The South Coast and Catalina Island Feature

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The Great Outdoors

Water sports rule the coast of Orange County. Those inexperienced at riding the waves along the coastline can get a feel for the waves by riding a boogie board at Seal Beach or at the Newport River jetties.

Surfing is permitted at most beaches year-round (check local newspapers or talk to lifeguards for conditions), and surfboard-rental stands line the coast.

The best waves are usually at San Clemente, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. From June through September the ocean temperature tops 70°F and lifeguards patrol almost every beach. Local newspapers print beach reports with wave information and notice of any closures.

You can also check local news on surf and water quality through the Surfrider Foundation.

www.surfrider.org.

Keep a lookout for signs warning of dangerous conditions: undertow, strong currents, and big waves can all be hazardous. Avoid swimming near surfers. When a yellow flag with a black circle is flying (known to locals as "black balling"), it means no hard boards are allowed, but swimming and bodyboarding are permitted.

If you'd like to explore the coastline by bike or on foot, the Santa Ana Riverbed Trail hugs the Santa Ana River for 20.5 mi between the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at Huntington State Beach and Imperial Highway in Yorba Linda. Joggers have an uninterrupted path the whole way. There are entrances, restrooms, and drinking fountains at all crossings. A bike path winds south from Marina del Rey all the way to San Diego with only minor breaks. Most beaches have bike-rental stands.

You'll usually hear the name Irvine linked to soulless suburban sprawl, but balancing that is the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. These 50,000 protected acres stretch 22 mi from Weir Canyon to the coast, where the reserve meets the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Crystal Cove State Park. The Conservancy and its affiliated environmental organizations sponsor many activities, from tough mountain bike rides to leisurely family picnics in regional parks. You'll need advance reservations for any of their docent-led activities. 714/508-4757. www.irvineranchwildlands.org.

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