I’m a senior here at UCSB this year, which made me a freshman in 2007. In my time here I’ve seen surf both mind-blowing and mundane, but unfortunately most of what I’ve seen around campus has always leaned towards the piddly mush. Perhaps that’s because my first fall quarter surfing Campus Point was so epic that it almost ruined my next two years surfing UCSB.
Picture this: I’m a freshie, chillin’ in the Anacapa dorm. All of a sudden, I wake up in early December and guess what? It’s macking out there! So I charge it. I surfed the point until I was fatigued beyond exhausted and managed to bag my first Kelly Slater sighting. I had been surfing all day, the waves were probably head and a half, maybe double overhead, and just almost perfect. It was near dusk when I saw Slater and it was just me, Slater and another dude out in the water — way beyond the inside breakers, waiting for the outside set. After a short wait a big set comes in and Slater is in the deepest spot; but if I were him I would have never tried to take-off from where he was sitting—it was just a really heavy, slabby wave that was already closing out. But he’s Slater. And he charged it, throwing himself and his board over the lip, air-dropping maybe three or four feet, dropping down, down, down. Then he fell.
That, my friends, was perhaps the only time I was legitimately scared out of the water anywhere near Santa Barbara. When Slater faceplants, I tend to get the impulse to get outta the water. That day in December (I think it was the 5th), that was the ultimate. It was the best, heaviest surf I’ve seen in Santa Barbara ever, and I’ve only seen waves like that here perhaps once more– that same year in February.
So you can imagine how stoked I was on my college experience when I came to school and was treated with a surf date with surfing’s biggest star amidst epic waves. I was ecstatic. Any surfer who asked me what I thought about SB surf, I’d have blown my load all over them in my excitement to tell them about my Slater sighting.
You see, I grew up in Northern California where the water is sharky and the sand is cold black. Most days at my home beachbreak, people don’t sunbathe. They wear hiking boots, jeans and a coat to trek the beach. There are a few stellar weeks a year when the coarse, pebbly sand is bathed in sunlight and you’ll see more than a few swimsuits. The waves are good up north, but prone to get choppy and windy on the drop of a hat. Clean lines and gentle tubes are the things of dreamers up there.
Here in Santa Barbara the waves are so tame for the majority of the year that you don’t face nearly as many dangers as you would surfing a more consistent, powerful piece of coastline. SB is not the best place for surf unless you know where you’re going and you are informed about tides, winds, swell movement, locals, gun-toting security and big fishies. Except when the occasional west swell shoots in past the goddamn Channel Islands and blesses us with some real surf, then you might just get to see some waves.
But the surf kinda stopped coming in so strong after that first big swell my freshman year. It just slowed to a trickle, and hasn’t quite ever come back to full force, in my eyes.
I’m hoping for the surf to build this year as global warming harshens — that’s what the scientists have been telling us: good for surfers, bad for pretty much the rest of the world.
If that doesn’t happen though, I’d encourage all newbie and hopeful surfers (‘groms’, per se) to grab a board and learn how to surf on these gentle little ‘SB nuggets — I sure as hell won’t be getting in your way at Campus.
Daily Nexus Surf Columnist Elliott Rosenfeld came to S.B. for three reasons: the surf, the women and school: in that order.