Laguna native finds adventure at home

Laguna native Jeremy Frimond loves a good adventure — including swimming with sharks — and has found one in his hometown as the city's marine protection officer.

Frimond reportedly stood out from among 100 applicants for the job, in which he will supervise the city's coastline from Irvine Cove on the northern end to just south of Aliso Beach Park and educate the public about the ocean's ecosystem.

"There's no greater deal than working in my hometown," Frimond, 25, said by phone Monday afternoon on a break during his first day on the job. "This is something I've always wanted to do."

He graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2005 and spent seven years as a lifeguard in town, along with his twin brother, Trevor. He earned a bachelor's in zoology from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 and moved to South Africa later that year, where he spent his time swimming with great white sharks.

"They are not aggressive by nature," Frimond said. "You have to be aware of the environment."

Frimond replaces Calla Allison, who resigned in February to take a job with the California Natural Resources Agency, Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow wrote in an email.

"Jeremy's knowledge of the local marine environment, his previous experience enforcing Marine Protected Areas as a lifeguard in the community, and his experience working with communities to help educate the public about the marine environment were some of the factors that made him stand out," Snow said.

Part of Frimond's 24-hour-per-week job will be enforcing rules of the Marine Life Protection Act, which the California Legislature adopted in 1999 to protect and conserve the state's marine and ocean ecosystems.

Frimond will also visit schools to teach students about ocean life.

He hopes to correct the common misconception that sharks are killing machines.

His experience as an intern with Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa, in 2009 will help.

Oceans Research provides training for aspiring marine scientists, according to its website.

During his internship, Frimond learned about sharks and whales, including their habitats, and about projects helping to preserve the population of great white sharks. He later managed the Oceans Research intern program.

In 2010, Frimond and two partners formed Oceans Discovery to introduce people to sharks in their natural environment.

The three led dive tours in South Africa and Frimond lived on a boat with a shark diving cage for a time.

Once during a large swell, Frimond fell off a boat and landed on the back of a 13-foot great white, according to the blog Swell.

"I was trying to pick up a piece of trash coming by the boat, and when the anchor pulled as we passed over a swell, I was thrown off backwards and head-butted a shark," he said in an email. "The shark bolted away right as I landed on it — I was left with a bruised ego."

As for sharks in Laguna, Frimond has seen tiny reef sharks hiding in coastline crevices near Laguna, but never a great white, he said.

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