2: Surf Trip: Urban Camping in San Diego

In this episode, we talk about:

– Waiting until the last minute to decide where to go on your next surfing adventure
– Surf Trip Destination: San Diego, California
– Urban camping and how to do it well

Links from the show:

No surfboard fees for United flights to/from California: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/sports.aspx

The best California surf book ever:
https://www.amazon.com/Surfing-California-Allan-Wright/dp/0911449027

Bird’s Surf Shed in San Diego:
https://birdssurfshed.com/

Please feel free to email the podcast at getoutandsurfCR@gmail.com

Follow Get Out and SURF
https://instagram.com/getoutandsurf

Pura Vida!
Joe Walsh

Music
Artist: Slightly Stoopid

Audio transcription:

Joe Walsh:
Hey, what’s up, there? This is Joe Walsh from Witch’s Rock Surf Camp and volcano brewing company in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Bringing you the get out and surf podcast for Friday, January 11th, 2019. So how are we doing? I’ll tell you how we’re doing, we’re doing awesome. And I’ll tell you why. I just spent a week in an RV, urban camping in San Diego, California scoring some great waves and I’m totally surfed out. This is the second episode of our podcast and if you’re wondering what’s this podcast about, well let me give you a little bit of a heads up. This podcast is about surfing. It’s about getting out, seeing the world, and surfing some waves.
Joe Walsh:
I’m in Tamarindo, Costa Rica so a lot of the surfing I’m talking about on the show is about surfing in Tamarindo and the rest of Costa Rica. But, the show is also about taking surf trips, learning surfing tips from surfing experts, interviews with surf travelers, industry veterans and more. I also talk about what it’s like to run a 130 employee business in Costa Rica, all the trials and tribulations of working for yourself and maintaining things in a third world country and doing it all in the name of surfing. So, if that sounds good for you, do me a favor and subscribe to the show. You can download it onto your device, you can rate, review, share with your family, friends, or anyone else you know that loves surfing.
Joe Walsh:
And since this is a new podcast, I’m still kind of figuring it out, I’m using Anchor dot FM to distribute the show but you should be able to pick it up on Stitcher, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Overcast, pretty much all the major podcast players will have the show. And don’t forget, you can always email get out and surf CR at Gmail dot com. Any questions, comments, or anything else.
Joe Walsh:
I’m going to start today’s show off by talking about going on a surf trip. I love surf trips. I think pretty much all surfers love surf trips. What better way to get out, see the waves, see the world, meet new people, have an amazing new set of experiences, and get the most amount of waves in the shortest amount of time possible on a focused surf trip. But where should you go? Yes, Costa Rica is a great spot, that’s why I live here and it is a great place to travel to, we do get waves year round. But, if you live in Costa Rica like I do, then you want to get out of your home town or out of your home country and go and see something new. So, I’m just like you. I want to go on a surf trip and score waves, too.
Joe Walsh:
So the first thing I do is I ask myself, “What time of year is it?”, is it March, is it October? In this case, my buddy Andrew and I, we were planning on going on a surf trip January 5th through 12th. So, it was January. Here’s the thing about Mother Nature, the northern hemisphere of our planet has winter conditions in the December, January, February, and into March months. The opposite is true for the southern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere gets winter conditions in the June, July, August and end of September months. That means we get more waves, bigger, consistent swell coming from the northern hemisphere in those winter months, and then we get more swell coming from the southern hemisphere in the southern months. A spot like Costa Rica, in comparison, because it’s located so close to the equator and has coasts that face both towards the north and the south, gets pretty good waves throughout the year. But we don’t get as big of waves because we aren’t as far north for those winter swells or as far south for those big, southern hemisphere winter swells that happen during the summer months.
Joe Walsh:
