival and humanitarian supplies for fire victims.
(Stay tuned for the next story of the Malibu community banding together to fight the fires from the ground)
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