Hey folks, looks like there have been some changes in our team structure, even though there is only two of us!
As we had already arrived in LA and our plan was to stay on the West Coast until the end of October, it meant we had a good 10days left to enjoy the hot Californian sun. As a matter of fact, the coast between LA and SanDiego is just a 120 miles long surf spot! I mean, there are so many surf spots, it makes it hard to pick. But following advice from locals as well as the tides, I went with the flow. I’m writing my first blog post and I’m already only talking about surf…
When we first started the road trip we didn’t talk about how much of a surf trip it would be at the same time. That’s why, Maeva being a lot less into surfing, she decided to spend some of my surfing hours on something else. This past year, while she became an adult by signing her first work contracts as a marketing strategist she didn’t spend enough time on one of her passions: drawing! Having some free time like now, as well as the free mindset of a person on vacation, it’s a really good opportunity for her to focus on something she loves. So, between good sleeps in the car and barbecues on the beach, she has been spending a lot of hours in coffee shops drawing like crazy, why not?!
That’s why I’m writing a tiny post about Manhattan Beach (MB), which is technically part of LA and should be part of the previous post, but it’s also a significant change in our everyday vacation life. The shift started here, after a long surf session at the MB jetty, just south of Segundo Beach.
By the way, I forgot to mention, I went to the jetty following the advice from a guy working at Nikau Kai Waterman. I went to this shop three times , and chatted with 3 different people, just as nice and helpful as each other. I got some good spots/beaches to go to on my way down south as well as free fins to test out. I was more than happy with that!
The only thing hard for me to accept is that I’m gonna have a lot less pictures of me surfing… oh boy!
Ever heard of Baywatch? Alerte à Malibu for the Frenchies? Thought so.
When we reached Malibu, we spotted the famous Zuma beach and the lifeguard houses, ready to jump right into atmosphere from the show. We looked for Pamela Anderson but she was nowhere to be seen, much to our disappointment. Steph was not pleased. “Where are all the girls in the red swimsuits?!”
We went for a long walk towards Paradise Cove, which was our only option to avoid a $40 parking at the beach. ($40 parking and $20 walk-in, wtf?!) As we were walking on the shore, we gazed at the giant beach houses that populate the coast wondering who they could belong to and what kind of interiors they had. Most of them were empty, probably just another vacation home… We did like the ones on stilts though!
After watching an adventurous dog jump in the waves, we went to visit the Getty Villa, a museum with an architecture inspired from an Antique Greek Villa at Herculaneum with gardens, spacious rooms and lots of indoor patios. We revisited the famous sculptures of Greek gods and other pieces of art from that era. Only shame was that due to the drought, all the water features of the villa had been turned off. Fountains and pools don’t look quite the same when they’re empty!
Of course, one cannot be in Malibu without testing the water and its gentle waves! They were small but allowed for very long rides. There was good longboard surfing on the right side of the pier of Surfrider beach at sunset and sunrise. A good way to get the day started is to chill on a board in the sun right? Being on our boards in the water allowed us to people watch and notice the “body culture” of the city. Lots of muscles all around us, made me feel like I should work out more. And yes it totally reminded us of Britney’s “you want a hot body? you better work bitch!”
Malibu was also the place for a lot of firsts!
– First Uno fights: we bought a set of Uno cards back in Santa Barbara and have returned to our childhood selves. Whenever we have some time, for example when lunch is heating by the side of the road, we’ll go for a little Uno game. It usually ends with the person who lost throwing his/her cards at the person who won. #nevergrowup
– First camping refusal: we had decided to be fancy and go to a campground. Unfortunately when we got to the Malibu Beach RV park, we were refused entry because:
a) we don’t have a commercial RV so we can’t have an RV site
b) we don’t have a tent so we can’t get a tent site
Well that sucks.
Luckily we got the last spot at the Leo Carrillo State Park a few miles North..
– First Tacobell: and one more fast food name was crossed off the list! Steph had actually never tried Tacobell before so it was even more exciting. I had, and as Anna knows, it’s Crunchwrap for the win! Let’s just say this isn’t going to be the last Tacobell of the trip.
We finally made our way to sunny Santa Barbara. Sunny may be an understatement, it honestly felt as if we had stepped right back into the heat of August days. We stayed in this small beach town for a couple of days, just enough to combine some surf sessions close to Isla Vista Point, chilling and longboarding along the beach. Steph has been working hard at perfecting those barrels as you can see!
Also, Steph has been teaching me some longboard moves in order for me to stay more or less stable, and there has been some improvement! You will see the proof below. It does help that the board I got is totally beautiful with its wooden material and totally badass with a shark at the back! As the guys from the skate shop said, “If that’s the one you like, then that’s the one you should get.”
Although we missed Livia in town, she gave us tons of tips for places to sleep and cool hikes to go for. We followed her advice and slept in our van at the Rose Gardens at the Mission every night – perfect spot! We also went for a hike to Saddle Rock, but probably didn’t pick the right time. It was the middle of the afternoon and burning hot. The view was absolutely worth it though! We almost ran down the trail to jump into the car and rush to the ocean. It was our first swim without our wetsuits and it never felt more like summer! And of course, when we reached the sea, two dolphins were casually passing by a few meters away from the shore.
