El Capitan State Beach

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PARK: El Capitan State Beach
LOCATION: The beach is located off Highway 101, 17 miles west of Santa Barbara.
NATURAL SETTING: El Capitan State Beach offers visitors a sandy beach, rocky tidepools, and stands of sycamore and oaks along El Capitan Creek. This park has great natural beauty for what might be expected in a State Beach in southern California. There are more live oaks than palm, more chaparral than ice plant. A bike trail connects the park with Refugio State Beach, two and a half miles away.
AMENITIES: One hundred forty family campsites are available and this beach contains all the regular park camping amenities. Nothing fancy, just the necessities for a pleasant camping experience. If things become too “rugged” for those not used to camping, you can always take a short drive back to Santa Barbara.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The park offers both a public beach for people seeking escape from nearby Santa Barbara and camp sites overlooking the water. It is a great place to use as base camp to surf Goleta and also Refugio Beach. Just book a site early as they fill up long before summer comes. Sometimes there's even a lottery for positions in the camp. 
WHAT MAKES IT GREAT: El Capitan has a rare wave that when it breaks is legendary and is close to several other great breaks. It's not the biggest park in town, but it has big sandy beaches, and the level of privacy is just right. Since it is away from the city there is a sense of getting away, even though you don't go too far. El Capitan Point is a rare treat.  Located on the El Capitan State Beach, 17 miles west of Santa Barbara, it’s a finicky wave that can sometimes leave you disappointed if you left other spots that were on, thinking you were going to score there. But when it is firing, it’s a hollow, grinding, ass-kicker of a wave.
One winter morning, I was observing an extreme high tide Hammonds Reef with Shaun Tomson who had recently moved to Santa Barbara. The swell was strong and consistent although not lining up quite right for Hammonds. I suggested El Cap at a lower tide to Shaun as a place that could get good as the day went on. He was unfamiliar with it, but I said it would rival any barreling point break he had ridden in his travels if he got it good. He seemed interested and asked for directions. It turns out later he did make the drive and was rewarded with a memorable session, calling it the best tube rides he had ever gotten in California. He was lucky, but El Cap doesn’t always treat its visitors with such good hospitality.  
One insane swell, I was on hand for an amazing session of thick, sand-churning pits. There were some screaming tubes and some hideous wipeouts as most visitors weren’t used to the sudden, suck-out power being dished out. Rincon local Dan Schreever got blasted as he tried to make the heaviest section and came up with a big, horrendous gash on his cheek below his eye. Blood was streaming out as I saw him getting swept through the inside, river-like current. I was stroking to make it over the set waves, but kept looking back at him getting washed inside where he finally struggled up the rocks. Good, I figured, now he’ll get some medical assistance.
When I came in two hours later, I was stunned to see him sitting on the grass with a blood-soaked towel on his face. He didn’t have a ride and nobody had bothered to help him. Sure, a hospital was nowhere close by and the surf was all-time, but come on. I immediately walked him back to my car and made the drive. Honestly though, I think in spite of his nasty wound, he didn’t really want to leave because it was such an epic day. That’s El Cap for you.
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