by Ken McAlpine
Surfing is dreaming and Ventura is a dream. Pure and simple. As surfing should be. In Ventura, the waves are the show. And oh, what a show.
“If you’re a surfer, Ventura is a spectacular place with point breaks, beach breaks, and reef breaks that are uncrowded and fun for all levels of beachgoers and surfers,” says Mary Osborne, champion longboarder. She has some perspective, having traveled the world as a professional surfer and grown up surfing in Ventura.
Traveling to the world’s most beautiful beaches is a dream, too, but there is one constant to every Osborne trip. “I can’t wait to come home,” she laughs. “It’s my favorite place.”
Ventura is saltwater schizophrenia at its best, a kaleidoscope of waves you have to surf to believe. Nowhere will you find more variety of waves; more different kinds of joy.
You’ll find feather-soft, tumbling waves at Mondo’s (a great place to learn). Rides so long your head spins and your legs turn to jelly at California Street — better known as C Street, since all things surfer are streamlined, even vocabulary, so that surfers can get in the water faster.
Powerful waves, blue-green and dragon-roaring, crash at reefs and beaches you’ll have to find for yourself, because that’s part of the surfing experience.
With full and honest disclosure, the waves don’t always break beneath sun-kissed skies. And those winter mornings, when raw winds sweep down off the snow-capped Ojai mountains grooming waves as big as barns, may be the best days of all.
You can read this story, but it would be better if you lived it.
Surfers are an intelligent lot. But if you ask them to explain their addiction, they falter, and you can almost see their minds wandering to pleasant places far away from your annoying question.
“It’s really hard to describe the joy of surfing,” says Osborne. “Impossible, really.”
Bobbing in the water, the horizon tells you dreams until a living dream rolls your way. And then you paddle and swing to your feet, and the world slides away and there is nothing but the moment.
Every surfer knows the feeling. Everyone else will have to imagine what it’s like to wake up on Christmas morning and see Santa Claus sitting at the foot of your bed. A childish metaphor is appropriate, for surfers are children at heart. And the heart is responsible for all the best things. And it’s not just about the waves. Sit with friends in gold satin waters as the sun sets at C Street — shadow pelicans swinging low, kiss of salt on your lips — and you will be touched by happy madness.
“Ventura is just an amazing place,” she says quietly, her mind possibly already drifting. “I don’t plan on leaving here any time soon.”
Ken McAlpine loves salt water. A lifelong surfer, he is also the author of “Islands Apart: A Year on the Edge of Civilization,” a story of time spent alone at Channel Islands National Park.