San Onofre: the surf history, the gentle rolling waves, the nuclear power plant. Stef, Annie, and Rebecca decided to take a much needed camping adventure down to San Onofre, California. It takes less than two hours to drive there from Los Angeles and we’ve made plenty of day trips but there’s something about sleeping and spending the day on the beach, from sunrise to sunset, that’s pretty incredible. San Onofre Surf Beach is located just north of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station which provides power to about 20 percent of the people in Southern California. When you’re surfing at the beach at San O, you can see the reactors in the distance. If you’ve never been there or never seen a picture, here’s a image for you: they look like two boobs. Really! And we pretty much surf out in front of it. Great. But we do it because San O is one of California’s greatest surf beaches. At spots called Old Man’s and Dogpatch, the waves break far out and you can get some of the longest rides in California. Definitely a longboard spot, shortboarders head up the beach to Trestles, so we all came armed with the longest board in our quiver.
Camping usually brings to mind images of a woody, quiet area giving you time to connect with friends and quietly meditate. Not this camp site. Literally running parallel to Highway 5, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, San Onofre camping is something unto itself. You don’t actually get to camp on the beach, but at a place called “Cliffs” which is about 2 miles south of the surf beach. Car camping, of which we are always fans, is taken to a whole new level. With two parking spots, 8 people and a 10 square foot dirt patch to call our own, there’s nothing at all luxurious about the campgrounds at San Onofre. The toilets flush—that’s about as cushy as it gets. We actually worried about the running water situation when we were driving down and learned that there were news reports of toxic runoff from the nearby nuclear power plant but we were assured that we would not be affected. Thankfully, the water in the sinks and bathrooms was running when we arrived and set up camp.
Packing six girls and one boy in two vehicles—a van and a car—with all of our boards, tents, sleeping bags, bag,s and coolers of food was the biggest challenge of the weekend. We arrived at about 10pm on a Friday night and popped our tents and rolled out our sleeping bags. Annie and Rebecca were the more experienced campers of the group (Anne brought two tents). The rest of us followed their leads. Stef hadn’t camped since she was a kid and bought a battery-operated lantern on an impulse but forgot to buy batteries for it. The nice guys in the camp to our left let us borrow a lantern while we set up the tents. We were camped out on the dirt between the nice but noisy frat boys and the stay up until 4am doing shots crowd. Guess they weren’t surfing in the morning. There was time to start a fire and sip one glass of wine before we fell into bed. Not sure if it was the drunk college kids or the Surfline train roaring through that kept us awake, but what little sleep we had was ended at 6am when we packed up the car and drove down to Old Man’s. The reason that San Onofre is such a popular spot is that they only let a certain number of cars drive in. After that you have to queue up and wait your turn until a car exits. Since we were already down there so early, we drove right in and set up camp and claimed two big picnic tables under the leafy palapas right near the outdoor shower and bathrooms.
We made up for the sleep the next day on the beach, when we napped between surf sessions and meals. There’s really nothing like napping on the beach. We spent the whole day at the beach (no reason to go back to the campsite). The surf was great. We got a little southern swell and had the occasional head high set. Everyone took some great long rides and we wont mention the part where Rebecca hit her friend Maria on the head with her board on a late take off – oops!
We had enough food to feed more than our 8 members – which we did — offering our grateful neighbors hotdogs and snacks. We all contributed to the bounty and ate ourselves silly. Stef brought the Baby Q grill (one of her best purchases ever) and we grilled sausages and hotdogs for dinner. Annie brought grilled veggies from her garden and our friend, Maria, made sure everything was gourmet. Hummus and tabouli salads and fresh baked pitas from the Greek guy at the farmer’s market. Back at the camp at night we feasted on S’mores, including ones made with Nutella spread instead of chocolate. Yum.
The next day, we packed up and headed back to the beach for some more surf time before we headed home. The waves were less consistant but we figured all that paddle time had to burn off a few of the calories we consumed. Right?
Wish you were here,
Rebecca, Stef, and Annie