California Dreaming: Why I Heart the Ocean


The west coast of the United States is truly a venerable landscape. So often, I travel by plane and forget at times what I miss when flying over the country, rather than driving across it. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m currently on a month long road trip studying plastic pollution along our beaches from San Diego all the way up to Tofino, British Columbia. Beforehand, I had scheduled all sorts of interviews, and the list keeps growing as I keep meeting more plastic warriors along the way. Yesterday, I woke up in my Westfalia in Santa Cruz after punking a spot in some random neighborhood. Instead of working, I decided to play… and surf. I’d seen some inspiring places in Southern California, but the traffic I’d experienced was making me feel dirty. I needed to baptize myself in mother salty.

So far Santa Cruz is my favorite place in California. I live in Portland, Oregon because it’s one of the only cities in the U.S. I can tolerate – but Santa Cruz struck me right away. As I drove around, I keep hearing in my head, ‘I could live here.’ I don’t know what it is about the place exactly; it’s some kind of ineffable feeling that strikes a harmonious chord in my gut. It’s a rare tune indeed.

I didn’t know my way around at all. I knew of a famous surf break that I had to check out, but you kind of sound like a nimrod if you ask locals for directions to surf breaks. So as I drove by a yard sale, I stopped to check it out and see if I could get some bearing. I asked quite possibly the most beautiful woman in California where a certain lighthouse was, and she set me on the path.

For a surfer, seeing a world class surf break for the first time is like a muslim on his or her first pilgrimage to Mecca. Steamer Lane is one of the most photogenic surf spots in the world. Typically for a surf photographer, you have to deal with an incredible amount of distance between your vantage and your subject, but not at Steamer. After surf, I headed north and nearly crashed my bus on California 1 because I saw a bunch of whales along the coast. I decided to pull over and attempt to get a shot. Check out the slideshow below of one of the best days from the trip so far. Trains, ripping surfers and a whale.