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Little Corona tidepools become backdrop for creative, natural sculptures

By AMY SENK

There’s nothing like an out-of-town guest to make you take a fresh look at the amazing things in your own backyard. It happened years ago when my friend from San Francisco noticed a giant bunny shaped object, wrapped in black tarp, that ended up placed in the Civic Center Park. I’d passed by the wrapped bunny for weeks and hadn’t noticed, but then my friend pointed it out. I wrote about it, and the story turned into “Bunnygate,” a City Council campaign issue a few years back.

Last week, it was my brother-in-law heading down to the Little Corona Beach tidepools and discovering a trio of rock stacks, clearly human-made, that opened my eyes. He noticed the rock stacks. They were sculptural creations that brought to mind the stacks of rocks you will sometimes see at trail heads – but far more elaborate. He showed me a photo, and then we headed down together to check it out.

On Wednesday, he said, there had been three of the rock piles. Thursday, there were two dozen versions, and the beach was crowded with families posing for photos next to them and creating their own.

Little Corona tidepools sculpture cropped

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Photos by Amy Senk

An eye-catching rock sculpture at Little Corona Beach

“I’m from Utah,” said Richard Beers, who was visiting Orange County with his family for the holidays. “I’ve seen nature do this to rocks, but I’ve never seen man do this. I’ve seen humans destroy things like this, sadly. It’s just fascinating. I’m puzzled by it. I just want to sit here all day and study it.”

Some of the stacks were basic, but others defied gravity. We got close to see if the artists might have used glue, or a metal rod, to create the taller, more elaborate stacks. But there were no signs of non-natural reinforcements. Just gravity-defying sculptures, a few about two feet tall, with oblong tall rocks on their ends, seemingly in place by nothing more than carefully balanced placement. I’ve lived near Little Corona for nearly two decades and have never seen anything like it, and the visitors I spoke to said they hadn’t, either.

Little Corona tidepools Pono

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Pono was inspired to create his own rock creation

A tourist from Hawaii, G-no Opfer, said he thought they were all natural with no other reinforcements.

“I thought it was a real insane balance job,” he said. “I thought it was cool. Maybe it’s the angle on the rocks. Maybe it’ll last a few days.” His son, Pono, 17, was inspired to create his own version close to the tallest one nearby. “I added the pebble on top,” he said, pointing to the tall sculpture. “I want some credit.”

Stephanie Engel of Chapel Hill watched in amazement. “How is that possible?” she said. “I’m impressed by it. They defy gravity.” “He’s probably good at Jenga,’’ said her husband, Larry, as they watched Pono work on his piece.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen artists use the beach as their canvas. Several years ago, my friend Ron Yeo alerted me to an artist at Big Corona who was using shovels and brushes and sand to create a large Valentine with hearts and squiggly waves. That artist, Christopher Owens, told me he’d been making the sand art for years, although I haven’t seen them in CdM since. They were beautiful, but when the tide rolled in, the art was erased.

I have no idea who created the first of the lasted Little Corona works, or how long they have been there. I’m sure that the waves and dogs and kids at the tidepools will demolish these rock sculptures soon enough. But they are beautiful and worth a trip to the beach to see them, while they last.

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20 years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association and the Corona del Mar High School PTA. She and her husband have two children.