Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surf's Up, Or Not

The heat wave that hit the Bay Area last week spared Santa Cruz. While most of the region was blistering hot (even in San Francisco temperatures shot up to 97 degrees) Santa Cruz was comfortable, in the low 90s with a cool ocean breeze.
But Thursday, the peak of the heat wave, wasn't a great day for surfers at the legendary Steamer Lane surfing spot off of West Cliff Drive. The waters were relatively calm and there were long waits between waves.
On the cliff above Steamer Lane, I poked around the red brick Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse (above), the home of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. This is a tiny one-room museum -- the first surfing museum in the world when it opened in 1986 -- but it's packed with fascinating stuff. Particularly interesting are the photographs of Hawaiian royalty who introduced the sport to mainlanders at Santa Cruz and the long wooden surfboards used in the early 1900s.
The big news in Santa Cruz these days is the renovation and re-opening of the Dream Inn, the multi-story hotel on West Cliff Drive overlooking Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Cowell Cove, where thousands of surfers learned the sport. Expect a much-needed stylish boutique hotel, operated by Joie de Vivre Hospitality, the dynamic San Francisco hotel company, to emerge in June, just in time for the peak season.

I headed a couple of miles north of the Dream Inn, along cliff-hugging West Cliff Drive, to Natural Bridges State Park. The park (photo above) is always full of schoolchildren on field trips to learn about the migration of the 100,000 plus Monarch butterflies that spend the winter clustered on the eucalyptus trees here. I've never made it for butterfly season but the exhibits at the visitors center inspired me to mark my calendar for a visit sometime next November or December.
That's months away. Until then, there's lots of summer to enjoy.

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