As a surfer and resident of Summerland, I find it apparent that surfing culture is engrained in both the heritage and contemporary lifestyle of the town. In a place where you can purchase surf wax from the gas station, there is clearly a feeling of iconic California Surf Town along our streets and beaches.
While our beaches stretch the length of the town, Loon Point is the only surf spot in Summerland.
As was described in The Santa Barbara Independent‘s thorough and well-written article “Loon Point of Contention”, the beaches of Summerland along the Padaro Lane area that includes Loon Point have undergone further restriction of access, to what is already a largely inaccessible stretch of coastline. The reduction of access hours from “Dawn to Dusk” to “Sunrise to Sunset” eliminates hours of accessibility, particularly in the winter months, when days are short and long dusks provide the last light of the evening, so important to surfers and other beachgoers wanting to enjoy our coastline after work.
Winter is Santa Barbara County’s surf season; the only time of year that our coastline lights up with the swell that has made it a famous surfing location, contributing to legacy, tourism, commerce, and most importantly a sense of place and community. During the winter months, the time between dawn and sunrise, as well as between dusk and sunset are well known to be the best times to surf. Commonly known as “Dawn Patrol” and “Evening Glass-Off”, these moments are favorites because they usually have little to no wind, while the mid-day hours can be unsurfably windy in winter.
The Loon Point surf spot is a fair distance from the access point along Padaro Lane. A walk in or out for surfers can take up to 45 minutes. With the sun rising at 7 a.m. and setting at 5 p.m. in the winter months, surfers’ access to their local surf spot will be constrained by that walk time, eliminating the opportunity to surf before or after work for hard-working residents like myself. I find this to be an unreasonable restriction.
I have also learned that alternative access has been suggested to utilize the beach access point at Wallace Avenue. This location is nearly a mile further north along the beach from the Loon Point beach access trail, and at a high tide is blocked by water, which can be treacherous during the same heavy swells that attract surfers to Loon Point. Walking a mile along the beach through sand and surf takes time — enough time that it is prohibitive to accessing the Loon Point surf spot in the dawn and dusk hours without some of that time being spent in darkness.
Is it reasonable to suggest surfers must take this much lengthier, more dangerous route to access the same wave they’ve been surfing for decades?
The beach access of this stretch of coastline is a public resource that provides joy and community, a sense of pride in our place here in Summerland. I encourage all to take interest in the narrowing of access hours; the shirking of predefined obligation by the County Parks and the implications of allowing the wants of the wealthy to affect the rights of the general public.