Malibu Triathlon could be called off due in part to an endangered fish

Now, organizers are trying to get a new course approved in time for the race.

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Malibu Triathlon could be called off due in part to an endangered fish
The tidewater goby, a protected species, has been found in water along the course. Now, organizers are trying to get a new course approved in time for the race.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- We're less than two weeks away from the 38th annual Malibu Triathlon where 5,000 athletes are scheduled to participate.

Close to $1 million has already been raised for cancer research at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, but the race is now in jeopardy partly because of an endangered fish: the tidewater goby.

Heavy rains last winter flooded the Zuma Beach underpass at Zuma Creek, which is part of the triathlon's course but is now home to the tidewater goby.

"I was surprised that since the rains were when they were, that that hadn't been addressed until now," said Larry Turkheimer, who has been participating in the Malibu Triathlon for 15 years.

The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches & Harbors controls the underpass and because the Endangered Species Act protects the tidewater goby, the underpass won't be cleared in time for the race.

But race organizers have proposed a course change, although the Malibu Planning Commission says the new course wasn't submitted in the time period required by the city.

In a statement, the Malibu Triathlon said, "we are disappointed with the decision of the city of Malibu Planning Commission to reject our permit appeal for the 2023 Malibu Triathlon. We are urgently reviewing all options and will issue a further update shortly."

"There's absolutely ways around it. They close off PCH pretty much 100%, they could have adjusted to get this number of people across through other exists. There's not just one exit out of Zuma Beach," said Turkheimer.

This would be Turkheimer's 15th year participating in the Malibu Triathlon, taking place Saturday, Sep. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1.

"It's the biggest race in L.A., Ventura, and probably Orange County," he said. "It brings together first timers, corporate involvement, and people with experience in racing, and now this dream for a lot of these people of doing their first triathlon could be gone after all this effort, from buying stuff to getting personal training."

The city of Malibu released a statement Tuesday saying organizers are expected to file an appeal, which would be able to be heard by the city council during its Sept. 25 regular meeting.

"If the appeal is filed, the staff report, and viewing and commenting instructions for that item will be posted in advance," said the city.

The Sept. 25 agenda has already been posted and would be amended if an appeal is filed, the city said.

The city's statement continues saying, "The City recognizes the benefits of the Malibu Triathlon's charitable fundraising efforts. However, the City must adhere to its own codes and policies, which are in place to ensure the safety of the community and the event's participants and spectators."