tldr; surfing and tanning.
After our weekend away from civilization in Channel Islands National Park, we backtracked down the coast to Santa Monica, just north of LA. We found a great parking spot on a quiet residential street just a couple of blocks from the ocean and headed out to bike along a path winding along the beach. It was smooth, flat, and full of lots of interesting people-watching, my kind of bike ride!
After putting up our bikes, we headed to Koreatown for lunch. One of the things we were most excited about in the LA area was the food. Choi lived here a few years ago and had all sorts of great Korean restaurants for us to try.
Full from our lunch, we walked back along the beach past the bustling Santa Monica pier to Muscle Beach. There were incredibly athletic people everywhere; swinging on metal rings, walking across slack lines, throwing each other in the air in wild stunts, doing flips off of a bouncy ball half buried in the sand, and just overall demonstrating their physical prowess while having a blast at the same time. After doing a couple of pull-ups and playing on the rings, we left Muscle Beach humbled and inspired.
We spent the week working from a coast-side park. We went on walks and runs overlooking the ocean in the mornings and after work. We did a few workouts at muscle beach. We made pancakes in the morning. We tried lots of Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian Food. We also got to meet up with Nicole, one of my dear friends from high school.
Pretty shortly after arriving in LA, we found out that Planet Fitness showers were still closed in the county so we brought our shampoo and soap down to the beach after our workouts to take advantage of the outdoor beach showers. Once we got past the chilly, public nature of these showers, and the fact that we were wearing a swimsuit, they weren’t too bad!
While our general hygiene may have suffered a bit with the lack of a proper shower, we made up for it by going to the dentist for the first time since pre-pandemic days. The whole team at the dentist office we visited were intrigued by the idea of our nomadic lifestyle and asked us lots of questions between brushing and flossing our teeth.
On Thursday afternoon, Nicole met up with us to watch us embark on a new activity that we’d been anticipating for a while, surfing! We decided that youtube videos and practice would be a better use of our money than taking a formal lesson so we rented boards and wetsuits for a whole week.
Surfing was, as expected, pretty difficult. Nicole cheered us on from the beach, probably trying not to laugh as the measly 2-ft tall waves tossed us from our boards, dragged us down to the bottom, and spit us back out onto the sand.
After our first surfing session, we were excited, exhausted, and totally unprepared for our next challenge; fitting two 9-foot long surfboards and two soaking wet, sandy wetsuits into our 75 sq ft van. After about 20 minutes of pushing, shoving, and rearranging, we ended up using a leftover plank of wood I’d kept in the trunk “just in case” to create a makeshift shelf below our roof. We slid the boards onto this “shelf”, accidentally sprinkling salt and sand onto our bed and kitchen below. We hung the wetsuits on a bungee cord at the front of the van, and watched them slowly drip water onto a towel beneath them. While this setup wasn’t ideal, we embraced it.
We surfed after work every day and also on the weekends. After our first day of being pretty battered by the waves, we started to have more success, popping up more and more frequently and even riding the waves for a little bit.
Choi had always thought he’d enjoy surfing, and he loved it just as much as he thought he would. I, on the other hand, never been too keen on surfing since I have a pretty severe fear of sharks that some call irrational. After being forced to watch Soul Surfer by some kids I babysat while in high school, I usually spend a lot of my time in the ocean imagining what sorts of creatures are lurking below me (thanks to Grandmama for this terrifying video). However, once we paddled out into the water, I found that I didn’t even feel too nervous and just enjoyed the experience of trying something new.
While I’m not sure if we’ll take the leap of investing in surfboards of our own to lug around in our little van, we both loved surfing and want to try it more next time we find ourselves back in SoCal.
Santa Monica, we love your great food, miles of beaches, and perfect-for-beginners surfing. Along We Go!