California lifestyle suits writer/athlete Scott P. Tinley

Scott Tinley, a seventh-generation Southern Californian, has been a free-lance writer for nearly 20 years, much of it in the sport genre. He has published five volumes of nonfiction, a collection of short fiction, and numerous texts in literary journals. He is a regular essayist for several sports-related magazines and online journals.

Tinley holds an MA in interdisciplinary studies and an MFA in fiction, both from San Diego State University. He teaches sport humanities courses at SDSU and Cal State Fullerton while he’s finishing his doctoral work in cultural studies at Claremont Graduate University.

Raised in coastal Orange County, Tinley and his family (wife, Virginia, and children, Torrie, 22, and Dane, 18) have lived in Del Mar since 1987 after stops in Ocean Beach and Encinitas. A former paramedic, sailing instructor and professional triathlete, Tinley’s favorite job is still working as a seasonal lifeguard on the beach in Del Mar.

What brought you to Del Mar?

At first, it was a bicycle. Honestly. I was riding home to Encinitas from a swim workout at UCSD with a friend, and he suggested we stop by and look at a house his father was building as a spec home. We walked up to the roof, which at that time had an unobstructed ocean view. I went home and started collecting aluminum cans to buy that house. That was 23 years ago.

What makes this town special to you?

There are a number of things that come to mind, but I think it’s the stability of the longtime residents that is attractive. A lot of people have lived here for 20, 30 or 40 years. They own their homes or have little debt and don’t feel the need to be pretentious or showy as is explicit in other North County coastal areas.

The town has an egalitarian feel to it. Starving students, restaurant-working surfers and CEOs of multinational corporations occupy and interact across the same public space. And when “new money” residents move to town, most realize that a good moped or scooter is the vehicle of choice, not a Lamborghini. I love the number of artists here as well. So much hidden talent.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would like to see many of the real estate offices on CDM (Camino del Mar) replaced with more quaint, esoteric and (hopefully) profitable owner-run shops offering unique goods and services. I’d like to see the city buy the fairgrounds property from the state and return it to its natural, estuarial habitat. And I’d like to see Del Mar Lifeguard Chief Pat Vergne offered a 10-year contract at twice what he is paid to stay on as director of community services.

Who or what inspires you?

Selfless people who continue to think about others first in a world that makes it increasingly harder to do. It’s a personality trait I’ve struggled to find since I was a teen. I’m not talking about philanthropy per se, though that is important as well. But I am inspired by the grand heroic acts in pre-modern folklore and literature. They still live among us, but too often, present-day heroic deeds are mediated in the press such that they fail to gain traction while simmering over time through oral communication.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Mahatma Gandhi (not because he won’t eat too much), Richard Nixon (because he’s the gift that keeps on giving), Bob Dylan (because he’s Bob Dylan), the novelist J.D. Salinger (because he was “unaffected”), the Apostle Paul (it’s all about networking, right?), Marilyn Monroe (gender balance is key to a good party), Ron Smith (long-term Del Martian, restaurateur and Navy UDT specialist with great stories about blowing up boats for the CIA) and Michelle Obama (such grace and class).

I’d ask the German political theorist Herbert Marcuse if you’d allow me one extra. That’s assuming my family is invited as well. Dane is quite skilled on the grill, and Torrie, a practicing vegan, makes a killer salad.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

Within hands reach I have Adorno’s “The Culture Industry,” Lyotard’s “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge” and Chris Hedges’ “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”

But the last popular book I was able to stay with was Andre Agassi’s “Open,” co-written with the brilliant J.R. Moehringer (“The Tender Bar”).

What is your most-prized possession?

Memories of the kids growing up.

What do you do for fun?

I don’t know, I suppose surf, write, hang out with family and friends, drink good wine. But most of the areas that I am involved with on an employment basis are very pleasurable.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Hmmm ... let me think.

Well, when I was 24 years old and working as a paramedic for the city of San Diego, I had to triage eight teens in a late-night vehicle crash. My partner and I were first on the scene, and we had to decide who to work on and who to let die. I wouldn’t call it “great,” but it was a significant pugmark that separates my youth from adulthood. That was gnarly.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

You can’t find your center unless you know where the edges are, and avoid people who overuse cliches.