It gets more complicated than this, there’s multiple surf seasons, there’s local variables, but the point remains the same. Depending on the time of year, different parts of the world are going to be better than others. And it’s your job to know which spots are going to be good and when. Now, I know that not all trips can be last minute trips. I know you got to plan for that family reunion, or that family vacation. Or that you only have one week off of work next June and you got to get your hotel and your flight now because if you don’t, blah, blah, blah. I get that. So, this podcast really doesn’t apply as much to those sorts of trips. I mean, yes, you can predict what spots are going to have the best waves during what time of year, but, when it comes down to it, the best way to score waves on your surf trip is to wait as long as possible before deciding where you’re going to go.
Joe Walsh:
I haven’t found that waiting until the last minute made flights that much more expensive. Yeah, they’re usually a little more expensive, I don’t spend weeks or months staring at the internet trying to save 100 bucks on a flight, I don’t mind paying a little bit extra and buying a ticket somewhere where I know there’s going to be waves. So, since Andrew and I had planned on going on January 5th through 12th of this year, we made this plan maybe, I don’t know, two or three months ago back in October I think, we waited until the week before to start looking at the surf line swell forecast to see what was breaking and what was forecasted over the next week to two weeks at a handful of spots. Knowing that we were traveling in January, some of the spots on the list for me were Chile, Portugal, both of those spots I’d never been to. Costa Rica I always keep on the list because never leave good waves. If Costa Rica had been just firing, I would’ve said, “Andrew, get down here. Let’s just surf”. And that’s really the number one rule of any surf trip, never leave good waves.
Joe Walsh:
So Costa Rica was definitely on the list and also California, which is great in the winter months. I grew up in San Diego, I’ve surfed all throughout the state, and while it’s cold, it’s good. We were going to go to Portugal, Portugal was looking pretty good. So about three days before, I think it was January 2nd, I actually bought a flight to Portugal to Lisbon from the area of Costa Rica, but, man, I looked at the travel time. I still bought the ticket, but I was really hesitant because the return was 33 hours, which is ridiculous. You could literally fly from the area of Costa Rica to New Zealand in something like 25 hours, so it was just too incredibly long. Fortunately, when you buy a ticket you have 24 hours to cancel it. Doesn’t matter. So, I called up United Airlines, got my money back and after looking at all of the swell forecasts for all of the spots on my bucket list, San Diego, California really did have the best.
Joe Walsh:
So, I bought a ticket on United Airlines to San Diego, California. I want to take a quick moment to give a shout out to United Airlines. I fly them a lot, I think they’re about the best airline to take if you’re flying to or from California and Costa Rica. But what I really like, what they just did, they started this in November, surfing became the state sport of California and United Airlines changed their baggage policy. It is now free for all flights that originate from California or end in California, you can bring your surfboard, and it’s free. And that’s just huge because paying 150 bucks each way for a board is super lame, nobody likes it. And now, United, you just won my heart.
Joe Walsh:
So let’s talk about San Diego, California as a surf destination. I grew up in San Diego, a lot of surfers live here. A lot of surfers that live here wish they were going on surf trips to other spots in other parts of the world. It always seems that no matter where people are at, they always seem to take what they’ve got for granted. And that’s true about San Diego. San Diego has some great waves. You know, it might get a little small in the summer, it might get a little windy and unsure in the spring, but fall and winter in southern California, especially in San Diego county, are awesome. So what makes San Diego a good surf trip destination? Well, first off, the weather is super nice. Pretty much year round. The other thing I really like about San Diego is that there are literally a ton of surf breaks. Los Angeles may have a lot more people, but Los Angeles has a lot less waves. San Diego’s lucky like that. Lower population and so many surf breaks and all types of surf breaks.
Joe Walsh:
There are tons of beach breaks. There are tons of reefs. There are waves for all types of surfers. Beginner waves, advanced waves, waves that break out in the middle of the ocean. Waves you can only get to by boat, waves you can only get to with a pass onto a military base, waves that only break during certain swells, it’s pretty exciting how much potential for surf San Diego really does have. Another thing that’s good about San Diego is it’s really easy. The airport’s right there in downtown, you literally can fly in, and you can be at the closest waves in about 10 minutes out at Point Loma or Ocean Beach. And that’s very, very convenient.
