San Francisco Introduction


OVERVIEW: Oh for goodness’ sake. This is San Francisco.

SURFING: Now I will babble, because Nature’s Insane Asylum here is my Home Break.

There is surfing ’round these parts- that is, if you’re a masochistic freak. Rips, severe beatings, and long hold-downs are your reward for the marathon effort it took to reach that peak you just saw. You know the one. That damned mirage which vanished the moment you finally fucking gasped into the lineup. Now you’re 1/4 mile offshore and have to figure out how on earth to get back to the beach without calling the Coast Guard. Use your energy wisely, because not a session will go by without a set that INSISTS it unloads smacked dab on your head. Waves close out at sizes ranging from pipsqueek to jumbo, and also have an exciting habit of jacking up the moment you jump to your feet – a great help if you love to fly, but not so great if you love to surf. It’s no surprise that drownings occur every year, including surfers. Nobody paddles around this place for long without AT LEAST once being convinced they were going to die. Surfers here need more balls than brains, or, if you’re like me and don’t have balls, no brains at all. Even on small days – my ‘forte’- this place can be wicked fierce. Home Break is less surfatory and more exploratory, each session is all about heading off yonder into…Situation X. People ask me what gym I go to, and I just laugh and laugh. Caloric output per actual ride snatched ratio assessment ; 5,000 /1 .

The big beach can be roughly divided into three sections. Running from north to south; Chiropractics, Stress Test, and What Was I Thinking. Each carries its own, um, charms. If neither that nor the near constant 20 knot on shores floats your boat, there are other local options. Tourist Trap and Zombies!  Are the nearest contenders.

For more personal details on the joys of Home Break, check out my surfing magazine writing contest essay, it won an honorable mention!

STROLLING: Virtually all info is available online or via sordid rumors, depending on the experience you’re looking for. That said, for a spontaneous trail not listed anywhere, the hike between your parking spot and actual destination can be quite invigorating. The now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t public transportation system can also precipitate walking adventures.

Carmel Introduction

Ever notice how there is a direct correlation to the amount of money a place has, and the illegibility of their street signs? Carmel, California , takes this up one notch further – they don’t even bother with still ol’ street ADDRESSES. As I maneuvered my stinky Civic around town, I felt not unlike She-Ra the invading barbarian – an impression that cemented when a local docent innocently asked me what other languages I spoke.

I should have messed with his head.

But I didn’t, because, you see, people in Carmel are really, really nice. This is the kind of place where strangers ask how you are, and listen to the answer. They say, “Please”, and “Thank you”. And they’re additionally cool, of course, because Carmel is very dog friendly. There are places to take dogs, stay with dogs, and play with dogs. Likewise, if you want to avoid those fur balls, there are plenty of places to go without ’em. This policy reeks of common sense, works for everyone, and therefore is something encountered never ever ever.

SURFING: I’d call it The Doldrums, because I got sooooo skunked here. However, according to legend, surfing happens around these parts. Nearest to Carmel township itself is Shorepound in Paradise. In addition to neck crunching rollers, this beach is off-the-hook gorgeous, clean, and dog friendly. Farther north lies Fatal Shark Attack! – a tragically true moniker. And I’ll make the rare exception here and mention an actual surf spot, Ghost Trees. That’s because the only people who should surf this place are professional big wave psychopaths. Seriously. This is a tow-in spot only that breaks in front of wicked gnarly rocks. Anyone who actually surfs Ghost Trees is granted an automatic 51/50 in my book.

STROLLING: Point your feet in any direction and go. The coastal road named – wait for it – Scenic Drive, is shockingly one of the best streets to explore. South of Carmel is Point Lobos State Natural Preserve, which will whack you upside the head with serenity. The gods designed Point Lobos specifically for landscape painters, but pie eaters are included in the deal too – perfect if you are both. You can really work up an appetite exploring all the trails or getting sucked into the views.

