Want to scratch that surfing itch without endangering your sea cred? Try Manresa State Beach, 14 miles south of Santa Cruz. It’s perfect for novice boarders: a stretch of state beach with good surf, yet shallow enough that you can stand while waiting for the right swell. Even better, it’s one of the least crowded beginner surf spots. So when you find yourself surfing backwards or chugging a snootful of saltwater, the only ones laughing will be the sea otters.
TIP: If you need some one-on-one instruction to catch your first wave, consider calling J.D. at Santa Cruz’s Shoreline Surf Shop. For $75 he’ll set you up with a beginner’s lesson. Price includes the lesson and all-day use of a surfboard and wet suit (don’t be a hero: the water’s 60 degrees).