Santa Cruz stole my heart

I’d only ever heard of Santa Cruz in passing. Just on the peripheries of conversations. I’d googled where was the best place to surf on the West Coast of America and it had popped up here and there. I didn’t pay it much attention but as I reached San Francisco and asked for West Coast tips people began to mention it more and more. I decided that on my six week road trip of the US {to celebrate turning The Big Four Oh WHAT!?!!} I would park myself there for a few days. It was only an hour and forty five minutes south on Highway one from San Fran and was easy for day trips to Monteray, Carmel and Big Sur, all places I had on my list of ‘Things to do on the West Coast’

At the very last minute I booked into a place called The Surf House which I found on my beloved Air BnB. Forget the wheel as being the best invention ever ~ surely it’s Air BnB? It has had such a positive impact on the way I travel I can’t imagine going anywhere without it now. It gives you an opportunity to feel like you’re really living in the place you’re visiting and it can be so god damn cheap. Never mind being told what time you can come down for breakfast or filling out paperwork you don’t understand when you check out. Air BnB is simple and easy and……I digress. This is not a paid post for Air BnB. It’s a free post about my new love.

I’d booked into The Surf House which was a communal home away from home for digital nomads. Not being a digital nomad myself didn’t stop me from pretending I was one and living that kinda lifestyle. The house was enormous with shared bedrooms, large bathrooms, communal spaces for working, eating, socialising. It was cool and calm and was a mirror for Santa Cruz itself.

Oh be still my beating heart, I am in love. Never did I think another city would sweep me off my feet like NYC has done…But Santa Cruz proved me wrong. From the minute I stepped out of my car, smelt the eucalyptus trees and heard the sound of the ocean I knew I was home. I walked two blocks from The Surf House and found myself on West Cliff Drive which wound itself around the shoreline and up towards the pier. I passed early evening joggers, daily dog walkers, laid back skateboarders and families catching up with each other. Surfers cycled past me with wet hair, bare feet and boards attached to their bikes. I saw stoners in cars parked facing the ocean so they could watch the rolling waves crash in as they got high. I stood by The Surf Museum and watched surfers catch wave after wave, hypnotised by the ease and simplicity of it all. I ate my fish dinner in a restaurant on the pier and watched the sun starting to set. I wrote postcards home about how happy I was in Santa Cruz even though I’d only been there for a few hours. I bought into every last touristy trinket available on that pier which promoted Santa Cruz as the surf capital of the States, as the coolest of hang outs, as a beach bum destination. YES! I thought to myself. I believe that these snow globes, shell jewellery boxes, t~shirts, caps and shit braided bracelets are all necessary because I love everything about this place. I slowly walked back home the way I had come straight into a sherbet pastel coloured sunset. I couldn’t take my eyes of the beautiful, fiery sweetie lit sky before me. It framed houses, sunk between trees and bathed Santa Cruz in a warm glow of fading golden sunshine. The ocean had calmed down as I floated back to my bed, stopping once again to watch the last few surfers bobbing in the water as they used every bit of dying light to find their final few waves.

The next night as I took my, now ritualistic {read second time I’d done it}, sunsetting coastline walk, to watch the surfers, I decided to have dinner at Bantams. It had been described as ‘…your hot slice of happiness in Santa Cruz’s westside’ Well who could refuse that? It was ten minutes from where I was staying and I decided to get there by walking the back streets through my neighbourhood. As the day light faded into a blanket of pink sherbet again and the glow of peoples house lights started to come on I fell even more in love with this seaside surf city. {If that was at all possible} From these low rise houses, with there back yards full of bikes and boards, spilled the sounds of music and laughter into the quiet streets. The air was filled with the smell of eucalyptus and jasmine and the distance sounds of skateboards landing and cruising. I yearned for a childhood, Hell, I’d take an adulthood, of running those streets barefoot with a sun kissed face and salty, coarse hair. I made it to Bantam’s in a daydream state and ordered a beautiful, fresh and light dinner of salmon with natural yoghurt, black olives & sliced cucumber.  Could I be any happier than eating sliced cucumber on Santa Cruz’s westside?

You better believe it! Enter my surf lesson.

I knew I had to get up on a board whilst I was staying in the nicknamed Surf City so I booked a two hour lesson with Surf School Santa Cruz. The next morning I drove with my new 19 year old buddy Alex, we were sharing a room {with two other guys. Check out The Outsite, it’s not as kinky as you think}, to Pleasure Point in the east of Santa Cruz. Now in my head I am a surfer girl. I am a snowboarder and a skateboarder. These are things I desperately want to do in my life but sadly {or rather comically}, in reality, I resemble a baby giraffe in a pair of slingback heels when on any one of the aforementioned boards. That didn’t stop me from giving it a go though. At least I’m a trier!

Alex and I had a 10 minute lesson in the car park about body positions, where to look, how to ‘pop up’ and how to stand. After that we were in the water being told when to catch a wave and on my second go I was up. I was actually surfing. When I did what I was told ‘Stand tall you’re gonna fall, stay low you look like a pro’ and ignored my 40 year old back screaming ‘You’re not gonna be happy in a few hours’ I was in my element. I was popping up, I was reading the waves, I was actually surfing. I still resembled a baby giraffe but this time I’d lost the heels and had progressed to a sensible pair of flats. At one point I found myself heading straight for a seal! When it came to my last wave my instructor told me I had to surf right to the beach. I like being teachers pet so I paddled my arms hard when I was told to, I pulled myself up into a plank and bought my right knee in, I popped up with my left leg and stayed low. I surfed that wave right into the shore line and as my board hit the sand I stepped off it onto the sand. I couldn’t believe it. I turned round to see Alex and our instructors cheering me on. My smile couldn’t have been bigger.

And that was my last day in Santa Cruz. That is now my go to happy place. That is where I dream of getting back to. I realise this whole love letter post to Santa Cruz deserves a heckling of GET A ROOM from you all but I don’t care. If you have an opportunity to go to this beautiful, laid back, surf city that loves the ocean it lives beside then do it. Take your board shorts, your sunscreen and be open and up for anything. I hope she sweeps you off your feet like she did me.

……Also Lost Boys was filmed there. NEED I SAY MORE!

         For accommodation ~

The Outsitehttps://www.outsite.co/locations/santa-cruz-gh

       For food ~

Bantamshttp://bantam1010.com/

Steamer Lane Supplyhttp://steamerlanesc.com/menu/

         For surfing ~

Surf School Santa Cruzhttps://surfschoolsantacruz.com/

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