Summertime is for splashing in refreshing, salty waters; soft, warm sand between your toes; and the summer sun beating down overhead. Summer time is for beaches. And Santa Barbara and the surrounding area have some pretty amazing beaches. Last weekend, Kierstin and I epitomized summertime in a variety of ways, first by enjoying some of the local sandy waterfronts.
Our friend Sophie was staying at a beach house in Carpinteria that her family had rented for the week. The Mermaid House, as it was called, was a beautiful, roomy home adorned to appropriately fit its name. Inside were polished hardwood floors and a kitchen with new granite countertops, which connected the dining room to a white wooden deck. The spacious deck had concrete stairs leading straight to the relatively untouched sands on an expansive, private beach. The house and all its neighbors also had fire pits right on shore, perfect for roasting s’mores or just chatting with friends and family, the sound of ocean waves lapping nearby.
Daniel and Sophie convinced Kierstin and I to drive to the beach house before attending to our Friday night plans. Hurricane Marie has been bringing amazing waves into the area, and the monstrous ocean peaks that are currently all over California news stations were just starting last weekend. Daniel and I spent late Friday evening sprinting full speed toward the waves rolling in, slapping our boards of carbon fiber and foam onto shallow waters and jumping on to let the surf take us in. The storm presented some of the best waters for skimboarding that we had seen in a while, but Kierstin, Daniel, and I cut this beach trip short to accommodate for our other weekend plans.
Summertime is also for finger-food dinners with entertainment in the park, thinly cut turkey, salami, and pepperoni stacked onto thick slices of sharp cheddar or spicy pepper jack and a cracker sandwiching the meats and cheeses on each side. Last year, we learned about the Santa Barbara Courthouse Summer Film Series presented by UCSB’s Art and Lectures, where a giant inflatable screen is used to show free flicks for movie-going picnickers on blankets and low-back chairs. We moved here just in time last year to catch Strangers on a Train, the last showing for the Alfred Hitchcock series of movies. This year’s theme was silent comedies, featuring black-and-white cinema starring Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin. The movies were even accompanied by live music; instead of the sound that came with the movies, a pianist jammed out improvised tunes to fit the scenes. Last Friday was the last movie at the courthouse for this summer, and we rushed over from the beach house to enjoy the mild Santa Barbara summer night and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.
Summertime is for sleeping under the stars, tucked into a sleeping bag sometimes with a thin tent providing shelter from the elements. Sophie wanted Kierstin and me to come back to the beach house on Friday night. Or maybe she didn’t. And Kierstin wanted to go, too. Or maybe she didn’t. They both kept waffling on whether or not they wanted us to come/go to the beach house. Kierstin and I got in the car to leave, circled the block when we decided we weren’t going, and then headed back toward the freeway when we changed our minds again. I was glad we did; we ended up night skimming, and I pitched a tent right on the beach.
There are very few places in California where you can legally camp on the beach right on the sand. And the number of places where you camp pitch your tent where the tide could rise approaches zero (and for good reason). The beach house was on a private beach though where no one would care where Simba and I slept. Throwing caution to the wind (not really; I checked the tides and saw that they were low for the morning), I made camp right on the shore. Kierstin chose the warm comfort of a nice bed inside, but Simba and I slept right on the sand with the flap of the door facing the salty waves crashing 20 feet away. I could see why people use sound devices to put themselves to sleep; the gentle ocean sounds quickly lulled me to sleep on my bed of soft sand. Waking up with the sandy coast as my front yard was an incredible experience.
Summertime is for watersports; boats and boards speeding through wakes and waves. In addition to skimboarding this weekend, Daniel and I donned our best yacht club polos and Sperry boat shoes and hopped aboard Sassy. Sassy is a 33-foot sailboat that Daniel has been sailing on for the past year. Daniel sailed for two years up and down the Pacific and met a few people along the way, including a sailmaker who introduced him to the owner of Sassy. Every Wednesday, the Santa Barbara Yacht Club holds open regattas that Sassy and Daniel have been racing in. The local sailing club was hosting another regatta last Saturday, and before Daniel moved to Berkeley for school, he wanted to participate in one last race. I got to tag-along.
