Leaving Morro Bay behind we decided we want experienced Santa Cruz how we wanted. A short stop in St. Louis Obispo was the furthest we made it down south till this point. Santa Cruz had such a reputation for surf & we had driven straight past so much. We switched Highways to the 101, a little further in land but much faster to recover our tracks.
We reached a campsite on the coast of Monterey Bay close to Watsonville, just south of Santa Cruz. The campsite sat on the dunes above ‘Sunset Beach’. I sometime wonder how many beaches in the world are named Sunset Beach? Im sure they are all claiming the best sunsets, but I vote for this one. The intensity of the pinks & yellows, the Californian breeze & the mirroring edge of water. Thats one I will struggle to let go.
Simpler times seemed to begin for a little while. Like a routine our mornings would start in complete ease, no plans & no stress, just calm. I have always & still now see breakfast as a sacred time. Boiling coffee on our stove & toasting bagels, whilst the condensation still dripped from our wagon, sun breaking the horizon. These were the most relaxed times, overlooked by myself. But everything I long for in usual life was there.
For a couple of days we would crawl away early from the campsite in Willie towards any surf we could find. A spot right along the bay was Manresa State Beach. A beach break full of old timer long boarders but a perfect spot to hang before & after surf, dolphins would ride the waves as we watched from the cliff side, lazing in the sun.
On our trip back to Santa Cruz we decided to surf ‘East Cliffs’ close to Pleasure Point. I really love the vibe in Santa Cruz but I don’t like the attitude of a few locals in the Line Up’s. I make a point of this because its pure arrogance which has brought these attitudes to the surf here. Theres a reputation surrounding Santa Cruz “Dogtown” surfers, some of these dudes have taken this too far & ruined the surf for the entire line up whilst I was there. Arguing for waves & yelling at others less experienced is not what surfing stands for.
Although after peeling the wetsuit off in the car park & taking a walk along the cliffs I felt again humbled by the views & familiar calmness in the air.
One morning I rolled from the bed to the back of the truck to enjoy that sacred moment of the first coffee. This moment was sharply interrupted by a crunching sound, the first injury to Willie. A broken window bracket lead us to spending Mari’s birthday hunting for a Ford garage & parts. Although this along with relentless rain maybe what lead us to our impulsive decision to head further backwards to just below San Fran. A little known town called Half Moon Bay. Mavericks. We checked the surf report to see a 40ft day was around the corner.
The rain just wouldn’t let up the entire way back along the coast. We stayed a night in Half Moon Bay at a random campground with rain battering down all night, crazy winds added to the drama, making cooking far more of a mission.
We woke up early & impatient praying to see this wave at its fullest. I had heard stories of people feeling its rumble from the cliffside. Arriving in Princeton you’ll notice how un-assuming it is. It’s a town that seems to have been left behind, ruled by the fishing industry. The car park was full with people unstrapping their guns (long pointy surfboard in simple terms), sliding into wetsuits & floatation vests. We followed the pilgrimage of surf fanatics around the headland.
Visibility was great that day, I remember taking the last few steps along the path to take my first view.
Pipeline is pretty. It is for sure scary but it is a pretty wave with beautiful surroundings. A short paddle out to the line up too. I should know, I’ve spent hours staring at it, mesmerised by its presence. Mavericks though, this place is terrifying & I was stood on the safety of the cliff. Ragged, gnarly rocks tower out of the water in the impact zone. Rough currents pulling against each other. Just the marathon of a paddle out terrified me. This place was eerie & yet post surf these guys would repack their vans & head off to work as though this was the norm, just like many making my first coffee in the morning.
We stopped to grab breakfast at the Old Princeton Landing Cafe making the joint decision to go find the sun again, or where we at least thought it was hiding. We wanted sun, rideable waves, long days & sunsets. SoCal was next, the part I was most excited about & we were positive we could find the winter sun down there.
To read more of the Californian road/ surf trip:
California Part 1
California Part 3