Happy Wanderer: Stoked by surfing in Carlsbad


EASTBAYTIMES.COM: October 27, 2016

Carlsbad, California, is known for its warm, sandy beaches, colorful flower fields and Legoland. But something else is driving good health and happiness. The Greeks call it “thalassotherapy” — the therapeutic value of sea water.

Salt water swimming increases circulation, boosts the immune system, hydrates the skin and promotes a sense of well-being. Could this be why surfers look so healthy?

To find out, I booked a two-night stay at the Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton resort with beach access and guided surf excursions. Having last surfed in my 20s, I was anxious to get back on the longboard and into the tube.

OK, that last part was a stretch, but I could at least catch a ride on the foamy backwater that forms after a three-foot wave breaks. And I could spend some time talking to the guides about surf culture and lingo.

The surf scene in Carlsbad is legendary. Jan and Dean surfed here. So did the Beach Boys. And there’s a great surf museum just up the road in Oceanside, which Cape Rey’s guides take you to as part of the all-day package. But the real reason you hire a surf guide is for insider knowledge.

“Some of the best experiences are when locals take you to that secret spot,” said Nikki Harth from Surfhouse Adventures, By sharing sweet spots like Ponto and Turn Arounds, “we’re trying to bring people the true local feeling.”

In my mind, I could see the waves swelling, then rolling into tubes that looked like liquid cannoli. I was the cream filling — a food metaphor I would never have used in my 20s. It made me think to ask Harth how food fits with surf culture.

“There’s nothing more ‘San Diego surfer’ than eating burritos after surfing. It’s an unspoken thing,” he said.

Also unspoken is the sign language used on the waves.

“We make sure everyone knows what a shaka is,” he said. “It’s the hang loose sign — thumb and pinky out and you shake it back and forth. Right after you ride the wave, instead of a thumbs up, you hoot and throw the shaka.”

I threw out plenty of shakas during my time in the surf. What I didn’t throw out was my back, which was a relief at my age. And there was only one breach of etiquette, where I cut in front of another surfer on a gnarly two-foot wave. Turns out surfers are a pretty forgiving bunch if you’re out there smiling and having fun.

“Just stay stoked,” said Harth, in his best surfer voice. With all the health benefits of sea water, it’s hard not to be stoked — dude.


Carlsbad has miles of beautiful beaches and bike trails, a high speed commuter train and an attractive village-like feel. For more information, go to: http://visitcarlsbad.com.
Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton resort, offers guided excursions in surfing, coastal bicycle cruising and craft beer tours. For more information, go to: http://caperey.com/.
The California Surf Museum in Oceanside highlights the history of surf-related sports. For more information, go to: http://www.surfmuseum.org.


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