As many Santa Barbara residents know, this winter we have had El Nino come into full effect. Everything from rainy and cold weather, to large consistent runs of swell. Surfers are claiming it’s the best winter for swell in many years. This has been caused by the El nino. It causes more waves, “extreme” weather as far as California is concerned, which is good for the drought. It really is nice compared to last year when there wasn’t consistent waves, and driving to Ventura which is normally at least a 30 minute drive from Santa Barbara, just to get something that was possible to surf, was a regular thing. Not to mention all the breaks around Santa Barbara are much better the majority of the time, known mostly for the cobblestone pointbreaks.
The constant waves, have also opened up surf spots that are typically small, and not places you would think to go. Many times this winter, Sandbar (more known as sandspit) has been blown up on social media for hundreds of thousands to see. It has made it quite a bit more crowded with people that do not live here, but have seen the photos and videos on their phones and computers, and they all of a sudden want to come here. It is a hassle to say the least, but as long as the swell keeps coming, it will all be good. Most of the out of towners only come when there is a very known swell that everyone knows about. There is still some days you can get with not many people out at a spot that is normally very crowded. That is a lot of what surfing is about, being with your friends and having a good time. I’m not saying if it is crowded then surfing won’t be fun, because I surf with a large crowd a lot due to living in California. If your in a big crowd, you can either have a great session and the crowd doesn’t even bother, or it can go very bad. Surfing good waves with just your friends though is something special, and it should be recognized for that.
In just a few weeks now I will be leaving to go on a surf trip to Panama. My dad, brother and I do an annual surf trip somewhere in the tropics. Last year we went to Fiji, the year before that we went to Samoa, and so on and so on. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to central America, and I’ve never been to Panama so i’m excited to see what will come out of this adventure. In past years in central America I have gone to El Salvador two times, and Nicaragua once. All of these excursions have been great and it’s always crazy to see what these countries look like, from the moment you land in the airport, to the place where you stay.
The ocean is also very warm in Panama about 80 degrees, compared to the 58 degree ocean here in Santa Barbara and along the coast of California. Not to mention the surf is typically amazing. We’re staying at a place called Red Frog Bungalows, and I know a lot of surfers that have stayed there. I will be there for 10 days, so I’m missing a few days of school before the break technically starts. Everyone has had a positive outlook on this place, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s always an interesting feeling leaving the country and stepping out into a completely different environment after just a few hours on a plane. It’s always cool when you can make friends with the local people as well. In my past trips to central America, a lot of the locals surf, so I’ve been able to connect with them over surfing. When there is perfect waves and warm weather all the time, surfing must come easy. One of the hardest parts though is seeing the resources a lot of these places in Central America have. While I visited El Salvador, poverty was very visible and there was trash everywhere which was a sad site. Nicaragua was a similar situation. In the inner cities near the airport, trash flows through the side of the road, it’s everywhere. We will see what Panama has in store, I have only heard good things.
The swell the last few days in Santa Barbara has been great. The El Nino has been in full effect still, and has been keeping the swell up. Most surfers would agree that this is the best winter for waves in years. It has also been very crowded in Santa Barbara, with everyone from California trying to get the best waves possible. Of course there is always tension when there is 75 people in the water, all trying to get the same wave. Many people will leave the water more frustrated then when they first came, due to crowd issues, and there being way more people than waves. Some people do not think it is worth it, others do. I am lucky enough to call Santa Barbara and its waves, home.
Many different spots in Santa Barbara, attract different crowds. The most known spot in Santa Barbara, is sandbar (known more commonly as Sandspit). People know this wave worldwide, due to its notorious backwash from the rocks and the it can be near perfection at times. Sandbar would not exist if it weren’t for the break wall which was man made. Thank you to whoever was involved in building that wall. Of course there a lot of other popular surf breaks in the Santa Barbara area that many know of. Rincon is a right point break that is mostly cobblestones. There can be hundreds of surfers spread out along the point at Rincon at times when there is good swell. You will see a lot of long boarders in the cove when the swell is small, and then when it’s bigger, everyone is in the cove. Things definitely can get out of hand when there are 5 people on the same wave, very close to each other dodging people in the lineup. This can be a common sight at Rincon.
Of course there are always less crowded alternatives, but the majority of the time the quality of the waves at those breaks can not compare to the more crowded ones. Everywhere can have its right days though when the swell, wind, and tide cooperates.
A photo of me surfing at sandbar.
Just a few basic essentials for the day. 5’6 new flyer from Channel Islands surfboards, flashbomb wetsuit from rip curl, and a pair of vans. All these are things I use at some point during the day, and are definitely essential to have for what I do.
This week I went down to Ventura to go hopefully get some waves. The wind was strongly onshore, and the swell was mediocre, so things were not looking to great. I drove past rincon, it was flat and very windy, so I continued south. After a few more miles of driving and seeing a lot of windy ocean, nothing was looking great, to say the least.
We arrived at C-street, in Ventura, and despite the 20 mile per hour gusts of wind, there were some small waves that I paddled out in. I got this shot though before the session. The truck on the right is mine, and the windy ocean is on the left.
Last year over spring break, I had the chance two spend two weeks over in the Fijian islands. After the 8 hour plane flight, we searched the whole airport for our surfboards, but they didn’t show up. At first we thought it was going to really effect our trip, but they shortly arrived the next day. We were staying on Tavarua, a little island you can walk around on 15 minutes, infamous for the good waves and warm weather. This photo was taken at cloudbreak, a short 5 minute boat ride away from the island. Most surf breaks around this area in Fiji require a boat ride. For example, cloudbreak is basically in the middle of the ocean. The coral reef comes up shallow from deeper water, and creates a hard breaking peeling wave across the reef. The reef is very alive and sharp, so getting caught on the reef is not a fun time.
This photo was taken of Santa Cruz Island, midway crossing to Santa Rosa Island a few weeks back. We were aboard the fishing vessel the Plumeria, which is over 35 feet long, but the speed tops out at about 6 knots which makes a slow, long four hour trip one way to Santa Rosa. There was 6 of us on the boat, but with a large space to move around on it was quite comfortable. With my dad being a commercial fisherman, I have been able to come out to these islands since I was a little child, and I have some great memories on this string of islands close to home.