For the rest of the journey through the US, the team had to split up. Martín stayed organizing things with his family in San Francisco and Tuti and Oli kept going south, driving through the iconic and magical Highway 1.
What can we say? California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream road trips are made of. It offers endless vistas overlooking the Pacific, with plenty of redwood trees to explore! The stretch we chose to do more calmly was the unspoiled coastline of Big Sur. And we did not regret it, just look at the pictures below!
Yet before we stopped for a week in Santa Cruz, in our opinion, the best beach town of the US. Santa Cruz has a deep-rooted surf culture. It is the place where the first surf session on the American mainland was documented. You literally breathe surf as they have plenty of consistent surf breaks, including the world-class breaks of Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point.
Today there are different threats to these waves and thus, to this surf town and its culture. Fortunately, there are organizations like Save the Waves Coalition working to address these issues not only in Santa Cruz but worldwide.
Save the Waves is an international non profit that works in coalition with diverse organizations dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems.
Their flagship program is “World Surf Reserves” (WSRs). It proactively identifies, designates and preserves outstanding waves, surf zones and their surrounding key environmental, cultural and economic attributes. WSRs represent a global network of designated surfing reserves that are managed, implemented, and protected by local communities. And Santa Cruz is one of these reserves!
The coordinator of the Santa Cruz Reserve is local pro-surfer and environmentalist Shaun Burns. With him we explored the area and learnt that one of the main threats of the reserve at the moment is sea level rise and, as a consequence, coastal erosion. If this continues to happen, it could end with the iconic wave he has surfed since he was a kid, Steamer Lane.
In the picture above you can see there is a “trident” which has formed, and there are caves that go under it. It was a calm day so we paddle into one of the caves with Shaun to check how deep it went. If this was to collapse it would be a disaster for this surf town. And this is not the only spot in Santa Cruz where this is happening. On the east side they have built “sea walls” to see if this helps with erosion. Yet this solution doesn’t seem ideal as it creates erosion in other areas.
Coastal erosion is a very difficult threat to address but Santa Cruz is an example of a town where local stewards, the government and organizations as Save the Waves are working on solutions to ensure future generations can still enjoy these waves. For us, it was eye-opening to see how the community is working together to protect this surf ecosystem, their culture and their playground! In the week we were there we joined two beach clean ups! Big clap for Santa Cruz and its community of stewards.
After this inspiring days it was time to drive, and drive, and drive until we met again with Martin and his family in San Diego before crossing to Mexico together!