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Ocean Pools

Seth Willingham


Behind the Shot

At the south end of Laguna Beach’s secluded Thousand Steps Beach, hidden along the steep tide carved cliffside, is a cave. At the wrong time of day, or wrong time of year, high tide or a rogue wave can fill this cave with a punishing torrent of water. People have drowned here.

Those brave or foolish enough to defy the posted warnings and wander through this cave will find a completely isolated white-sand cove. High atop the cliffs are a handful of luxurious multimillion dollar homes. Depending on whom you ask, you’ve either entered a secluded public beach or you’ve trespassed into private backyards.

In the late 1930s, homeowner Edward Griffith—a cousin of the legendary producer D.W. Griffith and a producer in his own right—started a trend when he built cement walls around the natural tide pools in the cove below his house. Three of these “natural” pools remain in the cove today.

Seth braved the journey to capture this image, but warns others about the dangers. “Every wave that breaks here explodes over the rocks and into the pools. This location can be really, really dangerous. When the tide’s not right you will get trapped. Depending on the time of the year, the cove can lose 6 feet of sand. It’s very beautiful, but very dangerous.”