Now, if you like dolphins, I would suggest moving to SB. I mean yes, we saw some in Santa Cruz, but the Santa Barbara dolphins are way more fun. Why you ask? Well because they’re freestylers! They’ll come and tease the surfers by jumping around and offering an amazing little show. Steph will be practising his left turn and two dolphins will throw a backflip in the background, no big deal. Oh you want proof? Look below my friends. I’m SO thrilled that early one morning I got to capture Steph on his board and a dolphin jumping a few meters away. It was hard to coordinate both models.
Other than that, we visited the cute little downtown with its beautifully designed courthouse and the main street, State Street. Following Peter’s advice, we also treated ourselves to some tacos and guacamole at La Super Rica Taqueria, a cute turquoise Mexican restaurant – definitely worth stopping by!
Thanks again for the great SB tips Livia!!
PS: I should also point out that Steph developed a new addiction during the couple of days spent in SB: the Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino. It was just so warm that we had to share a Venti one every afternoon you know! First it was the Oreo Blizzard at DQ, now it’s the Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks.. what will be next?
Back on our favourite road, we continued to head south in the direction of Santa Barbara. But on our way, we found a giant colony of sleeping seals on a beach. A quick explanation informed us that september-november is “resting” season and as you can see they sure seemed tired! Steph was disappointed that it wasn’t fighting season (yes there is such a thing) but Fight Club seals version may not be the best show to watch.
We then found our way to Morro Bay, a.. surf spot! What else? The size of the waves were a little intimidating but not for certain people. Ahem. So with our amazing setup we cooked juicy burgers and then Steph went to fight against the water elements, once again.
If you feel like escaping the craziness and the business of the city, a good way to do it is to drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Not so far yet so different. Santa Cruz brought us back to the life of chill and sun that is so unique to California. Our stop in SF did bring some upgrades though: I got blonder, Steph got a brand new backpack (first in like 7 years, so yes it’s a pretty big step.)
We spent the first few days chilling around town, discovering the surfer vibe that makes this spot so famous. A drive along the water through a few residential areas gives a pretty good idea of the Santa Cruz lifestyle: long hair, blonde hair, boards, all kinds of boards, bikes, longboards, pick up vans, wetsuits, nose rings… You get the picture. As Steph was still recovering from his little foot injury, we spent the first two days longboarding and watching the locals catch some waves on two famous spots: Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point. We strolled through the streets and treated ourselves – of course – to some delicious home made ice cream from Penny Icecreamery. Having caught the longboard bug, I completely fell in love with a wooden longboard in a Santa Cruz skate shop and just couldn’t resist. So we spent a couple hours in longboard sessions with Steph teaching me some moves. We’ll be showing you when it’s not too embarrassing.
One of the most amazing things about Santa Cruz is that it felt like an open air aquarium. Just stand and watch the surfers for a little bit and you will spot a whale jumping in the background, dolphins chasing each other, sea otters getting cozy with the paddle boarders, seals taking a swim, pelicans flying in a perfect line above the water… The first day we thought we were lucky to see all these animals. The second day we thought we were realllllllly lucky. The third we realized that this was life here: wilderness, hippiness and salt water. Luckily, we never spotted any dangerous looking fin. Although Steph did get startled more than once when shapes and fins emerged out of the water a few meters away from him as he was paddling on his surfboard.
As we stayed in Santa Cruz for a little while, we picked a cheap and old campground called Bobs Pine Grove Campground – which was great! It was quite empty due to the season, but that didn’t prevent us from meeting fellow travellers. Our campsite neighbour Daniel invited us to share some bacon and tortillas around a few beers with another traveler, a guy from New York just hitchhiking around California. We also met a really interesting man in his 60’s touring the U.S. with his two dogs in quite the setup: an electrical bike, a little shack for the dogs, a tent… And ‘touring the U.S.’ is a bit of an understatement. Because he’s been travelling for 2.5 years and has been in 32 states (!!!) How’s that for a road trip?!
A fun activity was also the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of California’s oldest amusement parks (founded in 1907!) We picked the thriller rides and did them all in row. The highlight? Definitely the signature ride of the park: the Giant Dipper, a historic wooden roller coaster that has become a landmark for the city. And if you’re used to the super high tech recent roller coasters, the sensations on this very old school structure as well as the noises it makes in the twists and turns are quite something!
But let’s talk about surf again. Surf is such a fascinating sport and for so many different reasons. The challenge, the force of nature, the visual appeal, to thrill of catching a wave… We headed for the surf museum to get a glimpse of the surf origins in this iconic spot. It’s a tiny house that walks us through old newspaper articles and photographs of surfers and their evolution over the past years. One of them was a gentleman called Jack O’Neill, founder of the world famous O’Neill brand and inventor of the wetsuit.
We finished off our stay with a huge ten foot swell on a Sunday. Such an impressive sequence of waves took the stage at Steamer Lane and hundreds of surfers jumped in the water to test them out. Steph was one of them, while I stayed on the safer side, camera in hand. It was quite the show to witness, with lots of experienced and fearless surfers. Though the locals tended to be a little on edge (“Get out of my way! Mine! Mine! Mine! F*** off, it’s my wave!), we were reminded again why surf is so compelling.
