Historic California lifeguard building destroyed by huge waves

A lifeguard building on the beach at Sycamore Cove in Point Mugu State Park was destroyed after being pounded by high surf from Hurricane Marie.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

State lifeguards are coming to grips with the loss of the historic Cove House training building at Point Mugu State Park, which collapsed onto the beach Wednesday as powerful surf pounded the shoreline.

The Cove House Lifeguard Administrative building collapsed when the pilings were compromised by huge swells generated by Hurricane Marie -- spelling the end of a building that has served generations of lifeguards and park rangers.

“It’s a loss for the program from an emotional and administrative standpoint,” said Craig Sap, California State Parks’ Angeles District superintendent. “Some people came and stood by, mournfully watching the structure go.”

Employees were able to remove items from the building before it was red-tagged, he said.

“It wasn’t just a matter of if, but a matter of when it would go,” Sap said.


Other coastal areas also saw significant damage. Waves tore through the boatyard at Pebbly Beach on the east end of Catalina Island, upending boats and scattering lumber across the area.

Some of the wood apparently floated into Avalon Harbor, where it smashed into moorings and pilings, according to Los Angeles County harbor officials.

But the loss of the Point Mugu building shocked current and former lifeguards.

“It’s one of those structures where you wake up and it’s there, you go to work and you drive by, and it’s there,” Sap said. “It was not expected.”

Built in the late 1950s, the building had weathered all types of storms.

“This thing was bulletproof,” Sap said. “It had seen it all.”

The ocean swells generated by Hurricane Marie came from an unfamiliar angle, Sap said. It’s unclear what caused the pilings to be compromised, he said.

The building was a popular filming location, with hundreds of commercials recorded at or around the structure. Movies and television shows had also been filmed at the location.

“You couldn’t watch prime time without seeing a car running along the PCH area and see the house on the beach,” Sap said.

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