Adam and I had a long talk last night at our Grand Canyon campsite, and we both agree that the premier highlight of this trip has been living and surfing in Southern California. I don’t mean to diminish any of our other experiences by saying this; each place that we’ve ventured has been uniquely inspiring and perspective-changing, and I wouldn’t sacrifice any of these memories for more time in the waves (maybe the motels). Yet when I look back on the last month and a half and think about when I’ve been the happiest, I envision paddling back through the breakwater after a long ride down the face of a wave: the feeling of sun and salt on my skin, my muscles aching, and my blood pumping with adrenaline and endorphins. Few things in my life can match the sense of euphoria that surfing has given me.
The arid desert landscape of Joshua Tree had filled us with nostalgia for the ocean, so we decided to return to the coast after three days – this time to a new hostel in San Diego that Tijs had recommended to us a week earlier. I was not expecting this new place to meet the high bar set by House of Trestles, and so it was with surprise and delight that I learned that our new residence bordered a beach and came with many of the same amenities that had made Trestles special. It’s called Beach Bungalow, and besides offering surf-able waves right in the backyard, it also comes with free breakfast/dinner, daily beach and nightlife activities and was filled with an incredible group of young travelers when we arrived – again for $30 a night.
Here’s the sunset view from the back porch. To the left, out of view, is a beer pong table and a painted wall mural. In front of the glass wall is a busy beach boardwalk, and then next to that is the beach itself. During the day, the beach and boardwalk are packed with people tanning, surfing, playing volleyball etc. Within throwing distance on both sides of the hostel are beach-side restaurants, souvenir vendors, bars and, behind us, the lively streets of downtown San Diego.
There were probably close to 20 other guests at the hostel from all around the world, all similar in age to me. It was an even bigger crowd than Trestles, and Adam and I both got the sense that this crowd consisted of more beach-going partiers than the surf-is-life folk at Trestles. This was fine by me; I loved the laid-back vibe of the people that I met and it was fun to be one of the better surfers comparatively for the first time since reaching California.
The Beach Bungalow crowd were some of my favorite people that I met on this whole trip: There was Marcus and Alex: two Aussie blokes who were always loud and fun and referred to beer as “piss;” A french guy named Peter and a Portugese guy named Luis, both of whom were our age and worked at the hostel – they organized daily beach activities and nightly bar excursions; Three kids from LA: Pausha, Joel and Spencer who arrived late on the last night and proceeded to trounce everyone in beer pong; then several other people from places like Israel, Germany and Pakistan whose names I forgot but who always traveled around with us whenever we would do anything. And lastly there was Tijs, who reappeared in San Diego with guitar in hand after we had said our goodbyes at Trestles. All throughout our stay, we stayed in one big group – eating together, hitting the beach, playing volleyball and going out at night. It was like being with my friends in college all over again, except in a warmer setting and without the work. (I always regret not taking more pictures, but I feel like taking my phone out too often takes me away from the moment itself – and I also don’t like being the guy who always asks for pictures either)
I had heaven on earth for three days. I would wake up to the sound of Tijs playing guitar on the street, eat a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee at a large communal table with my hostel mates and then throw on a wetsuit and go surfing with Adam for a couple of hours. Most of the other people were just learning to surf, so they would stay in the shallows while we went out deeper to try and surf with the locals. For lunch, we would pull our wetsuits down to our waists and walk along the boardwalk to food – there were some excellent food options and then one unfortunate place where I waited 45 minutes for the worst Mexican food I’d ever eaten. We spent the afternoons either surfing or participating in hostel activities. One of my favorite memories of Beach Bungalow was playing beach volleyball with Adam, Marcus, Alex, Peter, Luis and some others for hours until sunset: we played three long games and heckled one another until it was dark and we were too tired to continue. Then we would return to the hostel, eat a free dinner prepared by one of the hostel workers and rally ourselves in preparation for a night out.
I thought I’d take a minute here and respond to some of my family members who worry that I talk too much about drinking in these posts: almost all of my favorite memories on this trip have been alcohol-free, but there are times when sharing drinks and going out has allowed me to bond with the people who have made this trip so incredible. The nights that I spent playing pong or going out to bars with the Beach Bungalow crew are prime examples; drinking itself is never the end game for me.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about the best night out I’ve had on this entire trip. It was the night after Thanksgiving and Adam’s and my last night in San Diego before heading back in the direction of Colorado. We were exhausted from having spent the holiday in Tijuana (I’ll talk about that in the next post), and I almost stayed in until the Aussies convinced me otherwise. The Beach Bungalow crew had rented a party bus to ferry people downtown, and the majority of my crew was all on board. (Besides Adam, who proclaimed himself too tired and opted to remain at the hostel. Turns out, he had an awesome night hanging out with the three LA guys who also stayed – they all rallied and went out to bars near the beach). Along the way, the party bus picked up guests from three other hostels in San Diego that were owned by the same company. In total, there were close to thirty of us on a bus that was decked out with lights and music; there was dancing and covert drinking all around, and my crew quadrupled in size as we arrived at the bar scene.
Our giant crowd of Hostelers seemed to take over every bar that we went into. Since everyone knew each other, or had met on the bus, there was little awkwardness or formalities – people took to the dance floor and let loose. We all took turns buying rounds for each other, which allowed me to spend very little and resulted in a lot of fun toasts. As the night went on, I found myself losing the inhibitions that would normally have kept me from dancing – not due to alcohol, but because the dance floor was filled with other people moving as ridiculously as I was. Nobody judged; dancing just made everyone feel closer. I remember one scene in particular: dancing in a large circle with the Aussies, Peter, Luis and some beautiful UCSB babes from another hostel. I was dancing to songs that I normally would have been too embarrassed to listen to in front of other people and twirling one of the girls around as we both yelled and laughed. This probably makes me sound like more of a suave and sure-footed dancer than I really am – don’t be fooled.
I danced, flirted and laughed until 2 am when the party bus came to take everyone home. The drive back provided everyone with another 30 minutes of dancing and partying, and things got even more raucous and fun now that everyone was used to making a food out of themselves in front of everybody.
The goodbyes were bittersweet, and leaving California the next day was one of the saddest parts of this trip for me. I could have stayed for so much longer, and would have if there hadn’t been more to see on this trip before returning to Colorado. I tried to convince myself that three weeks surfing the west coast was enough, and it was time to move on. The truth is, however, that my time on the coast has been my favorite out of all of the places I’ve been to thus far; I’ve resolved to return for a much longer period of time when the opportunity arises.