We reached Bolinas at dusk, right when the families and locals were enjoying some after work and after school surfing in this tiny town. Relatively small waves and warm sunset colours made for the perfect setting for longboard surfing. We watched them for a little while, Steph very attentively as you can see, before searching for a place to sleep. We asked a local surfer about places for overnight parking – wrong move. “I don’t know. Yes I’m from here. That’s why I don’t need to know where overnight parking is.” She could just as well have said: “Get the hell out of my face.” Not to worry, we are resourceful people, right? Well it wasn’t that easy and after an hour of driving in the dark we simply set camp on a turnout off the road right outside Bolinas. Oh well.
The next morning, as we were enjoying our peanut butter and bread, the early surfers drove past us, wondering what two people in their PJ’s were doing sitting next to their van by the side of the road. Minutes later, we were on the beach of Bolinas under a very bright sun. Steph went first to test the water and my board, while I devoured what was left of my book. It was then my turn and yes there is proof below – no mocking comments will be accepted, I AM a beginner. Okay?
The following day I would learn that great white sharks live in that bay and that there was an attack not too long ago. *Gulp*
Keeping a close eye on his surfing book, Steph spotted Salmon Creek from far away: surfers! surfers! 5-8 feet waves aka irresistible for the surfer boy. I decided I’d be his groupie photographer for the session, and it sure paid off!
Drumroll ladies and gentlemen, for Steph’s first mini-tube-touching-the-wave-super-awesome-acceleration (don’t know if that’s the exact term for it but it’ll do.)
All smiles for the afternoon and a well deserved ice cream treat for both the surfer and the photographer!
After our quick stop in Seattle, we started driving towards Westport for a surf weekend with our Vancouver buddies: Lyndon, Elyse and Will. Steph and I arrived in Westport in the evening, just in time to go and take a quick look at the waves at dusk. It confirmed that some surfers are just insane, going out there when it’s pitch black. I mean, a) you can’t see s***t, b) others can’t see you, c) rocks, d) sharks.
We then picked a campground, called “American Sunset” please and proceeded to the making of our very first campfire! Ain’t no camping without a man-made fire. Obviously, we have been sticking with Sam’s incredible technique, the DIAMOND! And for our very first camping meal, well, rice and tomato. It was meh – we have now discarded this from the list of potential dinners.
When we woke up the following morning, two tents and a car had popped up right next to us – Elyse, Lyndon and Will had made it around 2am. The first one to get up was (and most likely always will be) Steph with his brain turned on surf mode. We all enjoyed a little coffee and oatmeal, well, almost all of us. Apparently our camping oatmeal (oats+water+sugar) wasn’t appealing for everybody – go figure. After a quick stop at the surf shop we were on the beach, all suited up under an incredible sun and ready to face the ocean with our boards.
For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea for me to follow Steph and Will, the experienced surfers, out at the back. I would regret this choice minutes later. When I saw the size of the waves that were rushing towards us, I thought “F-u-c-k.” Now I don’t want to get into too much detail about what happened next, ahem, but it was a combination of near-death experience, under water washing machine and complete panic. Now that was from my point of view. From Steph’s: “Oh, maybe that was a little too big for her.” Luckily, Steph wasn’t too far and got me back to the beach safely – my hero!
As you can imagine, I stayed on the beach for a little while, appreciating my new found gratitude for being alive. Am I dramatizing? Depends who you’re talking to. In my defence though, everyone admitted that those waves were insane. Nevertheless, the rest of the day felt like a perfect and carefree vacation in California. A big hot dog barbecue, chilling in the warm sand and walking along dike rocks to watch surfers battling against mother nature. We got to enjoy a superb sunset perched on those rocks, with the perfect lighting to combine surfboards, wet hair and the sea.
Look at ’em boys!
One of the best parts of camping? Evenings spent around the fire. Lyndon proved to us that he too was a real man by building a fire in a matter of minutes, while we were enjoying our second camping dinner – rice, peas and salmon – which was wayyyy better. We then roasted marshmallows, some more than others. Yes Lyndon, I’m talking about you, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to light it on fire and let it burn until it turns completely black!
“Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you”
The following day was quite the opposite with a mix of clouds, sand storm, cold and aggressive waves. Even our car decided to tease us with our first battery breakdown. Uh oh. Later, the men proved once again they were men by facing the freezing ocean while us girls opted for chit chat under a blanket on the beach. Which quickly turned into chit chat under a sea of sand. And yes, Elyse and I tried to open a cider bottle with a broken surfboard fin. Yes, I said tried.
Weekends go by quickly, and it was time to take off again. But not before enjoying a bucket of ice-cream. It may not always be a good idea, but we have to try and follow Steph’s golden rule “When you’re on vacation, you need to have ice-cream everyday otherwise it’s not really a vacation.” Something Will has definitely adopted!
Thanks for joining us Elyse, Lyndon and Will, we had such a great time and can’t wait to see you guys in your or our next adventure!