There are many iconic images surrounding surfing: Bronzed bodies in bikinis and board shorts gallivanting on the beach, long boarders hanging ten, hot babes everywhere, bonfires burning, guitars strumming, and of course, extreme stoke. In mainstream media, surfing has become the internal search for the eternal summer. What many visitors to the California coast do not realize is that locals wait all year for winter swells. Sure, a suntan is cool man, but a macking ten-foot barrel ride is way cooler.
Santa Barbara is a hot spot for winter surf. When swell starts to travel from the northwest, every sand bar, reef, and point starts breaking. What does that mean for the adventure tourist? Ample opportunity to find an empty wave to learn on! While the summer is packed with beach-goers, winter sand is often deserted, making the entire experience very personalized. It’s just you, the view and some tasty waves. Before you go, there are some crucial elements to cover to make sure your surf safari is an epic journey.
Tips for new surfers: While air temperatures have been known to reach the high 80’s (yes, pack your bikini and sunscreen), water temperatures drop into the 50s. So you are going to need a good wetsuit, and even might consider booties and a hood. I always have an old laundry detergent bottle full of hot water waiting for me to rinse off with, a couple of dry towels, snacks, drinking water, hot coffee, my IPhone to Instagram, sun glasses, a hat, special sunscreen for my face, a waterproof box to store all my wet gear, extra leashes, and at least two boards in my car.
Recommended surf board (type face and color): Start out on a foam board, a minimum of 9 feet long. If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, A-Frame Surf shop on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria, can rent you all the gear you need to get in the water. The best part is they are located on one of the most popular beginning spots in the county. Just south of Santa Claus are some really mellow long boarding waves such as Mondos, Solimar, or, my personal favorite, C-Street in Ventura.
Get a surf instructor through Santa Barbara Adventure Company: The truth is winter surfing takes a ton of gear and preparation. You can save weeks of banging your head in the sand and be up riding waves in one day by booking a lesson. Santa Barbara Adventure Company guides are dedicated to making sure that every one of their clients gets to experience the joy of wave riding in the winter. The best part is they will take care of the boards, wetsuits, booties, food, and even do the picture taking for you. While most other companies offer standard one hour lessons, SBACo keeps you in the water for half a day. Most importantly, the guides know where to surf and where the waves will have enough power to get you riding, but at the same time keep you safe from rocks, reef, riptides and pounding shore break. Just smooth rides and good vibes.
You are on your way to living your surfing dreams! Keep the stoke, and don’t stop paddling. Paddle, paddle, paddle, smile, laugh, paddle…paddle.