Up the 101: A Tour of California College Surf Towns

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We were on the beautiful Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus on the second day of our college and surf tour of coastal California. My youngest son Daniel, 14, was along for the waves and to get a peak at cool college surf towns.

“I can’t believe they have a surfboard shaping bay in the Student Union,” said my 16-year old son Israel.

The first stop on out trip was Ventura where the boys were determined to surf in the wake of Dane Reynolds.

Reynolds skipped in and out of the ASP World Tour and made the hollow beachbreaks of his laid back hometown world famous.

But the spot of choice was closed out. So we checked Emma Wood, a reef and beachbreak on the northern edge of town. A couple of years ago the boys surfed there with Dane.

“I even talked to Dane,” Israel said. “He was so cool, and of course he was shredding.”

But Emma Wood was sort of small and the offshore reef was only just starting to show the rising swell.

So we decided to head back further south and check out beaches known for their excellent wave quality and territorial locals.

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Upon our arrival at the parking lot at the north end of the beach we could see it was good. A-frames broke up and down the half-mile long beach with small packs on every peak.

California juice.

Our next stop was Santa Barbara. This beach town is the Beverly Hills or Monte Carlo of coastal California. It is so over-the-top gorgeous and so luxurious that it makes Laguna Beach, its sister-city in upscale chic, seems almost run-down.

We were on our way to a campus tour of UC Santa Barbara, one of the four universities we planned to visit on our tour.

If you’re the parent of surfers, you know that expensive and overrated East Coast private universities are off the list of acceptable schools. Thankfully our great state has the best public university system on the planet and a few of them are close to great waves.

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UCSB is situated on a pointbreak and counts surfer-singer Jack Johnson as an alum.

At the end of our tour, we head down to for a peak of Campus Point. Only a few surfers enjoyed the knee-high point waves.

“This place is awesome,” Daniel said.

The next morning, two hours north, we dawn patrolled Morro Bay. Overhead A-frames broke up  and down a beach that seemed endless.

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The boys and I shared peaks for a couple of hours and then headed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

After our surf session, a wonderful campus tour, and the visit to the on-campus shaping bay Israel said, “That’s it. This is where I’m going.”

I hope he gets accepted.

Daniel checking out the shaping classroom at Cal Poly.

Daniel checking out the shaping classroom at Cal Poly.

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Up the PCH

From my Southwest Surf Column of May 4, 2011:

When I learned to surf it was easier to cross the border to Baja then head north, where the rumors of ugly localism, crowds, and higher costs, dissuaded me and my friends from surfing Southern California’s iconic breaks.

So, I have never surfed Malibu, and I have only surfed Rincon in the past few years during the Sharing the Stoke Surf Classic.

But now that surfing Baja is not as fun -or as easy- as it used to be (and the fact that most of the spots between Tijuana-Ensenada are fenced off), I often head north with my two teenage sons and their friends. Especially when IB is polluted.

And, during Spring Break, IB was very polluted. So, I spent three days carting around my sons and their friends Shane Landry and Joe Fernandez to Scripps Pier, La Jolla Shores and Black’s for uncrowded and fun waves.

On the Thursday of Spring Break, my sons and I departed at 5 a.m. (a late start for us) on our way north to Santa Barbara. I was scheduled to give a talk to the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation that evening, and we planned to hit Trestles on the way up, then head north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara.

Preparing to head down the trail.

Our first stop along the way was Trestles. Our session at Lowers proved why Surfline recently called it one of Southern California’s “most rippable Summertime attractions.” The mid-morning crowd at Lower’s was manageable, the water was in the low 60’s and the southern hemisphere swell provided great 3-5’ rippable walls.

My strategy at Lower’s is to sit inside the main local crew (who are usually friendly). I patiently wait for the swing sets or the waves the outside crew miss and if I’m lucky can get a great right all the way into the inside. The boys tend to sit on the inside with the grom pack and pick off the waves that everyone else misses.

