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While Southern California is just about as beautiful as any place on Earth, the local parks and green spaces in San Diego are hard to match. From city parks to ocean views and bayfront property, there’s a spot that everyone can enjoy.
The Central Park of San Diego, this place is 1,200 acres of museums, gardens, trails, and landscapes. You can travel from Amazonian-like jungles to rose gardens to the cacti-filled desert-scape all within 15 minutes of walking. Little known fact: There are a few places where alcohol is allowed, making this the perfect brunch park (we’ll bring the OJ)!
As the name suggests, this Adams Avenue park was once the site of a streetcar barn that housed trolley cars next to an ostrich farm (you guessed the part about the ostrich farm, right?). Currently, it’s home to a playground and some shaded grassy areas that are great for when you just want to lounge outside on a sunny day.
The “NTC” in this park’s title stands for Naval Training Center, where the Navy held much of its San Diego-based operations from 1921 until 1993. Pretty cool, right? Even better, there’s plenty to see and do. You’ll find charming boutiques, a public market, a golf course, and a 46-acre waterfront green space full of playgrounds, running trails, and historic markers. You could (and should) definitely plan to spend an entire day here.
The grassy knoll where Law Street runs into the Pacific Ocean in Pacific Beach is known for two things: surfers checking out the break both south at the pier and north at Tourmaline, and yoga. Every Saturday and Sunday at 10am, a donation-based yoga class is held on these bluffs. Join the 100+ other yogis for unobstructed ocean views as you namaste with Namasteve.
BirdRock is the small community between Pacific Beach and La Jolla, and it’s known for mansions that are true architectural masterpieces and its pristine coastline. But you don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy the view. Park it on a bench at Calumet Park and enjoy the coastline while the surfers take advantage of Rock Pile down below.
Nestled in Cuvier Park in La Jolla Cove is a great little stretch of green space known as the Wedding Bowl. If you couldn’t tell by the name, this tranquil spot is a super popular destination for—yup—weddings! So popular, in fact, that there’s a lottery process to get a permit to be married there. Luckily, no lottery is needed to simply enjoy the space and the surrounding park before, perhaps, heading up to the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, which is just across the street.
Just north of La Jolla cove is La Jolla Shores, which is capped off by the famous Scripps Institute of Oceanography and its perfect pier. And at this park, you’ve got options. Hang in the sand by the beach, lounge in the grass, play on the playground — it’s all at your fingertips. Fitt Tip: Go during late August or early September during leopard shark season. Hundreds of (harmless to you) leopard sharks take over the waters off the shores, and you can snorkel, kayak, or surf right next to them!
Tidelands Park has arguably the best view of any place on this list. From the magical crown jewel of Coronado, you’ll be gazing over the San Diego Bay at the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline. But the coolest part? You can take the ferry from downtown there and back — a $4 well spent.
About two or three years ago, San Diego put a large chunk of change into revamping the bayfront Waterfront Park — and the result is pretty great. From a water feature for cooling off during hot summer days to a massive green park perfect for laying out your yoga mat or a picnic blanket, we can’t say enough good things about this outdoor oasis. You don’t even have to bring your lunch; there are some delicious spots to grab grub just across the street (try Carnitas Snack Shack as a splurge meal).
Shoreline Park is a hidden gem along the San Diego Bay. Come during the day to lounge on the perfectly-manicured grass, and stay until the evening — right across the way is Humphrey’s by the Bay, an outdoor concert venue. Fitt Tip: rent a kayak or canoe and paddle up to the venue to watch the show (for free!) from the comfort of your own vessel.
Name a place where you can run, bike, swim, and stand-up paddleboard all in the same day. If you guessed Fanuel Park in Pacific Beach, you’d be right on the money. This park sits on a picturesque stretch of beach along the bay, so whether you’re a land lover or can’t get enough of the water, you’ll have a variety of activities to choose from.
For the first time ever, the globe will be watching surfing take center stage at the 2020 (postponed to July 2021) Olympics. People from all over the world will be appreciating the sport, many for the first time.
This symbolizes the surfing community breaking through centuries of negative stereotypes. Though conditions play a big part in the sport, the biggest hurdle the athletes will have to overcome to see success is mental. The winner will be the one who chooses their waves wisely with their understanding of the conditions and ability to intimidate and therefore overcome components. Meanwhile, they will be challenging themselves to emerge from crashing barrels, fly into the air, and land on the shifting surface gracefully. No big deal.
You’ve probably heard the invention of a wave pool, which creates the perfect man-made wave. In 2007, Kelly Slater founded his wave company with a passion to build the perfectly rideable wave at his surf ranch. It was debated whether the Olympics should be held in the ocean or on a manufactured wave, with many differing opinions on what would be right. The decision was made, and the event will take place in the sea, at Tsurigasaki Beach in Japan, about 40 miles east of Tokyo, where the rest of the 2021 games will be hosted.
As you watch, take a moment to reflect on the century of effort for this to happen. This initiative can be traced all the way back to the 1912 summer games that took place in Stockholm. Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern surfing, won three gold medals in swimming, and while accepting his medal, he expressed that it was his dream to see surfing be added. To add fuel to the fire, International Surfing Association, recognized as the surfing world's governing authority by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), began lobbying for the inclusion of surfing in the Olympics in 1955.
Surfing is a multidimensional sport unlike any other. Nothing compares to paddling out to the serene silence that awaits beyond the breaking waves. Once you get out there, you immediately escape the many annoyances ingrained in everyday life—the constant notifications on your phone and laptop, your back-to-back schedule, answering to other people. You’re no longer on the time that your watch reads, you’re on mother nature’s time. You’re also no longer in control of your surroundings. Now, all you can do is surrender and wait for the next set to come, while trying to position yourself for when it does.
The high from catching the perfect wave is so addicting that surfers would fail on one hundred in a row just to catch that one. After you catch that perfect one, you replay it in your mind for the rest of the day.
A successful session is reliant on so many factors of mother nature—a force way bigger than us. For ideal conditions to exist, a good-sized swell must approach from the right direction, the wind must be flowing offshore, and you have to time your session right with the ebb and flow of the tide.
The sport is always teaching you life lessons. It is humbling, even if you’ve been practicing it for many years. One reason why it takes so long to master is that the conditions are going to be different every time you get out there. You might have caught a million yesterday, but today makes you feel like a kook because you can’t land one decent wave.
The community of people that you become a part of when you surf is special. A shared obsession with the ocean that brings you to dive into the water at dawn to get a session in bonds you quick. When you’re out there, you’ll find yourself interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds. People enjoy sharing the stoke of the sport. When you see someone out there teaching somebody new, you’ll encounter them cheering at the top of their lungs when they catch a good wave, and as you look around, you’ll see smiles all across the lineup. The other day, I caught a long wave in to be met with a cheering crowd of locals who frequent the spot that I do. When I got to shore, a local showed me their secret stash of hot packs to access in case I, or someone else, gets stung by a stingray when they aren’t around.
Being out in the ocean and abiding by her rules gives surfers a deep love and connection to nature. It’s common to see sea animals out there, like dolphins, stingrays, and fish. When you have an encounter, it’s a reminder that we are invading their territory. It sucks when you see trash floating in the water, or on the sand in its route to the water. It’s a sad reminder of the negative impact that humans can have on natural environments. It inspires you to pick up trash and advocate for sustainability so that we, as a collective, can take care of the beauty that we are lucky to have access to.
Tune in to see surfing break into the biggest international sporting event in the world beginning on Saturday, July 24th.
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