Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn't Know You Needed

December 18, 2018

When people are drawn to the ocean, it’s typically to the edge where water meets the shore. Most ocean lovers are actually beach lovers, enamored by the border zone between the solid and liquid worlds — waves tossing themselves onto sandy expanses, seagulls cawing and calling as they wheel in the air, sunlight glinting off the water. For some reason, gazing at that flat expanse of water is fulfilling in a way that staring at the flats of Kansas can never be.

The lure of the ocean is indescribable, and for many it’s enough to merely approach its shores. Even standing neck deep in the water, it’s comforting to realize the shore is close at hand. But others long for a more intimate interaction with the sea. Wave riding is one of the simplest forms of recreation. With as little as a swimsuit and a board, you can catch a wave standing up, kneeling or lying prone. The simplicity is part of the attraction. There’s not a lot of gear to contend with; it’s just you and the wave, period.

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Body surfing is arguably the most basic and harmonious interaction we can engage in with a force of nature. Stand-up surfing is “The Sport of Kings” for reasons both historical, per the ancient Hawaiian royalty, and visceral, because that’s how you feel when you’re up and riding. “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world,” —the Beach Boys weren’t lying. 

To surf is to be engaged with your environment. Whether it’s your first time out or you’ve been surfing for years, when you are in the water you are aware of your surroundings. It’s an invigorating sensation to feel the surge of water, the salt on your skin, to shake the water from your hair. 

To surf is to return to the rawest element of nature; to dance delicately upon the power of the sea. Motion, sound, the feel of water sliding through your toes, the glare of the sun … birds, fish, constant movement – watching, waiting. You banter with your friends, your kids, your spouse, whoever’s in the water with you, all the while keeping your eye on what’s coming. Then the right bump appears on the horizon and it’s time to fly. Carving turns on top of moving water is an adrenaline rush. Finding yourself wrapped in that water, being propelled by the wave’s own intensity, is like nothing else.

For many sports-minded individuals, surfing holds a special place, partly because the highs are so elusive. The surfing experience is incredibly dependent on the vagaries of swell direction and strength, wind, crowds, beach contours — the list goes on. For all of the variables to come together in the right combination is something rare and wonderful. And yet it happens. And it keeps happening.

As special as surfing is, period, it’s exponentially better with someone else. Not only is it safer to surf with friends or family (always a good idea to have someone in the water who will notice if you’re not there) but when you catch that wave and take a ride, it’s good to have an audience who understands what you just did and how it felt. And if you feel compelled to brag, well, that’s good, too. 

Big waves get all the press — those perfect tubes of turquoise water, the famous competitors who so often ride them. But the truth is, even the little ones are worth paddling out to meet. And, especially for beginners, the rush of riding a knee-high wave can be a mind-blowing experience. It only takes one ride to get hooked. 

There’s a reason they say a bad day surfing is better than a good day doing anything else. They say it because it’s true. Inspirato destinations are ideally situated in some of the prime surf spots all the world over.

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Though surfing was invented in Hawaii, surf culture came directly out of Southern California. There are a variety of breaks ranging from beginner to advanced within 30 minutes of Newport Coast. Water temperatures in the summer range from mid-60s to mid-70s; in the winter they drop to mid-50s to mid-60s.

Blackie’s, on the north side of Newport Pier, is great for beginners. It’s named for Blackie’s Bar, which has been there for ages. It’s generally a very forgiving wave, so it’s not only softer but also there’s a long window in which to catch it. It’s a popular spot for longboarders, too, both beginning and advanced. 

Trestles requires a 15-minute hike from the car, so it’s a bit of a commitment for boardtoting surfers. There’s a river that becomes an estuary, and it’s one of the few places on the Southern California coast that is not surrounded by a lot of development. Thanks to the cobblestone reef, it’s a classic break for advanced surfers with clean, solid waves. Several pro contests are held at Trestles, which, because of the hike, is sometimes less crowded than other spots. 

San Onofre is a state park that draws longboarders attracted to its consistent, mellow waves. Like many surf spots, there’s a wave called Old Man’s. Recently, locals have begun referring to it as Old Woman’s, as female surfers are almost beginning to outnumber male. 

Surrounded by jungle, Punta de Mita is known for rights — meaning waves that break to the surfer’s right. Rights are best for regular footers, or those who surf with their left foot in front. Various peaks jut along the rock reef, which stretches for miles and miles down the coast. Because of the various resorts on the coastline, it may be easier to hire a guide and boat to take you to some solid, less-crowded waves. Water temperatures are in the 80s year-round.

Punta Burros draws both locals and visitors. With peaks for both shortboarders and longboarders, it’s also one of the easier breaks to access. The waves are better at high tide.  Sayulita is 25 miles to the north, and is an excellent beginner spot with primarily beach breaks. It’s a draw for longboarders and shortboarders, and seems made-to-order for goofy footers, or people who surf with their right foot forward. Sayulita feels like a traditional Mexican town with lots of old buildings, churches and history. It’s quaint with a relaxed vibe, and a fun destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. 

The Cove and El Faro at Punta Mita Point are found in the southernmost bay. Though you can walk there in about 40 minutes, it’s easiest to hire a ponga. It’s a consistent break, but is better before the off-shore winds kick in. Los Cabos is at the southern end of Baja California. It has several world-famous point breaks, as well as a variety of beach breaks. It’s a special place with secluded beaches balanced by abundant nightlife. Water temperatures fluctuate from the 70s to the 80s year round.

The south-facing East Cape is designed for the adventurous soul, but is best in the summer months during south-swell season. The area lies just past the town of San Juan del Cabo, on the Sea of Cortez, and seems almost mystical. The desert runs right to the shore, and is both beautiful and uncrowded.

The West Cape, which is just northwest of Cabo San Lucas, has surf year round. With both beach and reef breaks, it has several consistent waves. In addition to breaks that can be accessed on foot, there are several breaks that can be accessed via sea kayak.

Todos Santos on the Pacific side is not just a fun surf spot, but it’s a draw in its own right. A funky art community, Todos Santos is loaded with galleries, artist studios and artists. It’s about an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas.