Q&A: Meet San Diego historian Kathy Blavatt, author of ‘Ocean Beach: Where Land and Water Meet’


Q & A: Meet San Diego historian Kathy Blavatt, author of ‘ Ocean Beach : Where Land and Water Meet’

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Palo Alto. My family came down the coast. We moved to Solana Beach when I was 7. My parents (dad being a surfer) bought a lot in 1967, on the last block of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard by Ladera Street, and had our family home built there.

What do you do for a living?

“Creative Communications” best describes what I do. I write, do art … graphics, fine art, photography, and illustration. I have also been a teacher.

Are you married?

My husband Ray, whom I met at the beach in Ocean Beach, and I just celebrated our 38th anniversary in our OB home.

Got kids?

We don’t have children, but have worked with kids in our educational careers. For 22 years, I taught two adult students, who were autistic savants. They, and others, were part of our extended family. My nurturing instincts were much the same as a proud mother.

Give us a brief history of your involvement with the Ocean Beach community.

I have been an Ocean Beach historian, writer, artist and community advocate. I have authored six books — three about Ocean Beach. The newest is “Ocean Beach Where Land and Water Meet,” from Arcadia Publishing. Previously, I co-authored “Ocean Beach,” with the Ocean Beach Historical Society and Arcadia Publishing, and I self-publish two editions of “OB’s Weird, Wild & Wonderful,” featuring two decades of my OB photos.

Since 2006, I have been a member of the Ocean Beach Historical Board where I have presented programs, produced the “Sea Scrolls,” and the OB Historical Board’s website/blog. I have also written poetry and pieces for the OB Rag website.

If you could wave a magic wand and make a wish for OB come true, that wish would be:

My wish for Ocean Beach is to hold onto its small, beach-town community character with its mom-and-pop shops, quirky lovable people, historic cottages and buildings, and its lovely beaches.

What is your favorite thing about OB today?

I am warmed by the love many residents and visitors have for our little beach town.

What historical fact about OB never ceases to amaze you?

A great thing about Ocean Beach is how many long-time residents date back several generations. Quite a few are related to the founding families! Many of these families have wonderful and funny stories to tell.

How would you describe a typical OB-ceans to outsiders?

We seem to attract dreamers who add to the local character of OB. There is a true love for this place that encourages people to be highly involved with the community as the activists, the surfers, the business owners, the artists, and others spirited individuals have all placed their mark on our community earning them the title “OB-cean”!

Do you have a favorite spot for relaxing in OB?

The Ocean Beach Pier at the foot of Niagara Avenue is the perfect place to relax, clear your head, people watch, and enjoy nature, the views and sunsets.

How would you spend a $5,000 gift to OB — no strings attached?

Over the last few years, I have been so impressed by the history of the Ocean Beach water women. These include the first female surfer in California, the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways, the first and second international surf champions, the 1966 surf champion and first USA female lifeguard. And many others! It is time to honor these amazing women with a mural, sculpture or some worthy memorial.

— The Ocean Beach Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, welcomes new members and meets 7 p.m. third Thursdays at Point Loma Methodist Church, 1984 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. To donate photos or memorabilia, or make an appointment to visit the archive room, call (619) 226-8125.


A Very Brief History of Ocean Beach

• Billy Carlson and Frank Higgins laid out streets in 1887 and sold lots at a big mussel roast on the beach. They named the new town ‘Ocean Beach.’ (Carlson went on to become mayor of San Diego and later an inmate of a federal prison on charges of land fraud.)

• During the real estate bust of the 1890s, many buyers lost their lots and development stagnated except for a few houses used for vacation getaways. One of those who hung in there was David Collier who began promoting Ocean Beach and Point Loma in the first decade of the 1900s, He brought in electricity, some paved streets, and a street car line.

• Collier (who was president of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition) and other developers touted Ocean Beach as a resort town, and in 1913 a magnificent (for its time) amusement park, Wonderland, was constructed at Abbott and Voltaire, on the sand. Unfortunately, it washed away in a few years and the center of activity shifted to Newport Avenue, where dance halls, a skating rink, a merry-go-round, and eventually a saltwater plunge took up the slack.

• During the 1920s, tourists continued to come, and home construction increased, making the beach town a hometown as well.

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Editor’s Note: Our “Q&A” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.


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