Looking back a curiosity for California started from a young age. Unable to really know why until later in life, maybe just the media & how the west coast of California influenced my taste in music. Turns out my opportunity to visit would be decided on impulse, at a pretty uncertain time for me.
I was in Costa Rica, surfing morning & evening, everyday! Eating healthy, fresh tasty food & meeting interesting people with incredible stories to share. Something was missing, a someone maybe. This uncertainty lead to me becoming unable to ground myself, not connecting to my surroundings as I was previously able to.
Always striving for happiness, for that green light that inspires the realisation of contentment, I knew a change was needed. There it was, the impulse. Ten minutes later I had booked a flight from Costa Rica to San Fran.
I remember flying into San Fran during a hazy, orangey sunset, caused mainly by the forest fires blanketing California. Waiting for my ride outside the airport, I was curious what might lay ahead. As always I had done no research & here I was about to embark on a road trip most people throw on their bucket list.
We began our adventure straight away, bombing down south of San Fran in my new home, Willie. Everything we needed was there, kitchen, bedroom, surfboards. The first nights were spent in an AirBnB just outside Santa Cruz. I still needed a wetsuit & a couple more things before we headed down to less busy spots, this wasn’t Hawaii or Costa Rica, the water is for sure colder.
Santa Cruz known worldwide for its board culture, skating, surfing & hard attitude. The surrounding area’s were beautiful, thick woodland, with heaps of trails & parks to explore. It began raining pretty heavy whilst we were here, although the town still appealed to me. A relaxed beach town, with token boardwalk, pier & fairground. But underlying this was a serious board culture. Surfing mainly, a tonne of spots spread across the bay from Cowell’s to Pleasure Point along the cliff edge to Capitola. Just to hang out along the Opal Cliffs during sunset is calming, peering down on dolphins & otters cresting the water by the kelp beds.
We passed by pretty quick without even surfing, it seemed the trip meant far more to unlike we simply had a goal to reach. We left early morning, packing Willie & heading down the coast looking right at every opportunity to stare across the pacific in amazement of what we were up to. Soon we passed by the town of Freedom, subliminal right? Then passed Monterey Bay. Cruising down Highway 1 the coastline until we hit it…The Big Sur.
The Big Sur
You’ll hear people mention nature, wildlife & coastlines when asked about California & until this point It wasn’t clear why. Big Sur immediately shed clarity. Large open coastlines with rolling hills to our opposite side suddenly lifted into monumental cliffs & thick pine forests. Views onto rough sea’s wearing away at the statues of rocks below. I rarely say it, but, twinned with a never-ending sunset this was breathtaking. Here I began to realise how stunning California can be. I felt a real privilege to have been there. Multiple times we stopped to absorb these moments together.
Soon though light was fading & the winding roads above the cliffs didn’t seem to end. Time to set up camp under the forest canopy. Our first night car camping. We cooked food & headed out onto the cliff top overlooking Sand Dollar Beach, it was Thanksgiving so a peaceful mood was in the air.
The following day the rain continued as we left Plaskett Creek Campground. We followed south along Highway 1, enjoying the end of Big Sur till the cliffs & forests lowered to flat beaches & open hills. The weather wasn’t inspiring hikes or further exploration, which doesn’t normally stop me. We stopped along points to check for surf or views until we reached the Elephant Seals viewpoint. It’s cool to see them lounging around & seeing these weighty dudes play in the waves.
A small drive later we passed through San Simeon, the first town after Big Sur. Staring across the ocean from the pier I began to wonder when I would get back into the water, I’d never surfed in a wetsuit. Would I hate it? I hate being cold, the anticipation for my first Cali surf session grew. Filled again with a desire to be in the ocean we continued, It seemed we were chewing through the miles, like we were rushing.
Then along came Harmony. A super cute town, tucked off the side of the highway, easily missed by most. It’s an unincorporated community & home to a former dairy cooperative which closed way back in 1955. Now it is the sweetest village, seemingly built purely out of fairytale books. I read the village can actually be hired for weddings & other events. A cool piece of romance.
Cayucos & Morro Bay.
All about fed up of rain we drove on reaching the next town, Cayucos. First off this was my favourite place on this trip, I dint know it on arrival but this little piece of the coastline held so much easiness, it was the California I had imagined. Hungry we pulled off the highway to the state beach, immediately confronted by a pier with surf! Still high with anticipation we ate at Duckies Chowder House. A tasty spot with fresh fish & chips, also feeling like local favourite. Looking out to the grey sky blending into the equally moody ocean, we decided it was time.
We suited up & paddled out to the pier, a short right hander, but a beach break with plenty of space. Time flew by I was having so much fun, I felt too warm in my wetsuit & with more padding than Id had before I felt somewhat unstoppable. Stoked to feel refreshed we headed to find a camp spot. The closest was a short drive down the beach on the edge of Morro Bay at the State Park.
I have no idea why but this area felt comfortable for me, we woke up, made coffee & drove back north to Cayucos back to the pier for a morning surf. Much cleaner waters & blue skies, I remember it was a weekend & the car park was full of locals hanging in the trucks watching friends surf & enjoying the freshness in the air. This is what I expected, this is what I wanted. We surfed then cooked in the back of Willie & joined the locals in soaking up the weekend.
We rolled back down to Morro Bay stopping in town at surf shops, I needed a new board so we headed to Joe’s Surfboards, they have a great selection of second-hand boards. I found exactly what I needed with the help of the guy working. Check them out if you’re in their area. Morro Rock is another great sunset spot overlooking the ocean, with small longboard waves inside the bay & crashing waves outside.
Our last days here were spent driving to spots like Spooners Cove & surfing spots between Cayucos & Morro. Theres heaps of spots to surf & the community are real welcoming. This easy attitude, great surf & beautiful surroundings are what made this area my spot, it’s definitely worth lending your time to.
It is places like this which really remind you how important community is to us & how someones attitude can affect you so deeply. These spots highlight that complexity of life is not happiness & that actually having less makes your life easier. Cayucos & Morro gave us sunsets, surf & a taste of community. Not all places offer so little with such impact.