Cambria Introduction

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, hugging scenic Highway 1, lies the tourist hamlet of Cambria. Or, to be technically correct, The Unincorporated Area Within San Luis Obispo County Known as Cambria. Whatever. That’s quite a mouthful for such a lovely place. The elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea otters may very well outnumber the human population, but seeing how THEY don’t cook pie, I have paid them little attention here. However, those slippery fellas do surf, and they clearly dominate those silly people wearing seal suits who grasp flotation devices.

To reach Cambria, you can teleport. Barring that obvious solution, you can drive north on Highway 1. I’ve never done that so there will be no smartypants remarks regarding that route. Highway 45 West is another option, and take great care not to replicate James Dean’s last ride. Cruising south on Highway 1, through the inimitable Big Sur coastline, is a breath-taking journey. For sustenance on this winding jaunt, right where the giant cliffs start plunging into the Pacific sits the famous Nepenthe restaurant and its downstairs twinlette, Cafe Kevah. Being a cheapskate, and broke at the time, I once sat at Nepenthe, drank in the view, and also ordered and drank the finest my money could buy -an entire pot of tea. NEVER, FREAKING EVER, DO THIS. Places to pee along a road seemingly etched into space are limited, if not outright nonexistent. It gives the term ‘water torture’ a whole new twist. And speaking of space, strap your board to your car as if your life depended on it, because the last thing you want to see while you’re ogling the view is your precious 7’8″ hybrid doing its best imitation of Base jumping.


[ Pie tastes best when you’re hungry ]

SURFING is pretty self explanatory. Simply choose spots where you won’t splat into rocks. I paddled around one nearby area and then mentally divided it into three sections; Lefty O’Seal’s, Duct-Taped, and, I Know There Are Rocks Around Here Someplace. Farther north is Elephant Seal Kingdom. Known fact: elephant seals look more monstrously huge when you’re sharing the ocean with them. One sunny day at Stress Test, an elephant seal porpoised before my very eyes. Months later I pondered, hmm, now wait a minute here, why would an elephant seal feel the need to leap out of the water, at speed. Possibly because something EVEN BIGGER was cruising down below? Let’s pause. What could that POSSIBLY be?

Needless to say, if you’re surfing a place called Elephant Seal Kingdom, you know what’s up.

STROLLING: plenty, and it’s gorgeous. Want beaches? Got ‘me. Rolling mountains? That too. There’s trails all over the place. Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is in Cambria itself, running along the coast between two sections of housing and up some small hills. Driftwood benches dot the paths – you can pant up a hillock, plop down on a peak seat, and try to feel like a badass. If you’re feeling really vigorous, attempt the Cambria Biathalon. I humbly admit I invented this event. Park your car at the south end of Fiscalini, walk two miles to Lefty O’Seal’s, and be surprised to see that the surf is kinda working. Now you’ve got two miles to run back to your car, reload your surf gear, hightail it to the parking area, twist your body into improbable positions pulling on your wetsuit, unload your board, spring to the beach, and paddle. With extreme luck and speed you’ll have five minutes before conditions peter out. Now you’re starving and can devour all the pie your hungry heart desires. The Cambria Biathalon.

 EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS: the car repair shops in the part of town called ‘Tin Alley’ deserve accolades. Winding down after a session at soon-to-be-named Duct Taped, my Honda’s trunk gave up the ghost and decided not to catch at all. Driving down the highway with the trunk boinging up and down like a muppet mouth wasn’t an appealing concept. I tried to Macguiver the latch with a leatherman and hand sanitizer – don’t ask – but attempt was fruitless. So plan B, I duct taped my car closed. I personally feel that nothing announces, ‘ class! ‘ like cruising around in a vehicle repaired with duct tape. Justin of VICTORIA’S LAST RESORT sent me to Tin Alley, where it took a tiny village of referrals to set the Civic straight. These guys took pity and set to work immediately. The Mighty Steed was repaired in no time at all. Big shoutout to GERBER’S AUTO SERVICE, CAMBRIA AUTO BODY & RESTORATION, and THE BODYMAN. Shoot, pretty much all of Tin Alley. Thank you!