Life’s a Beach

Mollie Soaks Up the Last of the Summer Sun

Goleta Beach

According to Wikipedia’s guide to the traditional seasonal start and end dates, summer officially begins between May 4 and May 10 and it officially ends between August 3 and 10. Of course, any student worth their proverbial salt knows that summer starts when school lets out and ends when back-to-school shopping becomes more vital to your daily routine than swimming and sunbathing. But either way, as much as some of us – myself included – wish the warm, carefree months could last forever, the reality is that there is no such thing as an endless summer. Unless of course you’re in a Bruce Brown movie, in which case you should be enjoying your good fortune and not wasting your time reading this column.

If, however, you are stuck on dry land in the decidedly less glamorous real world, where deadlines and due dates, schedules and school supplies are rapidly supplanting the lazy days of summer, then take heart. All is not lost. The days may already be getting shorter, and the lists of things you need to do before school starts may be getting longer, but take it from a girl raised in a small, coastal, So Cal town not unlike our very own Santa Barbara; when it comes to enjoying all that summer has to offer, late August is by far the best time of the year.

UCSB surfing class

Because in sunny Southern California, late August and early September can only mean one thing – pure and total beach-going bliss. Why is the beach so utterly perfect this time of year? Well, it has to do with a convergence of factors. The sunburned tourists start heading home, taking all the traffic, litter, and crowds they bring with them back to their air conditioned inland homes. The normally chilly water spikes to balmy temperatures, and the hurricanes wreaking horrible devastation on other parts of the world merely make for bigger swells in sunny Santa Barbara. (Not to make light of the destruction caused by tropical storms, but it is true that they make for much better surf in the places that are otherwise unaffected by their wrath.)

All in all, as summer comes to its end an unofficial – and much more fun – protracted summer season begins for those lucky enough to live near the beach. And with warmer water, fewer crowds, and better waves, there is no reason not to take advantage of our proximity to the perfect late-August shores. That’s why I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a small compendium of the best beaches in or near I.V. for surfing, swimming and sunning; because there’s no need to waste time researching when you could be working on your tan.

Of course, everyone knows about the beaches bordering Isla Vista. With newly refurbished access points at Camino del Sur, Camino Pescadero, and Escondido Pass, heading down to the neighborhood beach is no longer a matter of risking life and limb. And, in late summertime, you’re as likely to find the coast crowded with all manner of people enjoying boombox beats, beers, and the usual beach activities as you are to find it absolutely deserted. For solitude and a killer workout, try a run on the beach at sunset. For a party and plenty of free beer, try heading down in the mid to late afternoon. And either way, make sure you have plenty of baby oil on hand to get the tar off your feet afterwards.

If your idea of a perfect day at the beach starts with a killer set of gnarly waves, dude, then take the advice of my little brother, who just happens to be a state lifeguard, an accomplished surfer, and a veteran of the I.V. scene after spending the summer with me last year. He’s only sixteen, but he knows how to ferret out the best surfing, and this recommendation came to me with a dire warning that were I to publish it for public consumption, he might have to kick my ass. Sorry Jake.

Franco's surfing map of Santa Barbara

Anyway, Jake’s picks for the best Santa Barbara-area surf spots are Rincon Beach right off the 101 Freeway on the southern tip of Carpinteria, Sandspit near the City College campus, and Campus Point right behind UCSB’s very own Marine Sciences building. There’s also Sands Beach,which is most easily accessible if you take Del Playa Drive heading away from campus until you can’t go any further, then turn down the little dusty trail and find your way to some of the best surfing in the I.V. area. Jake also recommends that interested surfers check out this site. This particular piece of cyberspace offers a few maps of good surfing spots in LA, Ventura, and Santa Barbara that are for sale, but the real jewel is the free descriptions of said spots on the lower half of the page – it’s like a mini encyclopedia of the conditions, breaks, best seasons, and the like for some of SoCal’s best-known surf spots, as well as some of the area’s best-kept secrets.

If swimming in placid seas is more your seaside scene, then be sure to check out East Goleta Beach. This sparkling oasis that you pass on the 217 freeway, en route to UCSB, is easily accessed via the on-campus bike paths, which will take you straight there if you follow them towards the freeway. The water is more like a lake than an ocean, and there are plenty of barbecuing, picnicking, and playground facilities to take advantage of. It tends to get crowded on warm weekends, but head there in the mid-afternoon during the week for an invigorating swim and a gorgeous sunset view from the almost-isolated sand. If you really want a workout, continue on the same bike paths through the Goleta Bikeway – it’s a 3 mile ride through beautiful beaches, gorgeous tree-shaded paths, and serene scenery evocative of what California must have been like before the term ‘tourist season’ was ever invented.

Aerial shot of the I.V. coastline

With summer rapidly coming to a close and the start of school right around the proverbial corner, now is the best time to take advantage of all the natural beauty our beachside town has to offer. And, whether you’re looking to sunbathe, surf, swim or cycle, there are plenty of places within walking and biking distance of I.V. to do it all. So get off the couch, get out your suit and soak up the last of the summer sunshine. As soon as I get off work, I’ll see you there.


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