Way Up the California Coast

From Los Angeles to Santa Cruz on the search for waves and adventure.


“Let’s just get in the car and drive.”

We began our journey without much of a plan for anything. We just packed up two longboards and our thickest wetsuits and hopped on the 101 North. The weather was… weather. Cold. Gloomy. Rainy. But we figured it would be better to be in the rain somewhere else other than being in the rain at home.

As we drove along the coast, we scouted the waves… neither Ventura or Santa Barbara looked worth suiting up for, so we kept on driving. Soon, the landscape changed into rolling, green hills with grazing cows- a sight that would become more familiar as we ventured more north. As we cut through Santa Maria trying to get back to the coast, we happened upon Pismo Beach. We put the car into 4 wheel drive and scouted the waves from the sand. We found a spot with good waves, parked, suited up, and surfed until dark… fun, glassy waves all to ourselves.


The next morning, we got in the car again and drove up to Morro Bay. We surfed head high waves for about an hour before it started to get a bit stormy.


The rain began shortly after we hit the road, and we ventured all the way up through San Simeon, where we visited the elephant seals. We continued driving up, passing Cambria and then entering the beginning of Big Sur. It was pouring rain, so we didn’t get to see much along our “scenic” drive. It was still beautiful though… just cold and we didn’t want to get out of the car much. We did make a few stops, though.


We finally arrived in Carmel a little after dark and found a last minute AirBnB in Monterey.The next morning, we drove along the 17 Mile Scenic Highway to Pebble Beach.. went for a little nature walk in the woods, checked out the seals and the scenery, and then continued northbound all the way up to Santa Cruz, our final destination.


I’ve never been to Santa Cruz before, and I loved the beach-town, surfer vibes combined with lush greenery and tall redwood trees. We surfed Pleasure Point for a little bit before it got too cold. Both being from Southern California, my boyfriend and I don’t have much experience with being cold. The coldest water I’ve ever surfed in was probably around 57 degrees, so going to a place where hoodies, booties, and mittens are a familiar sight was an eye-opening experience for me, especially since I only had my 4/3 wetsuit. That session definitely set the record as the coldest surf session of my life and turned me off from surfing again in the area while it was that cold.

Afterward our chilly surf session, we thawed out by hiking amongst the beautiful redwood trees at the Land of Medicine Buddha. It ended up being a 6 mile loop trail which took about 2-3 hours… much longer than anticipated. We were starving after we got back to the car, and headed straight to Pleasure Pizza, where we joyfully discovered that they serve HUGE slices of pizza.


The next day, we headed south, home-ward bound… it was sunny so we decided to go back down through Big Sur so that we could enjoy the scenery.


Road-tripping the California coast is a MUST. Even in the dead of winter, we had a great time scouting waves and getting lost along the way.

4 thoughts on “Way Up the California Coast

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