CityPASS Home » City Traveler Blog
City Traveler Blog
Does surfing call to mind hip youngsters with sun-bleached hair and too much time on their hands? Or big-wave daredevils with an apparently malfunctioning fear factor? Actually, much like mid-life professionals on Harleys, a surprising number of surfers take up the sport long after they’ve left their wild years behind.
If the thought of hanging 10 has always appealed to you, Southern California’s more than 300 miles of sunny coastline make the perfect place to bring that dream to life. Anyone who’s reasonably fit and can confidently swim in the ocean can learn to surf. Schools up and down the coast offer instruction for surfers of all ages and abilities, and the wave options range from mildly thrilling to seriously intense.
Many schools promise that you’ll ride a wave on your first day, but it’s not to rush things. You should practice on dry land until you master the pop-up, which takes you from the prone position to your feet in one fluid movement. Without this essential skill, you may never get off your belly, unless it’s to flip headfirst over your board into the ocean. So ignore the smirks and your flaming face, and repeat this move over and over and over again on the beach until you can pop up and position yourself correctly on your board without thinking. When you’re actually catching a wave, you’ll have other things on your mind.
Short of being a superhuman athlete, you’ll catch your first waves inside the break, close to shore. Practice on these whitewater rollers until you can stand up and ride time after time. Yes, you will feel ridiculous again, but this too shall pass.
The busy season for Southern California surf schools begins in May, after the winter swell backs off, though you can arrange private lessons at any time of the year. The still chilly Pacific warms up as the summer progresses, with ocean temperatures reaching into the 70s by August and even higher from September through November. Still, a light wetsuit can extend the time you can comfortably remain in the water. May and June might call for a 3/2 full wetsuit, while a light 1 mm shortie can work fine from July into the fall. You can rent suits at most area surf shops, along with surfboards. And surf schools often provide all the necessary gear with your lessons.
Beginners can launch introductory surf odysseys from towns up and down the coast. If you’re the DIY-type, look for forgiving waves for your first efforts at San Onofre State Park in San Clemente; at Santa Monica; north of the pier in Huntington Beach; at El Porto in El Segundo; along the Encinitas-to-Cardiff stretch of Pacific Coast Highway 101; and at La Jolla Shores in San Diego. But seriously, consider taking lessons. Trained instructors can explain technique in easy-to-follow steps. Plus, they’ll dial you into the important surf etiquette so you can feel confident in the lineup by yourself.
With hundreds of surf schools and camps operating in Southern California, the hardest part about getting started may be choosing an instructor. A tiny sample of surf schools includes the Santa Monica-based Surf Academy, which offers single and multi-day private and group lessons for women, children and 50+ adults in locations throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties. Corky Carroll’s Surf School, a family-owned and operated business, can introduce you to the sport at Bolsa Chica near Huntington Beach, then schedule follow-up lessons at their surf camp in Nosara, Costa Rica. Highly rated on Yelp, the San Diego Surf School south of La Jolla can get the whole family in on the action with group or private lessons. And in Encinitas, Southern California’s representative on the “National Geographic” list of World’s 20 Best Surf Towns, Leucadia Surf School teaches beginners at Moonlight Beach, regarded as having the best beginner waves in the San Diego region.
One warning: Like most adrenaline-charged sports, surfing can be addictive. You may find yourself repeatedly forgoing the trip to see family in favor of a surf vacation. Perhaps you could entice them to join you in Southern California, where, after getting your feet wet at surf school, you can all pay a visit to Mickey and his buddies at Disneyland, take a ride through Jurassic Park at Universal Studios Hollywood, and get up close and personal with killer whales at SeaWorld San Diego; all three attractions are included in Southern California CityPASS.
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Rockefeller Center lately, you may have noticed something new that’s just about impossible not to notice – nine collosal human-shaped stone figures by the Swiss-born, New York-based artist Ugo Rondinone. The 16-to-20-foot tall figures, weighing up to 30,000 pounds each, are on view as part of Rondinone's public art exhibit Human Nature, which opened April 23 at Rockefeller Center and will be there through June 7.
Human Nature is a stark contrast to its highly developed architectural surroundings in Midtown Manhattan. The irregular surfaces of the stone are left bare, while the human figure is represented as a simple but imposting composition, defined by its towering legs, massive torso and boulder-like head.
