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The Californian coast – a surfer’s paradise

The Californian coast – a surfer’s paradise

Mathilde Giard - 2011-08-08

Where’s the best spot to get on your surfboard and confront the ocean rollers? With so many legendary beaches lining the Pacific Coast from San Francisco in the North to San Diego at the Mexican border in the in the south. Here’s a brief, non exhaustive list of places you might try.

San Francisco: on the edge of Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach has a reputation for waves which are either fantastic or downright dangerous.  If you feel like confronting the currents on this part of the San Francisco Bay it’s best if you’re an experienced surfer.
Half Moon Bay: every winter Mavericks beach is host to the world’s biggest "Big Wave Surf" competition. In January, the rollers that form off the coast reach heights of up to 8-24 feet. This makes them extremely dangerous and in March 2011 they were indeed fatal for the Hawaiian Milosky Sion, "the Big Wave Rider," who was starting to make an impact on the world stage. This came seventeen years after the death of Mark Foo, another Hawaiian champion, at the same place. The site discovered in the early 1960s, became used only after 1975 when a local surfer, Jeff Clark, at 17 years of age first rode its wave. With a difficult access from the rocky coast, strong currents and white sharks inhabiting the waters it’s not a spot for the faint-hearted!
Santa Cruz: situated to the north of Monterey Bay, strangely the waters are a great deal warmer on the southern side. Surfers particularly appreciate Steamer's Lane beach. Overlooking the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse is a museum dedicated to the Surfing. All manner of surfboard is exhibited: from old surfboards to those made with the latest high-tech materials, as well as videos showing the development over a century of their various styles. Once you’ve surfed the waves, you can return to the land to make different kinds of loops on the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster. Dating back to 1923, it’s an emblem and a historical monument along the Boardwalk, the oldest amusement park on the Californian coast.
Santa Barbara: this town became a household name in the 1980s due to the TV series of the same name. The white sandy beaches, lined with palm trees, along this American Riviera are also a surfer’s paradise. The "queen of the coast" can, however, be found 20 miles further to the south at Rincon Beach, a world famous spot along the rocky headland.
Malibu: The Saint-Tropez of the surfing world where the sport developed a reputation as a showcase of surf culture during the sixties. Malibu Lagoon near to the pier is a mythical beach, where you weave in and out of an abundance of surfboards. Nearby, a fence marks the limits of a private beach where the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Aniston live. The houses here, constructed on stilts, are amongst LA’s most expensive wedged between the sea and the Pacific Coast Highway.
Santa Monica: from the 1920s to the 1950s, this was the only beach in California authorised for black people. Nick Gabaldon, the first known African-American surfer, learned how to jump the waves here. A Santa Monica student and lifeguard, he once swam a distance of 12 miles to Malibu beach using his board. He died in 1951 during a manoeuvre after hitting Malibu pier. Since 2008 there has been a memorial surfboard on the corner of Bay Street and Ocean Boulevard.
Redondo Beach: the first surfing demonstration in California took place at this seaside resort in 1907. However it received a great deal less publicity than the Duke, who, five years later instigated the art of surfing near Los Angeles. As part of a large scale promotional campaign, it featured the Irish-Hawaiian surfer George Freeth as its star. Nicknamed Mercury or Mercury Bronzed, he settled on the California coast and became the United States’ first ever lifeguard. In twelve years, he saved over 78 people from drowning, including seven Japanese fishermen, an act of bravery which earned him the Medal of Congress in 1909.
Huntington Beach: "Come on and safari with me ...at Huntington and Malibu," sang the Beach Boys in their 1962 hit Surfin’ Safari. Commonly known as Surf City, every summer the city hosts the world surfing championships. On Main Street, specialist stores have existed throughout the decades. As the cradle of  surf-culture it has its very own museum of surfing (where you can see one of Duke’s original surfboards), its bronze surfer statue, and like Hollywood, its own Surfing Walk of Fame, dedicated not to actors but to the wave riding heroes.
Oceanside: This resort also has a museum of surfing. One of the best spots is near the pier, which is a perfect place to watch the surfers!
San Diego: its climate, sun and all year round sea-breezes, make it one of the most pleasant places to live in the United States. The city was California’s first Spanish mission founded in 1769. It is now famous for its zoo and has, among its surf spots, Pacific Beach and La Jolla, with its excellent reef.

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