Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town
It’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost
Anywhere in the U.S.A.
(road trippin – red hot chili peppers)
Just got back from my first California surf road trip. Gotta do this again. Despite being slightly marred by strong onshore winds, we still caught Rincon doing her thing. The first day was big and burly, but by the second day it cleaned up into something that might be called glassy by the extremely optimistic. Nevertheless I had my most successful Rincon session that second day, topped with an absolute screamer of a wave – riding the high line and denying a succession of guys looking to drop in. It’s amazing how Rincon still peels even when it’s bumpy and blown out.
I had already surfed Rincon last year, but my two friends had never had the fortune of snagging a true Rincon set wave. They had been itching for a surf trip, and so we set our sights on the oft overlooked option of having an adventure in our own backyard. Who needs $600 tickets to Costa Rica when one of the best right points in the world is 3 hours to the north, flanked by jagged green mountains and giant palms. Sure the water was cold when we got there, but thanks to the slightly unfavorable conditions it wasn’t too crowded.
“Wind is usually never an issue here,” claimed a friend who had transplanted from New York to Santa Barbara. She was giving us the inside scoop into her network of surf reports as we stood on the beach evaluating the conditions. “Ventura might be a bit cleaner.” And then, after a check of a voice message, “Campus point is shoulder high and nearly glassy.” But we didn’t stray far from the perfectly wrapping walls that made their march around the cobblestone reef. The Queen of the Coast wasn’t in her royal state, but she was still beautiful indeed.
We set up camp in Carpinteria, home of Sex Wax. They call themselves California’s last little beach town, and it might be true. The entire area reminds me of what San Diego might have been 50 years ago, and I long for a time machine to take me back to a more relaxed era.
Nightlife in Rincon can be an exercise in deciding what crowd you belong in. There are scenes for all types, from ritzy LA style clubs to college bars. We decided that The James Joyce was for us, so after a brief drink in at Joe’s Cafe (where they apparently make strong drinks according to two separate locals) we headed across the street. The James Joyce will make you feel like you’re in Boston, and both nights the live bands were top notch. After that we walked down to Dargan’s, a pub hidden back from the main street and hosting several pool tables and a long bar with a stage. If you’re having dinner in the area check out The Palace Grill and make sure you get the bread pudding for dessert. You’ll thank me later.
Saturday was flat and blown out, so we had a local friend take us to hike the 7 Falls trail above Santa Barbara. We found our inner Avatar as we scrambled up and down some rock faces and jumped boulders over a creek. At the top there’s a natural stone water slide where you can plunge into a deep, icy pool. Just make sure that you know how deep it is before you jump.
Heading back down the coast we headed towards Malibu but ended up seeing a mysterious point break peeling off a huge rock formation a bit further up the coast. There was only one guy out. Ditching the idea of surfing Malibu, we paddled out and traded waves with a few friendly and laid back locals. Later found out that we had surfed Leo Carrillo. Of course, we didn’t really “find” Leo Carrillo, but having no map it was just a no-name wave that looked like fun. Add a little danger in the form of jagged, shallow rocks right in the takeoff zone and you’ve got some adventure.
This is the true experience of the surf road trip – driving down the coast highway until you see a good wave or a spot with potential. Abandoning any previous plans you might have made, you pull over and take a look. You don’t even know what spot it is – what its name is or what tide it shines – but you paddle out anyway. I suppose the “true” California surf road trip would involve no plans at all…just driving until you see an eligible wave, surfing it, and moving on. But you take what you can get – and in this case I was more than happy to do so.
It’s the classic California road trip, and I think every surfer should do it once in their life. It’s like a rite of passage. Do it now, before the coastline becomes too built up, before all the spots get over-saturated with posers and kooks on Costco boards. There’s still enough room out there for everyone, you just have to find it.