To create these nine unique figures, the artist quarried massive bluestone slabs, leaving their surfaces as they were found: heavy and course, scored by quartz veins, and marked by wind, weather and erosion. The stones were then rough-cut into blocks and stacked on top of each other to resemble the most recognizable features of the human form.
These mythical yet commanding figures currently reside in the plaza where the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is displayed each December; visitors are free to walk beneath and among the post-and-lintel structures formed by their massive legs and shoulders.
You can read more about the exhibit here.
Ugo Rondinone: Human Nature is presented by Nespresso and organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer. Additional support is provided by Pro Helvetia.
Edgy. Alternative. Hippy. Avant-garde. Grungy. Eclectic. Indie. Funky. If that sounds like your idea of a fun place, plan to spend a day in Atlanta’s Little Five Points. (And if your tastes are firmly rooted in the conventional, consider a visit to the Botanical Gardens instead.)
Little Five Points isn’t so much a destination as it is a neighborhood. Located a few miles east of the city’s downtown, “Little Five” or L5P (as the locals call it) is the hub of the Southeast’s alternative scene. Originally a commercial shopping district for the adjacent neighborhoods of Inman Park and Candler Park, over the last several decades this convergence of several streets has become home to bohemians, hippies, artists and musicians. It’s where those who enjoy all things “indie” come to shop, eat, and be entertained – whether by one of the area’s alternative theaters, or by watching all the interesting L5Pers walk by.
The shops of Little Five are truly unique and eclectic. You can find vintage and used clothes at Rag-o-Rama, The Clothing Warehouse, Ambrose Vintage, and Psycho Sisters, while Cherry Bomb and Wish are a hipster’s fashion paradise. Book lovers will want to check out two indie bookstores, A Capella (fiction and political works) and Charis (feminist and lesbian works). New-age shop Crystal Blue sells healing crystals, incense, meditation supplies, spirituality books and the like. Abbadabba’s footwear is about as trendy and edgy as shoes can get. And no shopping trip to L5P would be complete without visiting one of its retro record stores; Criminal Records and Wax n’ Facts both offer used vinyl records and new and used CDs.
There are also plenty of great dining choices. On Moreland Avenue, the hand-thrown, generously topped slices at Savage Pizza are craved by locals and tourists alike. If inexpensive ethnic food’s your thing, Little Five is your place: for Tex-mex and Mexican, try the Tijuana Garage or El Myr; for Mediterranean, try Ali Baba; for Indian, Planet Bombay and Niramish; and for Thai, check out Thai 5. If you’re just looking for some great pub fare, Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, The Porter Beer Bar, Brewhouse Café and Little 5 Corner Tavern all serve it up. All that aside, Little Five’s most well-known restaurant, The Vortex, is probably the one restaurant you shouldn’t miss. Actually, it’s the one place you can’t miss: the entrance is a 20-foot high laughing skull with psychedelic eyes. Enter through its gaping mouth and find out why The Vortex has been awarded “Best Burger” in Atlanta (as well as “Best Veggie Burger,” if that’s how you roll) many times over.
If you’re looking for entertainment, Little Five is home to some of the best venues in Atlanta. The plays featured by the well-known Horizon Theatre Company tell stories of contemporary Southern life, while 7 Stages offers diverse and thought-provoking dramas. For musical performances, the Variety Playhouse, a renovated movie theater, showcases some of the country’s best indie acts – The Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, The Psychedelic Furs — on tour. The Star Bar and Five Spot both offer alternative and cutting-edge local performers.
What else? A health food co-op (Sevananda), a tattoo parlor (Sacred Heart Tattoo), a junk shop (Junkman’s Daughter), a comedy club (Dad’s Garage), a juice & smoothie bar (Arden’s Garden), a hookah bar (Hookah Hookup), a wig shop (Libertine), and a head shop (Forty Two Degrees South), among many other interesting and funky shops.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be in town a weekend or two before Halloween, don’t miss the Little Five Halloween Festival and Parade, where about 35,000 people come each year to enjoy great food, music, and one of the best Halloween parades in the country.
Follow our City Traveler blog for up-to-date, budget-friendly news and advice on the top activities, attractions, food, transportation and more in some of the most outstanding cities in the world.