Joe Walsh:
what are some of the downsides in surfing in San Diego? Well, if you’re coming over the summer, or basically any tourist time, hotels and air BNB’s, they can get kind of expensive. They can also get kind of crowded in a lineup, especially on the weekends and definitely over summer. And if you’re surfing San Diego over the summer, you’re probably surfing on a long board because summer is the smallest time of year. And if you’re here in the winter than you’re definitely wearing a wet suit, which, I’m putting on the negatives list because wearing a wetsuit anywhere is a negative. I’m not complaining, and I know you need to wear a wetsuit to surf these waves, I’m just saying after living in Costa Rica for 18 years, I guess I must be spoiled. I travel and surf and wear a wetsuit, but, I don’t love it. And who does?
Joe Walsh:
Honestly, the caliber of surfing in San Diego is really high, I’m always impressed when I come here. There are some surfers in the water doing amazing things. And what’s really cool is that overall, the vibe in the water is super mellow. As long as you’re not a kook. And, if you’re a kook, you know you’re a kook and stay out of people’s ways. If you’re learning how to surf, that’s okay. We all did this. There are plenty of waves in San Diego where you can get away, spots like Torrey Pines, you can get a wave completely to yourself and you can kook it up! But overall, the vibe is super mellow in the lineups, people are pretty nice as long as you’re respectful and know the rules of surfing, San Diego’s a pretty good spot to take a surf trip.
Joe Walsh:
So what kind of surf board should you bring to San Diego? Literally you can bring anything. Short board, fun shape, long board, you name it. There’s waves for everything. Hey Joe, where should I go surfing in San Diego? Well, there are a lot of spots, like I said. And I’m not going to sit here and list off a bunch of spots that you need to go hit because, number one, it’s not my job to make these spots anymore crowded than they already are. But, number two, a quick search on the internet will show you the most popular ones. There’s famous spots like Swamis, like Blacks, like La Jolla shores, Windsea, Sunset Cliffs, OB Pier, there are tons of waves. Those are some of the major ones.
Joe Walsh:
There are hundreds of spots, I recommend getting the surfing California book, it was written like 40 years ago but it’s still totally applicable. The official name of the book is Surfing California: A complete guide to the California coast. It was written by Allen Wright in 1973, you can buy it used online on Ebay. There’s no Kindle book for it. One of the best surf books I ever owned. I know that Bird’s Surf Shed on Reyna Boulevard carries copies of it. So if you come to San Diego, go check out Bird, get that book, and get to work.
Joe Walsh:
Hey Joe, where should I stay when I go to San Diego? This is kind of a funny question. Funny because, anyone that knows me knows that I like to sleep in my car. Not always, but often. In fact, I keep an old Winnebago parked here at my cousins house in San Diego, just for California surf and snowboard strikes. But if you’re coming on a normal trip like a normal human being, and you’re going to stay in a hotel and not in a vehicle in some beach parking lot or on some residential street hoping the cops don’t knock on your window at three in the morning, there’s lots of inexpensive hotels in Mission Valley which is pretty close to a lot of beaches and not so expensive. If you stay along the coast, places like La Jolla and Del Mar, are going to be really expensive, further in North County they’re going to be expensive, too.
Joe Walsh:
If you got a hotel room in downtown or the gas lamp district, unfortunately you’re not very close to the waves. At least around Mission Valley and Old Town you’re dealing with general tourist hotels, maybe a motel six, maybe a Travelodge. And you’re only a few minutes from the beach and from the surf. So like I said, we picked San Diego as our surf destination, I have an RV that I keep at a cousin’s house here in Poway, and we spent the last week cruising around San Diego County surfing some amazing waves and sleeping in the RV.
Joe Walsh:
And so now you’re probably wondering what’s it like cruising in an RV for a week in the city. I mean, we didn’t go to campgrounds, we were definitely those guys hanging out at the surf parking lot all day long, and then sleeping right down the street. How does that all work? And the answer is I don’t know, I just do it. Sleeping in your car or van or motor home for days at a time, it’s kind of like camping. So if you like camping, you’re probably going to like urban camping in a van or RV. You know, since it’s not 100% legal, I’m not sitting here telling you that you should go and do this, but if you were going to be urban camping, here’s a few tricks that I picked up over the years that I’d like to share.
Joe Walsh:
I guess first and foremost is, when you’re camping in your vehicle, whether or not you’re staying in the same neighborhood or traveling across the country, your appearance is super important. And if your vehicle’s all dirty, your stuff’s all broken, you’re going to stand out, people are going to recognize, they’re going to see you. They’re going to be way more likely to report you to the cops versus if you had a super clean vehicle that didn’t stand out, you have a much better chance of going about your business undetected. And that’s really the biggest trick. When it comes to your vehicle, you don’t need an RV, but you definitely need a vehicle that you can lay down and sleep in. Old school station wagons, all kinds of vans, those are your best bets. Ideally, you want some curtains, you don’t want people checking in on what you’re up to when you’re sleeping at five in the morning or two in the morning.
Joe Walsh:
The way to do it the best is just to hang out at the beach during the day, maybe go out to some restaurant, get some dinner. Go do your shopping. Hang out even in the beach parking lot until it closes at 10:00 PM or midnight, whatever. Then, already have your parking spot mapped out, already know beforehand where you’re going to spend that night. You really don’t want to spend the night twice in the same spot, that’s when people start to notice. Spots that work well for parking might be just outside of a condo building where there’s multiple owners and nobody knows who owns what van or camper. Churches seem to be pretty cool about it, Walmart’s, the commercial parts of town like places where you see lots of paneled trucks and semi trucks and RV’s that are parked behind office buildings and commercial buildings that are open during the day, during the week and closed at night and on the weekends. Those are all good spots for parking. Bad spots would be in front of rich people’s houses, right on the beach in the spot where everybody else would want to park, I think you can kind of figure it out.
Joe Walsh:
The best trick is to hang out during the day, somewhere else. Show up at your predetermined parking spot after it’s dark, spend the night, wake up super early, I like to wake up around, I don’t know, four or 4:30 in the morning, drive back to the beach, get the best parking spot, go back to bed and wake up when it gets light. Surf all day, eat your breakfast burrito, drink your beer, do it all over again. That’s the surf trip. Now, like I said, I don’t always sleep in my vehicle. I like a hotel, give me a break. I’m not an animal, but on this particular trip, that’s what we did. We cruised in the RV, we spent a week in San Diego, we surfed La Jolla shores, we surfed Scripts, Blacks, the swells got huge, we surfed PB point. We drove up and surfed Trestles, which is pretty much the last spot in northern San Diego County before you get to Orange County. It was a pretty good time.
Joe Walsh:
So here I am, sitting in my RV, getting ready to fall asleep out in front of this dude’s house, who I do not know, tomorrow morning I will be going back to the airport, flying back to Costa Rica. Definitely looking forward to it. But this was a super great trip! And we had waves the entire time. And we knew we were going to have waves because we waited until just a couple days before we flew up to buy our tickets because we had an open mind about where we were going to go and ultimately we went wherever the surf forecast said was the most promising.
Joe Walsh:
so I guess that’s about it. I’m heading back to Costa Rica, back to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp and surfing in Tamarindo. In the next episode we’re going to be talking about transitioning from a long board to a short board. It’s actually going to be a pretty cool blog coming out next Monday on the Witch’s Rock Blog. I hope you enjoyed the show. If you did, please do me a favor. You can subscribe to the Podcast, you can rate and review it, share it with anyone you think might like it. Don’t forget, you can always email the show at get out and surf CR at Gmail dot com. I will get that email and I will reply, I promise. Even though maybe I am not so good with my personal email. It’s all part of my New Year’s resolutions. Also, you can check me out on Instagram at get out and surf, still haven’t put much there but again, New Years resolution.
Joe Walsh:
now get out and surf.

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