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Surf Travel Reports

California Trachts – Carmel Edition

Again seeking the an exit from the daily routine of wake up, fall into the shower, try not to spill your liquid adult energy drink of coffee all over your shirt, put a smile on at work, get into the working grind, limp tiredly to lunch, try to keep your eyes open around two-o’clock, make a few more phone calls or whatever you do, and then crest the smile on your face one more time as you let everyone know you’ll “see ‘em tomorrow,” you ponder if this is really the life you dreamed of living when you worked so hard all your life to find a good job.  Now I like my job, I do…but I don’t live to work…not at all!  I live to be a great dad and to surf.  Done and done!  I live to be that dad I always dreamed of being.  Giving my wife and kids the dream, whatever we, as a family, decide that should be.  I live for the storybook life (a surfer’s storybook) that I doodled in my notebook in high school and continued refining in college.

Now, fifteen years later, I still dream of the storybook beginning, middle, and end.  Obviously, the grind routine of work isn’t it, vacations are, which is why I work so hard to save up a little extra coin every couple months to open that book, and take a corporeal read through its pages.

So in this edition of California Trachts, we opened the book…the story book of Carmel, California.  From the crystal blue beach break peaks set in the waters off the legendary Pebble Beach golf course, to the Lamplighter Inn and Suites Bed and Breakfast, to the Flying Fish Grill and the Forge in the Forest restaurants, we moved, like fiction characters from one “wow” to the next in a town that seemed created by a story-teller for mom, dad, and the kids, surfer or not.

In Carmel, at least from what we’ve found as a surf family, if you want the ultimate storybook experience, you call the Lamplighter Inn Bed and Breakfast and book a room with the owner Bobby or one of his awesome staff, you just do!

Now if you’ve never been to Carmel, to me, and especially my wife, it is one of the most quaint towns coupled with one of the prettiest beaches we’ve ever been to in all our travels around the world.

Bobby is the owner of the Lamplighter Inn B & B and has become a friend of mine.  This is the exact reason why I always book rooms at his B & B, and why my wife and I love staying at B & B’s when we are scavenging for great locales of both waves and quaint family get-a-way towns up and down the coast.  When you stay at a B & B, you not only get a free breakfast, which is one of the best parts, but you become a part of the hotel for the night.  B & Bs are almost always family run, and their livelihood depends on the success of their Inn.  For that reason, owners, like Bobby, and the rest of the staff make you a friend even though you’re in a foreign town.

As far as the rooms at the Lamplighter, they are a legitimate 10 out of 10 in my book.  Storybook, English cottage styled on the outside, and, at least in our room, the Porpoise Room, the interior was sort of a Cape Cod decor that left my wife and I with jaws dropped and hearts warmed.  We walked into our room in awe, having not taken a vacation that inspired us in a long time… Then my three year old pushed passed us and threw his bag of cars on the floor and my baby cried, but that didn’t ruin the night, the mood was already set.

At night, the wood burning fire place in the room was great for smores until the kids went to bed, then as it simmered down, the burning coals helped keep the room warm to a evening cup of coffee.

As far as proximity to surfing, the Lamplighter Inn is the best place in town for a surfer.  It’s the closest hotel or Inn to Carmel Beach, only three blocks away.  Not to mention that it has a killer outdoor shower for when you are done with your session and you walk back up the street, feet sandy, and hands cold.  As for surf, this is one of my favorite beach breaks in California because of it’s crystal clear Hawaii-like water color, and the sublime backdrop of cascading wooded mountains to the south, on the Big Sur side.  On it’s day, glassy and head high, this wave produces barrels and speedy walls as good as any beachie I’ve ever surfed.  It’s often inconsistent, and when the wind comes up perfection is quickly eroded, but if you time the conditions right, this long beach has plenty of peaks to seek out a lonely wave to yourself.

On the romantic/stoke your wife and kids out side of things, proximity is also top-notch.  Being that the B & B is right on the main drag, Ocean Blvd, it’s just an easy stroll, within a few blocks to the main shopping area.

One of the great restaurants we found and loved was The Flying Fish Grill. It sits uniquely cascaded down a small stairwell on Ocean Ave. and Mission St.  The food represented an artistic display of seafood delicacies.  It is a great date restaurant, but the ambiance was fun with the kids as well in the early evening, around 5: 30pm, when we seemingly had the restaurant to ourselves.

Another one of our favorites restaurants, and maybe my son’s favorite due to desert cookie that was pan baked and as big as our plate,  The Forge in the Forest, was not only family romantic, but family friendly for our small group of four.  The service was friendly and relaxed, and the outdoor patio seating had a great forest-like feeling.  The food was well, comparable to a perfect tube ride.  The salmon left my wife stoked and thanking me for a great trip, and the t-bone steak melted in my mouth and hit the spot of a “man’s steak” after a good morning session down the hill surfing Carmel beach.

Shopping-wise, guys, you must take your girlfriend or wife to Lush, a soap and body store, and I was stoked on Liquid Surf Shop, the surf shop in town (if you go by, tell the owner Sean we said hi, he’s a killer guy).  As far as stoking out the kids, if they are old enough to surf and you want to get them out there in the water so you and the wife can have a couple minutes to yourself, send them to Learn to Surf with the Carmel Surf School” run by Noah Greenberg.  Noah is one of the best surfers in the area, and a few of his camp instructors are professional surfer’s too (Johnny Craft to name one).  Conversely, if you’re kids are small like ours, there is a quaint little toy store in the middle of town.

All in all, Carmel has become a go-to location for my family because of it’s quintessential vacation feel.  Your mental trajectory slides softly into to another world and the stresses of your everyday life become left behind. The town is quaint, clean, romantic, fun, and filled with epic beach break potential, which is why Carmel is sure to satisfy all qualms on the western front.

Shawn Tracht

Shawn Tracht is a Central California surfer who has been teaching English for 8 years. He is an avid writer, having a column in Deep Magazine ( about surfboard design, as well as a free-lance writer in various other surf magazines, both print and online. Though Shawn is sponsored as a surfer by Patagonia, Dakine, Etnies, and Central Coast Surfboards, Shawn loves being a father and husband most.

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Eko sup
12 years ago

I was stoked to see an article on Carmel as we love heading that way often. I was even more stoked to see Sean from liquid surf mafia mentioned and in a pic. Great store and a great guy. Definitely check it out. Always have a great time at the city beach, I haven’t missed the ice cream headaches though.

12 years ago

Hi Shawn,
Thanks for the article. Carmel is indeed a unique and beautiful place. I can vouch for the Lamplighter; my girlfriend and I stayed there once and had a great time. I agree that the surrounding Carmel coastline is perhaps the most beautiful of any in California.

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