Words Corinne Evans Jones | Photos Megan Hemsworth

I have a list of ‘must surf’ waves and corners of the world that I long to discover. California was one such destination. So when I got invited to go to the Sunshine State with Visit California, I knew this would be my chance to tick Cali off my list. My road trip buddy and surf photographer was Megan Hemsworth, and we were beyond excited to go on a mini road trip together.

Our journey began at the world-famous Huntington Beach, Southern California. Famous in the surfing world for being the home of the US Open of Surfing Competition, Huntington Beach feels rich in surf culture, with surf shops, resorts and restaurants stretching out along the oceanfront. The area was the perfect introduction to the SoCal lifestyle, and staying in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, we felt like surf royalty – waking up for the sunrise, surfing off the pier and dining in exquisite restaurants.

Our next stop on the road trip was Hermosa Beach. And it fast became clear why Californians love living here so much – spending all their free time on the beach, surfing, playing a game of Volleyball and soaking up the sunshine. Is there a better way to live? I loved it. Our guide talked about all the movies that had been filmed in the area, making it all the more apparent that we were in LA – the home of the rich and famous, where movie and music careers are born. Our time in Hermosa was short-lived, and soon enough, we were back on the road heading to Venice Beach.

We had no idea what to expect from Venice Beach, but as soon as we arrived at Hotel Erwin, I knew we were about to experience a different side to California. Greeted by drinks served on the rooftop, we soaked in the breath-taking views over Venice Beach, spotting the Hollywood sign off in the distance. Venice Beach has a real buzz about it. The beach was full of people watching the sunset, and just a stones throw from the beach is a skate park that any skater would dream of. The entire place was cool and quirky, and felt like nowhere I’d ever been before.

An early start saw us heading to a wave that I’ve longed to surf for many years: Malibu Point. With only a small swell rolling through, the school instructors from AquaSurf arranged longboards for us to surf. The set up at Malibu is dreamy. As a regular footer and someone who favours the smaller waves, I was in my element – catching wave after wave, sharing the line up with locals and travellers. The atmosphere in the surf was friendly. I’m sure on the bigger days it can get a little more chaotic, but at that moment, it felt good. I enjoyed cruising along the small, open face, attempting to cross-step (longboard is not my forte, although I love it all the same).

With our brief stop in Malibu coming to an end, it was time to pick up the hire car from Hertz and for the ‘real’ road trip to begin. We were venturing up the coast to Ventura, so it was awesome to see another fun right-hand point as we parked up. Much like Malibu, the vibe in the water was relaxed. It had more of a community vibe, with families out in the surf and the most female surfers I’d seen sharing the line-up. There is a rawness to the place, with huge kelp patches to paddle through, and a less commercial vibe than the other spots I’d surfed. The swell was only a little bigger up the coast, so again, I surfed a longboard. As the sun began to set, I dropped into 2ft peelers and glided past the palm trees, which stretched out along the promenade. Ventura was my scene; it felt a little like home, and I loved how many women and girls of all ages were surfing. There was a real community feel to the place.

After Ventura, we were back on the open road, with Morro Bay plugged into the sat nav. The landscape in California is fantastic; the roads stretch along open beaches, hugging the mountains. Morro Bay turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Morro Rock stands at 576-feet tall, perched at the edge of the harbour. It is a CA state Historic Landmark and iconic to the area. Our hotel, The Landing, overlooked the bay, set back in the sleepy streets.

Morro Bay felt ‘small town’, but in a perfect way. In many ways, it reminded me of Norwegian fishing towns that I had visited in the past. With seals and sea otters playing in the calm waters, the bay felt rugged and untamed – untouched by the modern world. We didn’t score great waves here, but it’s somewhere I would love to come back to. Even if it’s just to visit the Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant again, which served the best locally caught fish we had on the trip.

Then we were on the final descent. Heading inland to watch the Fresh Water Pro at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch was a pinch-me a moment. Seeing the world surfing elite battle it out on a manmade wave, situated in the middle of nowhere, is something I’d never thought I’d do. The Surf Ranch feels like a surfers’ playground, and it was awesome to kickback in the Visit California cabana and watch the pros shred the perfect waves.
The final part of our road trip was to Santa Cruz – an area that has always appealed to me. The iconic theme park and casino right on the beach, the thrift shops that make you want to bring an empty suitcase next time you visit, and the world-famous waves that stretch up and down the coast. Sadly it was flat when we visited, but the culture and atmosphere of the city made up for that.

California captivated me. There are waves to suit all abilities and something for everyone. It left me wanting more and has got me planning my next trip out there. If you haven’t been, you must. I know that I will be forever California dreaming.

How to get around

Hire a car from Hertz: www.hertz.co.uk 
For an epic road trip behind the wheel of an iconic American vehicle, check out Hertz American Collection. For more ‘Surfing California’ road trip inspiration, head to Hertz American Road Trip Planner.

Where to eat

Huntington Beach:
Pacific Hideaway, www.pacifichideawayhb.com
Ola Mexican Kitchen, www.olamexican.com
Watertable, www.watertablehb.com
Hermosa Beach: Playa Hermosa, www.playahermosaoyster.com
Venice Beach: Butcher’s Daughter, www.thebutchersdaughter.com
Malibu: Malibu Beach Inn, www.malibubeachinn.com
Ventura: Fluid State Beer, www.fluidstatebeer.com
Morro Bay: Tognazzini’s Dockside, www.morrobaydockside.com
Santa Cruz: Jack O’Neill’s, www.jackoneillrestaurant.com

Where to stay

Huntington Beach: Hyatt Regency, www.huntingtonbeach.com

Venice Beach: Hotel Erwin, www.hotelerwin.com

Morro Bay: The Landing, www.thelandingmb.com