Ed Grant

Photographer Ed Grant is one of those Californians with saltwater on the brain and sand in the toes. Meaning, he is enamored with the ocean, specifically the California coast.

One sleepless night, almost five years ago, the idea for his new self-published book came to him: the piers of California. He got up from bed, did a Google search, and did not find a single book devoted to the subject. He's since changed that.

His book, Piers of the California Coast, is a soft-cover picture book that's  devoted to the stories of the 37 piers—from San Diego to Monterey to Morro Bay and beyond. The photographs are his, while the words, from historical accounts to musings, are handled by a team of writers.

Earlier this week the San Jose resident stopped by the Press Club at the Monterey County Weekly in the midst of a door-to-door campaign to get his book into appropriate outlets, like Marina's REI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"Monterey is a major attraction because of the importance of marine research and science," he says of the inclusion of three of our piers in the book—Old Fisherman's Wharf, Municipal Wharf and the Coast Guard Pier. Those entries were written by former Weekly staffer and book author Stuart Thornton, who accompanied Grant during the Monterey County visit.

The book is 188 pages of attractive photos, taken from every conceivable angle except underwater. He rented a helicopter at times to get ariels. He shot at dusk in low light, in bright afternoon sun. He shot people, animals, attractions and surfers. There are shots of piers with wooden pilings, with concrete stilts, assaulted and caressed by waves, jutting out over the water as remnants of old commercial wharfs or shipping docks, or as pure entertainment in and of itself. It's a rich beach culture.

The spirit of the project was nicely captured in the foreword by Henry Shukman: "A pier is a folly, a highway to nowhere. Whether lined with fishermen of filled with the cries and clattering of a roller coaster, whether thick with the aromas of hot dogs and fries or freshly gutted fish, they are there for nothing but the pleasure of humanity."

Manhattan Beach Pier is featured, with its quaint roundhouse rebuilt to resemble its 1920s version that was destroyed in an El Nino storm. The California stint of Route 66 ends on Santa Monica Pier, where the dreams of many travelers begin. Gaviota Pier, near the Channel Islands, was destroyed by a sea storm on March 1 this year—that's in the book, too.

"Old Fisherman's Wharf used to be a grittier, working wharf for the fishing industry before it was transformed into a tourist destination after World War II," writes Thornton. He suggested the angle of the photo that Grant ultimately captured for that entry—from Jack's Peak.

"Ed's book is now the resource [on California's piers]," Thornton says.

Grant is shopping the book around up and down the coast, another road adventure that immerses him in the place he loves so much. 

"I grew up body surfing in Southern California," Grant says. "When I came up north, I found out the temperature was 56 degrees." He still laughs about it.

That is another fine function of a pier. To get over the water without getting wet.

Piers of the California Coast is available on Amazon.com, The Works in Pacific Grove and through Ed Grant's website

Walter Ryce has been an arts writer, calendar editor, culture columnist, sometime photographer, and one-time web content coordinator for the Monterey County Weekly. He began working at the paper, which is based in his hometown of Seaside, in 2007.

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