If you prefer to let the wind help you catch the waves, you probably already know that Santa Cruz has some prize windsurfing and parasurfing locales. Beginning windsurfers vie with longboarders for space at Cowell’s, which sits right next to the City Wharf (stairs at West Cliff and Cowell Beach).
For a bigger breeze, head up West Cliff to Natural Bridges State Park (West Cliff Dr., www.parks.ca.gov, $6 parking). Natural Bridges offers the best spot to set up, plus restroom facilities and ample parking.
Serious sailors head farther north to Davenport Landing (Hwy. 1, 20 miles north of Santa Cruz). You’ll be able to discern that you’ve found the right rugged and windswept stretch of coast by the endless crowd of sailors and parasurfers out on the waves. Parking can be a bit haphazard here, but even if you’re just stopping by to watch, it can be worth your time since the sight of these athletes using both wind and waves to create ultra-fast rides is nothing short of amazing.
If you want to try your luck at windsurfing for the first time, contact Club Ed (831/464-0177, www.club-ed.com) to set up a lesson. They operate in the gentle breezes and small swells at Cowell’s, and make it easy for first-timers to gain confidence and have a great time.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition