30 miles north of downtown Santa Barbara is Gaviota Campground, the base camp for south swell surgical strikes. Santa Barbara locals are very proprietary about the fickle surf that squeaks through the Channel Islands, so keep a low-profile and take a free lesson from the SWELL team.
Unless you or a buddy owns a ranch parcel, boating or trespassing is your only option to access the 13 miles miracle. We aren’t big fans of being held at gunpoint by ranchers, so here’s a few waterborn access options.
Option 1: Regular ranch fiends drop their boats off the pier with the wench, but that requires an instructional course and permit.
Option 2: For a soft-bottom dinghy like ours, launching through the surf is a viable option.
Removable beach wheels helps survive deep sand and steep berms. But we just muscled the whole trailer to the waters edge.
Option 3: Kayak. We’ve done it, but you better be in shape to have enough energy to surf after the marathon paddle . Thankfully you CAN go rest ashore, as long as you stay below the mean high-tide line. Be mindful of 30 knot winds that can whip up, and avoid cramping by staying hydrated.
*Be very cautious about disembarking during a lull. Countless boaters have capsizes, lost motors and taking serious beatings in the Gaviota beach break. We’re not going to tell (or show) you which perfect pointbreak to surf once you’ve make it, there’s waves for all styles… not to mention we’ve already said too much (hence censorship)
Just keep an eye on your surroundings. On this last trip, a 17ft Great White made a pass outside the line-up at Little Drakes. Oh ya, and don’t go around Pt. Conception, shit gets real, fast.
OTHER SWELL TIPS:
-There’s a threaded faucet by the south showers at the campground (above) so you can rinse your engine and toasty Billabong Furnace Wetsuit
-Even if you pay the $15 day use, or even have an annual park-pass, you must still pay the $8 launch fee, or inflict a $71.50 citation.
-Surprisingly there IS cell service along most of the coast. No need to get some military-grade satellite phone
-If the SWELL starts to fade, you have waay better chances to score waves over the hill at Jalama
Finding a campsite without reservations (and a boat) during a good SWELL is tough, but we stumbled upon some old friends on a Newport Beach Lifeguard reunion trip, and joined the party in the most prime beachfront tent site.
Friend of SWELL and manufacturer of the FREE SWELL STICKERS Josh from Tec Color Craft was spotted ripping right out front.
There’s is no better apres surf meal than Jalama Burger, and a brew of course
Santa Barbara Sunset, complete with Oil Derricks
…And for dessert, a camping classic that tastes WAAAY better than it looks
Campfire Banana Split
1) Cut out a 1″ wide section of the banana along inside of the curl.
2) Dig out a channel to make room for the marshmallows and chocolate.
3) Alternate a 1/2 marshmallow with 2 pieces of Hersheys chocolate through the rest of the banana.
4) Wrap with tin foil and put on the grill for 5-10 minutes. (You’ll want to pull one out around 5 minutes to check and make sure everything is melted but not burned.)
Waking up to rare A-frames breaking directly in front of the campground!
Many have tried, many have ended up in Lompoc Courthouse
Don’t forget to sample the local grapes in the Central Coast