Instead of a rooster crowing in the twilight of the early morning, seagulls announce the dawning of a new day with their insistent squawking. You turn over and cover your ears with your pillow, still fresh with the scent of last night’s campfire, in a futile attempt to sleep in for few more minutes.

Then the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and the sound and smell of bacon snapping and popping on the grill drifts through your campsite. And you catch a whiff of the unmistakable perfume of nature’s salt and sand sea breeze coming off the Pacific Ocean.

And soft muttering quickly turns into loud chatter as children unlock their bikes and begin the ritual of going campsite to campsite to wake their cousins.

Sleeping in is impossible at the beach with the Wavehogs.

When you read this column, we Wavehogs will be enjoying our fifth day of camping on our 31st annual migration to the beach. It’s early Monday and the lazy morning fog blanketing our campsites matches the energy of Wavehog families slowly rolling out of our RVs, tents and trailers.

It should be about 60 degrees. We should also be tanned, relaxed and overindulged from great campsite cooking and refreshments. Our lungs should be fully adjusted to clean ocean air.

In case you’ve missed my previous columns, the Wavehogs, started 31 years ago when my brother Ralph (Big Foot) and his wife, Dora (Doheny Dora), and their children joined my wife, Susie (Shoppn’ Sue), my children and me (the Big Kahuna) for a few nights camping at San Clemente State Beach.

Over the next 31 years, the Wavehogs have grown to include more than 80 family members and friends who would camp with us at the San Clemente State Beach group site on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The Wavehogs have finally grown too large for one state beach park. San Clemente State Beach has been our summer home. It has been one of California’s most popular state beaches since 1937.

Over the past 10 years, reserving the group site has been impossible. Reserving individual sites next to each other has been equally challenging. So with trepidation, about 30 to 40 of the Wavehogs will be at San Clemente and about the same number at Morro Strand State Beach on the Central Coast this year.

The Elders knew this day would come — when the Juniors would begin their own Wavehog journey. Even though we will be almost 300 miles apart this year, I know the core tradition of the Wavehogs will remain the same. Family, surf, food, music and respect are our mantra.

For example, each day as the sun sets, all the mayhem happening at the campsites will slowly come to a stop. We will all pause in silence and wait for the sun to dip into the ocean.

It will be an eerily quiet and solemn moment for the Wavehogs. At the end of each day, our sunset silence shows respect and remembrance of Wavehogs and loved ones no longer with us.

This year we will desperately miss “Shoppin’ Sue,” who was the spirit of the Wavehogs and the heart of our family. Her life example of giving without remembering and humbly receiving without forgetting will be celebrated as she would have us do.

Once the sun disappears into the Pacific, all mayhem will return and new memories continue to grow.

Something happens to you when you go camping with your family. I am not sure if you leave part of you at the beach or you bring part of the beach home with you. Because a 12-foot great white shark has been spotted at both San Clemente and Morro Stand this week, my preference is to bring part of the beach home with me.

And the Wavehogs continue to use our camping organizational expertise and apply it to community causes that match our positive mojo of helping those in need.

The Big Kahuna is proud of all my family members and friends who have embraced the spirit of our 31-year Wavehog tradition that reaches beyond any campfire. 

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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