Shifting beachbreaks getting you down? Your performance surfing going backwards? Do you want to tap into a mythical surf culture source? Well, you should be at Trestles.
Trestles has become a byword for performance surfing. Well in particular Lower Trestles, the A-Frame right and left that walls for 100 yards over a sand and rivermouth rock, with the mix of pace, crumbly lip, perfect wave pitch and forgivable power that make most surfers feel like they are surfing like Kelly Slater. Of course one can only imagine what Kelly Slater must feel like when he surfs the place.
The wave itself holds enough quality and consistency, it sucks in any hint of south swell and holds any size, for it to become rightly one of California’s shining jewels. But what elevates it to almost mythical status in American surfing is its almost bubble location and atmosphere.
It is located at the edge of Orange County’s suburbia nightmare, an ugly commercialised zone of density and excess unrivaled in the modern world. And yet Trestles, lying in the protected San Onofre State Park an an experience free of the muck. The locals call it one-and-a-half miles of God’s country, with no metered parking, no piers, no Baywatch lifeguards and none of the usual bullshit that surrounds the County’s other waves. It is a haven and one that just happens to offer some of the most rippable walls on the surfing planet (as shown below by Wilko, Taj, Jordy and Fanning here last year).
It also takes a bit of effort to surf Trestles, parking at the Cristianitos exit in the State Park you then can walk, run, crawl, roll, bike, or skate down the trail to the wave making sure not be run down by the Amtrak Train as you cross the “Trestle” tracks.
Surprisingly enough, the effort to get there doesn’t keep people away. Trestles is always crowded during summer, particularly at Lowers. And the rest of the breaks — Uppers, Cotton’s, Church and everywhere in between, which don’t pack the ego boosting quality of Lowers, still have their share of hungry waveriders, the greedy longboarders the worst of the lot. Still, it’s possible to get your share of quality waves; the kind where you hit the lip a half dozen times and start to think you’re much better than you really are. All of the breaks at Trestles have that magic — the ability to keep you coming back, the effort of the 20-minute walks, dodging the train and the surfers, being repayed ten times over.
No surprise then that it has become a competition favourite, the wave absolutely perfect for allocating waves of similar shape and size, left and right, time after time. It magnifies imperfection in style, but allows sections for the worlds best to try stuff they’d only imagined in their, well, imaginations. Kelly Slater has won here too many times to count, and while he’s done that in most waves, when you think of a combination of perfect surfer and perfect performance wave, it’s hard to beat their relationship.
Trestles remains one of the waves that most surfers that want to surf before the die. The apex of performance in surfing in a part of California that remains special for so many different reasons. You simply have to walk down the track, sign the guestbook (the quarter mile of graffiti), snaffle a wave and enjoy the ride, live the myth.
The perfect day: Six foot of south or south west swell, with a light east or nor east wind. You’ve made the trek on a Tuesday morning at 5am, and will have it to yourself for a whole 10 minutes.
Getting there: Fly into LAX and the head to the very south of Orange County.
Boards: Your zippiest, fastest most high performance piece of fibreglass you can get your hands on.
Essentials: Patience for the crowd, strong arms for the paddle, and timing that you don’t coincide when the pros are in town.
Accommodation: San Clemente is the closest, with backpackers, rundown freeway hotels and 5 star beach pads all available.
Other waves: Uppers and Church handle a bit more north in the swell and are a long paddle or short walk up the point.