California. The promise land. The land where dreams come true. The other side. Beautiful, sweet, sunny California. This leg of the journey was most enjoyable since it was my first time ever stepping foot in the state.
Amusingly, it’s all a blur to me now. Warm memories and visions of seeing the coast for the first time in Santa Cruz fill my mind, where the green rolling hills meet the big blue. The first surf was a sunset session with friends, freezing cold. Cloudy San Francisco, finally crossing the Golden Gate bridge in the traffic, the asian tourists at the rest stop, the statue of the sailor, also the old-school convertible parked and stuffed with life-size colored teddy bears. A pleasant reminder of the dancing bears, symbolic of a legendary vibe and California band, The Grateful Dead.
We drove north from San Francisco to a small town called Bolinas, upon recommendation from some friendly local people. Beautiful town, picturesque and reminiscent of a time gone by with rocking chairs on the general store porch, the old gas station, the health food market, and the free clothes bin where Ingrid scored an epic white shirt. The Graffiti adorning the seawalls on the beach is subject of great controversy in town, but it’s been that way for so long, it’s practically grandfathered in. Furthermore, it adds a nice splash of color to the beach, or lack there-of. There’s not a lot of beach, but then again there’s not a lot of people so it seems to even itself out. The sparse surf-imposed beachfront combined with man-made seawalls and various obstructions, make for a nice sort of Ocean inspired Murals Gallery. Waves out front (way out front), scored some really nice well-shaped ones on my 8’0” La Mision, groomed to near perfection, cold water.
We continued north as far as the Russian river, before heading south for good. San Francisco is a cool town and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. From the piers downtown to Diego Rivera's frescoes hidden in various parts of the city, there are three. Busking in Haight-Ashbury was an experience, slept in the van a few doors down from the house where the Grateful Dead lived, on an angle.
Back to good old reliable Santa Cruz, where you can find some of the best surf in California, also some of the best shapers. 3 out of our 5 boards are shaped by Even Menen of La Mision Surfboards, based in Santa Cruz, and currently in SoCal. Love my boards, they really stand out to me as with most every one else. Get one and you’ll see why.
Yosemite was our route through the Sierra Nevadas, and scenic it was. That’s an understatement really, Yosemite valley is one of the few places I’ve been to that reminded me of the garden of Eden, or a holy place of similar stature. Or a scene from Loony Tunes or a famous Disney movie. It’s a naturally protected and hidden valley. The waterfalls will leave you breathless, as with the steady flow of the river, the towering walls of granite, tall grass and wildflowers, not to mention the giant redwood and sequoia trees. Fairy-tale land.
After Yosemite, Big Sur doesn’t seem so big. Not to take away from the impact of Big Sur, I think of it daily. Cruising down Highway one as it weaves and winds its way down the coast, 1000 ft. above the ocean, straight down. You will never forget this once you make the trek. Spend a quiet, peaceful night in the clouds parked there on highway one, hardly a soul around. The famous California redwoods deserve an honorable mention at this point. Tall, sturdy, comforting, quiet, but talkative, these trees are second to none, with exception to the giant sequoias.
Continuing south, past Monterrey bay, Morro bay, the ranch, wine country, Santa Barbara, where we stayed with some really nice and friendly people there who treated us like honorary guests, sparing no lavish. Gave us the means and space to clean the van inside and out, practically spit-shined. Come to think of it, we’re about due again. Haven’t seen a vacuum in a while, we’re in Baja, Mexico.
Past Rincon, the queen of the coast (it was flat) and Ventura on our way to Malibu. What a wave and classic set-up, we had so much fun there. Malibu is a cool town, reminded me of home a little bit. But it’s so California style, it’s hard to compare. Two different worlds, with similarities here and there. Certainly the surf is better in Malibu than on long Island, that’s for sure. We met up with some good friends from home and had a blast, in Venice as well.
Moving on past San Clemente, Camp Pendelton, Trestles and San Onofre, where the surf is truly outstanding and of the highest quality. Oceanside and Carlsbad, where we stayed with some great friends who made us feel so welcome, words cannot say how grateful we were and are to this day. We didn’t spend much time in San Diego as the surrounding area is wave-rich and we were completely engrossed in it. Cardiff by the sea, Encinitas and Swami’s, a popular surf spot and holy place, we based ourselves out of this location upgrading and resupplying the van before making our way across the border.
All in all we had a truly memorable, pleasurable and remarkably gratifying experience in California and I can’t wait to go back. I hear the surf has been firing at Rincon, thanks to El Nino and I still haven’t surfed it. Then again the surf isn’t so bad here right now, as I gaze up from my screen and look out front. One thing is for sure if you like California, you’ll love Baja. Hint mint, wink wink.