We hoisted the main sail and scrambled to the starting line just as the horn blared at 11 am on Saturday morning to signal the beginning of the race. Daniel and one of the boat’s owners, Porter, were manning the jib, the smaller sail near the front. The rest of us had minor jobs, but since I was as green as the seaweed below, I was mostly functioning as weight. I might be biased, but the keel of the boat is very important. Whenever the jib was switched to a different side of the boat (called a tack), the crew had to jump to the opposite side to keep the boat tilted at a certain angle. Therefore, it seems like the dead weight (the job that I had) is extremely valuable. I was given a few other responsibilities; when we were hoisting the sails, I fed some lines through the mast and on our first tack, I led the jib across the stern to avoid tangling it in cables. My lack of experience showed through though, as I bumped my head on lines, cables, and the mast more times than most. (I think the rest of the crew ran into things a total of zero times. I was up to six by the end of the trip.
When we were riding our bikes to the harbor, I told Daniel tongue-in-cheek that I had seen red skies the night before, a good omen for sailors as the saying goes. Tacking back and forth, catching strong drafts of wind, made it feel like we had Mother Nature aboard, guiding us through choppy waters, and even though I hadn’t seen even a touch of amber the night before, it seemed it was a perfect day for sailing. We were just a 33-foot boat in a vast, deep blue ocean, but we were conquering the sea, chugging along with the cliffs of Santa Barbara portside and the oil rigs and Channel Islands starboard. We passed boat after boat, until we were nearly at the front of the entire race with only the 68-foot Taxi Dancer and the 48-foot Radio Flyer cruising ahead out of our reach. Eventually, we found a great position in the wind, and I learned firsthand the etymology of “smooth sailing”. Zooming along at five-and-a-half knots until the finish line (fast for a sailboat, even though I could probably run faster than that), we dangled our feet off the side of the boat over the sapphire sea, tangled kelp, and tiny jellies floating in colonies on the surface. Sailing regattas have handicaps based on boat size, type, and modifications in each class, and after calculating all of these, we ended up happily earning third place in the race from Santa Barbara’s harbor to Goleta State Beach.
Summertime is for bonfires; a warm, fiery pit for roasting marshmallows and enjoying the company of friends. On Saturday, we returned to the beach house for tri-tip dinner, more skimboarding in the sunset, and beach volleyball. The first evening was foggy, but this night the sun set in the west just over the jutting shores of Santa Barbara. We all got our fill of succulent slices of tri-tip, tangy barbeque beans, and crunchy green salad. Daniel and I rode the waves until we were too tired to carry our boards. Then, we watched the tail end of a tight game of volleyball before regaining our energy and joining in. Finally, when it got too dark to see, Sophie started a fire, and we all gathered around to share each other’s company and relax on the seashore. The neighbors next door were having a party of their own, with caterers and live entertainment. They even lit up the night, literally, by sending sky lanterns toward the shining stars above. They lit candles attached to a small, paper hot air balloon and released them over the ocean; a pleasant spectacle to behold while sitting oceanside around the fire.
Summertime is for camping alongside a shimmering lake; for cold glasses of tart lemonade; for frothy mugs of creamy root beer floats; for melting popsicles and sticky hands; for charcoal smells of barbeques; for the welcoming shade of canopied trees; for cuddling in the backseat at drive-in movies; for splashing and swimming in pools; for reading books in shaded parks; for the thrill of amusement parks; for playing with panting puppies in green grassy fields; for long days and late sunsets and more time with friends and family. Summertime is for relaxing. That’s what we did for the rest of our weekend: relaxed. After an exciting first two days, Kierstin and I took care of a few chores on Sunday, and then did nothing but watch TV and have a couple cold drinks. And it was another perfect summertime moment.