The Central Coast

Written years ago after my first experience on a surf trip to the remote areas in central coast. Location names are not given out of respect. 

California has miles and miles of winding road slithering along coastline. The Central Coast in my opinion is the most underrated, magical coastlines. Big Sur usually champions the central coast as the most popular, but in reality, there are several that challenge it. Most of the beaches are either private or impossible to reach by a road.

My friend Patrick, a captain and deckhand, told me about the Ranch when we first met. We were on a train from Oxnard California to Seattle Washington for vacation. One of our first of many epic adventures together. We had 38 hours of bus style seating filled with conversation over orange juice and vodka drinks.

It was only a couple hours into our journey north that he started wigging out and barking over the coastline.  “Oh my god, the Ranch. It’s the Disneyland for surfers. The happiest place on earth.” I laughed at his child-like joy. His eyes were glued to the coast line for at least 45 minutes. He named every bend and point as we passed which I failed to put to memory.

One year later and I am finally seeing the coast from the water. And God. It’s more beautiful than ever.

I’m on spring break in Graduate School. I am beyond burnt out and desperate for an escape. Pat wakes me up before the sun and hands me a cup of cheap coffee. He already has his 16 foot Radon hooked up to his truck, the engine running. I grab my bag, wet suit and beer. I get up, throw on a bikini, a sweater and my Xtratufs.

It’s morning like these that remind me why life is so sweet. Today is feeling even more sweet than usual.

I can see my breath in the dark morning as I get into Pat’s trucks. He has the heater blasting John Swift playing through the speakers. We hop on the 101 North for Santa Barbara harbor–our launch site.

After fighting through a bit of SB morning traffic, we arrive to the harbor. With the boat packed with a stack of surfboards and a cooler full of Pacificos we embark on our two hour motor north.

The beginning of the trip--starting right with a bottle of Pacifico
The beginning of the trip–starting right with a bottle of Pacifico

As soon as get to the harbor, we quickly launch the boat and start motoring north.

The ocean is glassy and the air turned from brisk to unusually warm from off-shore wind. We are going nearly 30 knots and I have a smile that God couldn’t even erase. After about 90 minutes we make a stop at Goleta Pier to pick up Cole–a beyond frothing fisherman and excellent long boarder. He paddles out to us on his 9’6 William Dennis. We load him up and toss him a beer. The Sun is now just above the horizon.

Just minutes after getting Cole we get a from a friend on a Clean Seas Boat. Bonita are biting about a mile out. This is the life of a fisherman–the fish decide your schedule. Pat points the boat out to sea away from our Ranch destination and is going full speed towards the bite.

IMG_8683_2 Bent Rod

Processed with VSCOcam with kk2 preset

On the bow of the Radon

First fish of the day
Pat hooking a Bonita.

There’s a lot of hooting and hollering from these boys and I cant help but join in the fun. Within ten minutes we have four good sized Bonito. We take pictures and throw them back. It’s not even noon yet.

After the bite moved on the we headed for our first surf location–which I will not name. As we motored up, we could see there were already a few boats anchored. Cole jumped in the water before we even anchored properly. I watched as the waves rolled in. Perfect empty shoulder-high rights.

Right before we were about to jump in the water, Pat jokingly remarks, this place is also called, “Whitey’s Kitchen.” I nervously laugh and try to forget about it. I’ve never been nervous about sharks,  but I also have never been given a reason to be scared while in the water.

Pat throwing in his 9’2 single fin. Repping Salty Crew
Blurry photo of Cole killing it.
A lucky shot of me about to crouch it out

After about 4 of the longest waves I’ve ever gotten I catch a mid size wave a little too late. The wave hits a rock pile on the floor, sucks up and chucks me over. I tumbled for a second then something hits me–hard, in the face. I come up for air, my nose throbbing. Mostly startled than in pain, I start to panic.

I reel in my board and get on top. My nose feels crooked, blood coming down from the bridge. “Whitey’s Kitchen” gains a new meaning. I yell for Pat. I look around. I am stuck in the impact zone. I take a few waves on the head and slowly make my way back to the Radon. My breath is shortened. I am freaked out. Last year, I broke my tooth in half. I really didn’t need to add anymore facial damage to my record.

Pat paddles over. We climb up on the boat and I take a seat. My arms hurt, my nose bleeding. I look at Pat, “Do I look like Owen Wilson?” He feels my nose and gives me the okay. I’m startled and need a beer. I tell him to go back out while I try and regroup. I watch from the boat as Pat and Cole trade off shoulder high waves with the longest nose rides I’ve seen and as soon the bleeding stops I jump back in the water.

Getting tugged around between sessions


After an hour of surfing, we get on the boat for some sandwiches and decide with our wet suits still on we should travel 20 minutes south to our next spot.

It is a small, clean wave. It is perfect for my 9’2 single fin. Not a boat or person in sight. The wind stopped and the three of us silently trade off waves. It is moments like these that make time stand still. The perfection in every little detail.

We catch a few more before packing up and heading home.

The magic of the Central Coast is really due to the fact that it is mostly untouched by humans. There are no buildings crowding the horizon. No highways filled with traffic. There aren’t even many homes. It is away from the noise of daily life. Away from cell reception. Away from littered beaches. It gives you reminders of how beautiful the sound of untamed nature is. I hope places like this stay protected but also can be shared respectfully. I’m not exactly sure how we can share, since the biggest joy of these places is really because you are alone with mother nature.

We pack up our things, strap the boards down, crack one last Pacifico and head home with the sun setting behind us.

Heading Home