A Smoother Ride Than Santa


In December 2012 we’d decided that for once we would forego the annual round turkey, mince pies, tree decorating and family get togethers and try doing Christmas abroad. As we’d had a such a great time in 2009 we plumped a return to America to see what a Stateside Yuletide was like. With the vastness of the country and our limited time we again chose the South West as our destination, mostly because we wanted to have some sunshine and warmth and also because skiing has never been our thing.

This time our itinerary took in Vegas, Grand Canyon (stunning in the snow), Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, San Diego and one of the beach cities in southern Orange County called San Juan Capistrano (SJC), where we had 5 nights covering the Christmas period. The parks and cities are covered in more details in the Travels section, but for now, the key bit to the surf story is in SJC.

SJC was an excellent place to be based as it enabled us to get to Anaheim for Disneyland, The Irvine Centre where we watched the Hobbit in their IMAX theatre and trips up and down the Pacific Coast Highway as far as Long Beach in the LA ‘burbs. We stopped in Newport Beach, took the cool car ferry over to the boardwalk for ice-creams and were disappointed (but not all that surprised) that there was no sign of the Bluth Frozen Banana Stand.

The more we drove along the PCH, the more we wanted to get in the water and practice the skills we’d learnt in the summer, so one evening on a cruise back towards SJC we stopped at Surf N Paddle in Laguna Beach and enquired about boards, wetsuits and whether it was safe for novices to go out at this time of year. The chap running the shop was very helpful and said that there was good swell coming in the day after next which would be fine for Alex and me, but probably not for Evie and Harriet given their age and size.

A couple of days later the two of us duly turned up, got kitted out and were allotted foamboards that the owner thought appropriate. Mine was quite a bit bigger than the one I’d used in the Summer in Cornwall, but I didn’t say anything, as after all, he was the expert and this was his turf (or surf…) We hit the beach and, taking note of the warning about the few underwater boulders in the immediate vicinity, headed near to where there were a couple of other guys out on the water. Standing on the sand, the waves didn’t seem that big and we thought this might not be a great success, however once in the ocean, it was clear we were dealing with a very different level of power. Straightaway Alex caught what we thought was a small wave, which actually took him all the way back to the beach, it was as if he’d never been out of the water. It took me a while to get used to the larger board and so consequently I caught fewer breaks, but I still caught enough to more than fill my quota of woops and high fives.

Two hours later, having ridden back to the beach again and then found I was too tired to paddle back out, we decided to call it a day. Weary, but elated we headed back up to Surf N Paddle to return our gear and it was only after we’d had a cheery Merry Christmas as we were leaving to shop that we remembered it was Christmas Eve – we doubted Santa would enjoy his ride that night as much as we had that day.