Santa Barbara is located just south of Point Conception, which marks the point where Southern California ends and Central California begins. For those who enjoy the SoCal lifestyle but feel the need to escape to the solitude on occasion, this town may represent the perfect balance. A popular university at UCSB keeps the social life young and hip, while easy access to LA means lots of job opportunities without having to live in a concrete jungle. Just inland the coast falls away to pastoral farmlands and ranches reminiscent of California 100 years ago, and to the north development is virtually non-existent, with cold, sharky lineups often completely devoid of surfers. Best of all, Santa Barbara has a wide variety of waves, including a handful of points that have groomed some of surfing’s most celebrated style adherents, such as Tom and Joe Curren, Bobby Martinez, the Malloys, and Dane Reynolds. Below we’ve compiled a list of the best waves the region has on offer.
- Rincon: It is no surprise that the “Queen of the Coast” tops this list—it has been considered one of California’s best waves for nearly half a century. The long, storied righthand point is perfect for noseriding and other forms of trimming when its in the knee to chest high range, and its lengthy walls just beg for your best bottom turn/top turn combination once it moves into the head high range. Many argue that this is one of the top five righthand points on the planet.
- C-Street: Another righthand point of wide repute that can peel for hundreds of yards during a perfect winter swell.
- El Capitan: Camping access on the Gaviota Coast, with whispered legends of a perfectly lined up point. Check this epic righthander out on a large W swell.
- Sandspit: A freak, mutant righthand barrel in Santa Barbara Harbor, Sandspit only breaks a handful of days per year and suffers from heavy crowds and some of the gnarliest backwash in the game—but its about as hollow as a head high wave comes.
- The Ranch: A note of contention with many and a well-protected refuge for those lucky enough to enjoy unfettered access, The Ranch is a mythical stretch of coast just north of Santa Barbara that has been private-access only for decades—and conveniently happens to house some of the best waves in California (such as Cojos, Little Drakes, and Rights and Lefts, to name a few).