After two hours, the boys and I headed back on the trail to the Christianitos parking lot. After loading up our gear in the pickup, we made it over to the Pipe’s Café, a true surfer hangout with giant photos of epic waves and surfers at Trestles lining its walls. The breakfast burritos the boys ordered were so big they couldn’t finish them (a historic first). I stuck with a veggie omelet.

The minute we hit the PCH from I-10 in Santa Monica, we were in the upscale world of Pacific Palisades. The upscale shops and houses that line the highway almost obscured Surfrider Beach at Malibu. But it was small and crowded. Not worth a stop after our session at Lower’s.

I hoped that Point Zero, Leo Carrillo or County Line would provide material for our second session of the day. Point Zero and Leo Carrillo were small. But County Line inexplicably had four-foot sets on the beach in front of the highway. The point itself had only one surfer and offered up clean 1-3’ rights.

Getting ready for a go-out at County Line.

The boys chose the beach break peaks. I paddled out on my new 6’2” Mini-Simmons and proceeded to catch about 8-10 fun rights for a quick 45-minute session. After surfing, we crossed the street to the legendary Neptune’s Net seafood restaurant that surfers have frequented since 1958. We scarfed down fish and chips, and a crab cake burger. It was a great finish to a fun session.

My talk in Santa Barbara went well, and the boys and I slept soundly after our long day and two surf sessions. The following day was to be the grand finale—a trip to the Hollister Ranch.

The Ranch

At the invitation of a Ranch resident we spent the morning cruising the amazingly beautiful and bucolic coastal seascape of Southern California’s only private coastal cattle ranch and super high-end coastal residential retreat (one estate is on the market for $22 million!). While the surf was small, the boys scored a fun 2-3’ session by themselves at Rights and Lefts.

As the boys, came in from their session, a pod of gray whales frolicked offshore. It was a fitting goodbye for a great trip along Southern California’s historic surf highway.

Underwater Parks and the Tijuana Sloughs

Surfing the Sloughs 1967. Photo: Bill Gove

Underwater Parks Approved for Southern California Coast

Back in 1980 when I was 16 I sat in front of bulldozers and was beat up by thugs  to stop them from damming up the Tijuana river mouth and build a marina in the Tijuana Estuary.

But we won and 30 years later I surf the offshore reefs of the now Federally protected Estuary that are an MPA with my sons –and you can see waves breaking on cobble reefs that are now protected.

Serge Dedina and his son Israel surfing the Tijuana Sloughs, now protected as a Marine Protected Area.

It was only until the MPA process that this amazing reef—home to our resident pod of bottlenose dolphins and probably the most important leopard shark spawning site in So Cal– were officially recognized as a real ecosystem.

More recently we stopped a $75 million Army corps dredging project that would have destroyed the reef—and used its nomination as an MPA to justify our efforts.

Doing the right thing for the Ocean is always the right thing!!!

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Public News Service


Underwater Parks Created for Southern California

December 16, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The southern California coastline is getting some underwater protection. The state Fish and Game Commission voted late Wednesday to approve a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that will stretch from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

Marcela Gutierrez with Wildcoast says a variety of groups and the public have been working for two years on plans to create the underwater parks.

“This is a trailblazing effort. It’s one of the first of its kind in the world. The whole conservation community is watching, and it’s great for our coastal oceans going forward.”

Gutierrez says the MPAs ultimately will become fish nurseries that will benefit fishermen.

“They basically spill over, and then you have this phenomenon, which we’ve had already in the Channel Islands. People are already fishing the line because they know these are the areas where fish are more abundant.”

The compromise plan approved by the Fish and Game Commission will protect sea life and habitats at biodiversity hot spots, Gutierrez says, while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing.

Gutierrez points out that a healthy ocean and the recreational uses it supports are a major economic engine for California. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of coastal recreation in southern California is non-consumptive, and the area generates $22 billion in revenue and more than 350,000 jobs each year.

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