[Noozhawkâs note: This is the latest in a series of articles on the myriad recreational activities along the Santa Barbara waterfront. Click here for the complete series index.]
For waterfront strollers and motel guests along Cabrillo Boulevard, West Beach presents a beautiful, deserted stretch of sand from the harbor to Stearns Wharf and a little beyond.
There is also plenty to do at this beach, including family-friendly activities for tourists and locals alike.
This includes a long local family tradition: the Santa Barbara Shell Association has been teaching young children to sail – involving families in the process – since 1948. The SBSSA website cites “seamanship, self-reliance and teamwork” as benefits, in addition to basic sailing skills veil.
Off the SBSSA West Beach base for their Sunday regattas, from 1 p.m., children sail the near high seas with dinghies, usually American clogs. The season runs from April to early October, with a six-week break in midsummer.
And after losing last year to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBSSA is back stronger than ever, according to Dana Longo, the organization’s commodore.
âRight now we have 50 families, so it’s come back with a big resurgence,â he said. “This will be perhaps our biggest year of all time in 2021.”
The program “has had a profound impact on the lives of many children in Santa Barbara,” said Longo, and is included in this evaluation – he is a former student of the program, aged 9 to 11 at the end of the year. 1970s, and a sailor since.
The SBSSA is aimed at children aged 8-18, and “the idea is for the parent to be in the boat with the novice sailor, teaching the novice how to navigate,” said Longo. When a consenting parent is not available, âwe do our best to try to fill this gapâ with more experienced children or other available parents.
âWe are intentionally trying to keep registration fees as low as possible,â he said. âWe want people from all walks of life to come and learn to sail. This is our goal.
Sailors laser off West Beach. (Photo by Dennis Moran / Noozhawk)
More information on membership and costs are on the SBSSA the site’s FAQ page.
There are orientation days starting in April, where those interested can get a taste before committing to the program. Once the new kids start, “it usually takes about half the summer for a novice skipper to get to the point where they’re comfortable enough to get on the boat and sail the course on their own,” said Longo.
West Beach has other, shorter-term opportunities to get people out on the water.
Cal-Coast Adventures has a spot on the beach, renting kayaks (single and tandem) and stand-up paddleboards, as well as group kayak tours. These are available without an appointment, at mid-beach, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week from April to September, and the other months by reservation from The location of Cal-Coast at 736 Carpinteria St., where many other tours and rentals are available.
From West Beach, kayakers and paddleboarders ply the calm waters between the harbor mouth and the wharf.
On a recent weekday, the Reyes family from Castro Valley took advantage of this double kayak tour. They have been to Santa Barbara several times already, but on this visit they decided to focus on getting to know the waterfront more closely.
âWe just paddled to the port and then came back,â said Sharon Reyes, with her husband, Rich, and sons Daniel and Tommy. âWe saw seals and pelicans and we met friends on the water, at random. I really love the wildlife and the weather was just perfect. “
And they enjoyed the great view just offshore.
“We’re on the water, and (I said) ‘Tommy, Tommy, look left, it’s Santa Barbara.’ Oh, it’s so beautiful, âReyes said.
Another day was devoted to the rental of bikes from Fun of the wheel on nearby Mason Street, again to get to know the waterfront better.
Children of the Santa Barbara Sea Shell Association, accompanied by a parent, learn the craft of sailing off West Beach. (Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Sea Shell Association)
âEvery day it’s just something new, and we love it,â she said.
Rich and Daniel Reyes, in fact, explored the riparian sites in geocaching, the GPS hunt for various little treasures planted all over the world.
âThere’s a lot of stuff here,â Rich said. “We found a few geocaches here on the pier” and another on Cabrillo Boulevard “magnetically attached to a pole.”
The caches included a few Altoid boxes and a small canister with âlittle knick knacks inside,â he said. âYou can add things to it and you can sign it. “
West Beach is also the home of Ka Nai’a outrigger canoe club, which offers instruction and training to “both competitive and non-competitive amateur athletes of all ages” in the distinctive long canoes stabilized by a pole. From its location just west of Stearns Wharf, Ka Nai’a (Hawaiian for “the dolphin”) has been running training, instruction, kids’ camps, and for 33 years, running a race called the Big Run in May.
Big Run has a four mile short run including novices as well as a long run (10 to 12 miles) for women, coed students and under 19s, and a long open run for men and those under 19. men’s race. Big Run is one of a series of nine outrigger canoe races along the California coast and ends with the Catalina Crossing – American Canoe Championships between Newport Beach and Catalina Island in September.
Information on dues and the days and times Ka Nai’a is on the beach can be found on the website.
The Ka Nai’a Outrigger Canoe Club offers instruction and training by certified coaches from its West Beach launch point near Stearns Wharf. (Courtesy photo of Ka Nai’a Outrigger Canoe Club)
West Beach is also one of the top two waterfront venues for beach volleyball, along with East Beach.
A mother-daughter team from Phoenix, who frequently visit Santa Barbara, recently found a pickup game with a friendly young couple. Names Only: She, 13, plays club, sand and indoor volleyball in Phoenix, while mum Jan played one of her first games.
âI think she did pretty well,â Elle said. “It’s a pretty tough sport, especially in California because the sand is a lot deeper than in Arizona.”
Another organization with a presence in West Beach, for adventure summer camps for kids, is Pic2Pacific. The organization offers a variety of outdoor activities focused on environmental education, including after-school programs, family events and more.
To swim off West Beach, the Harbor Patrol offers a warning: shuffle your feet as you walk. The area is known for stingrays, and it’s best to alert them to your presence.