When a wheelchair-riding guy from Texas moves to California and hooks up with a skateboarding gal, they’ve got to find some wheel-friendly beaches. This book chronicles our search for wheelchair access on 150 miles of coastline, from Malibu to San Clemente. We traveled the coast in the year 2000, Erick on his Quickie manual wheelchair and Elisa on her skateboard. We drove every mile of the Los Angeles and Orange County coastline and hiked about a hundred miles of it. (Yes! We found that many usable trails!) Far from frustrating, we found the southern California coast to be remarkably accessible and full of surprises.

There’s a huge variety of beaches along the Los Angeles and Orange County coastline. Some are in urban areas packed with people, food, and entertainment; others are serene plant and wildlife refuges where you can spend an afternoon transfixed by the beauty. Along this coast you will find mountainous canyons and ocean cliffs, as well as flat sandy beaches with open views of waves and the horizon.

In this book our goal is to help you plan the trip you want. If it’s an easy stroll you’re looking for, we’ll point you in the right direction. If it’s an off-road adventure you crave, we’ll tell you where to find that too. There were more great sites than we could fit into the book; we expect that people will be writing to us with their discoveries.

Southern California’s passion for exercise has advantages for wheelchair riders: in central Los Angeles County and southern Orange County, concrete bicycle paths have been built on most of the beaches. They are great for explorations on wheels. And if your family or friends want to join in, they can rent a set of wheels at a bicycle or skate shop.

We’ve tried to describe each site in this book in enough detail for you to evaluate in advance whether it’s worth visiting. We’ve described degrees of difficulty on trails, and the features of restrooms and other facilities. The word “accessible” occurs sparingly because it means different things to different people. When we do use it in describing restrooms, we mean “modern textbook accessible,” with five-foot turning radius, two grab bars, and a high toilet.

As we traveled along this coastline, we learned a few things about comfort. First, even southern California beaches can suddenly become cool, especially in the early evening, so windbreakers are a must. Second, you always stay longer than you intend, so bring snacks and especially water. And finally, there’s a lot of glare on a sandy beach: sunscreen, sunglasses, and baseball caps are a real help. We stuffed these things into a backpack and hitched it onto Erick’s chair. We also brought binoculars for watching birds and whales, fingerless weightlifting gloves, which Erick likes to wear on longer hikes, and moist towelettes for easy cleanup after dusty trails.

Happy travels!

Erick and Elisa Mikiten