Soft sand between your toes. A light ocean breeze and the bright sun’s warm caress against your back. Your beach towel awaiting your return as you catch a couple of cool waves in the shallows of the Great Pacific. You’re probably thinking, “Cool, Hawaii?” But I kid you not; this is a first-hand (and foot) experience of mine from earlier today.
Living in this little college-town definitely has its perks, and I’d be lying if I said having the Pacific Ocean in your backyard isn’t a huge one of them. Halfway through my first year at UCSB, I realized just how unique my experience here would be: when, again, in my life would I get the chance to live amongst my friends, earning a world-class education, while living practically on the beach? After this little epiphany, I stopped taking my location for granted, and began to actively (and at times obsessively) explore the myriad coastal delights surrounding me.
Pretty much any UCSB student walking on the street will know where Campus Point is; located right next to the larger on-campus residential complex (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Halls look out into the ocean), this beach is a favorite beginner’s surf spot for students and locals alike. I always like to visit the colorful tide pools near the southern end of the point, where it isn’t unusual to see squishy pink starfish during low tide (don’t touch!)
Some other popular beach access points stem from the famous Del Playa Drive, known to locals as DP, hugging the UCSB campus on one side and the ocean on the other. From Trop, this is the east way to get to the beach; when I’m really eager I walk out the door and keep walking southward until I hit DP, and then take the closest staircase down to sea. I can’t put into words how relieving and calming to see this wide expanse of water spread out in front of you, and there is something really comforting in the knowledge that the water is so close to escape to or enjoy. I often think of the ocean as this powerful protective entity that always has your back (in our case, literally!)
My latest coastal craze has been Sands Beach. Beginning at the end of DP, it extends up to Coal Oil Point, which is at the tip of a reserve dedicated to protecting the coastal ecosystem and its particularly threatened bird species, the Snowy Plover. This beach is further from the heart of IV and so often time is more pristine and less crowded than other beaches, and you’re most likely to see sunrise surfers here. There is also a trail alongside the beach, which makes it a picturesque and favorite spot for runners and yoga-doers alike. The latest fad has been bringing giant air-filled rafts to laze around in the sea with friends.
This only scratches the surface of the plentiful local seaside paradises; the list goes on and on. Additionally, as only a second year here at UCSB, I don’t pretend to know all the beaches around here, and am not a surfer in any consideration. But that’s the best part about it! Anyone here can enjoy and benefit from the beautiful beaches around us, swim or tan or jog or maybe even learn to surf. That’s my goal, and I still have two years here to look forward to. Who knows what they’ll bring!
Info on the Coal Oil Point Reserve: http://coaloilpoint.ucnrs.org/
UCSB Campus Map: http://www.aw.id.ucsb.edu/maps/ucsbmap.html