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Mancation - Charlie Don't Surf in Santa Barbara, California

How can I explain this title to those under 55? Charlie Don’t Surf is a great line from the film Apocalypse Now about the Viet Nam War; Colonel Kilgore answering a soldier as to why they need to take a point of land with a great surf break and risk lives – all to satisfy the surfing-quest ego of the Colonel. A more recognizable line from the film is “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Politics for my generation that are still sensitive – just last month I got a snide remark from a former 1967 Marine DI for an innocent question – but I need to get into surfing history here and not war/politics… Make Waves, Not War? Naaaaah, just get to the point.


Reynolds “Renny” Yater is a surfing-great who is known for designing the best long boards during the 1960’s. I am in Santa Barbara and at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum doing my thing; finding Manacation things to do while my wife and daughter shop and wine taste on State Street. I know you guys from So-Cal will want to see this historical board.



If you watch the movie Apocalypse Now, the next scenes include voice of “Yater curve” from the other surfing troops around Colonel Kilgore. This is reference to the then best-designed board in the world. A rare historically accurate point in film history.



Renny Yater has loaned his Abalone Board to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum and you have to see it to believe it. I was lucky that director, Greg Gorga (Executive Director), knew all the story and made a point to tell me about it. Photos are great, but when you come to Santa Barbara and stay at the Cheshire Cat Inn (B & B on Valerio St.) you MUST break away from wining and dining to see this museum and its displays. Check out the photo of the Yater Abalone Board and the other associated shots.



Abalone board refers to the large abalone shell in the center but also the fantastic colors brought out by the abalone interior shell inlay in the rails (picture above). This inlay work is by artist Kevin Ancell of the Bay Area (San Francisco, of course) and the foam blank is an original Clark Foam board.



Other displays will occupy your time to the end of the day or up to lunch… and the Maritime Museum is on the warf with GREAT seafood and bars to view the harbor. Considering the harbor — in the museum are enlarged photos of TR’s Great White Fleet at anchor as viewed from the Potter Hotel (demolished around 1925). Watch movies in the 88 seat theater about sea life and the nearby Channel Islands. Finally, see the Tuna Club Flagship (What!?).



Tuna Club of Santa Catalina Island was a rich-guy club for guys that liked to land fighting fish. A member built a fine vessel, the Ranger, that became the flagship of the Club. This 1917 motor vessel was built at the Los Angeles yard of Fellows & Stuart Shipyards in 1917. What is special about it? Probably that it is still afloat and the likes of John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Zane Grey and others have sat in the Fighting Chair to land the big ones.



After seeing the museum, and the Ranger nearby at the dock, my daughter and I went to the Santa Barbara Sailing Center to rent a kayak for a paddle around the inner harbor. My daughter, Nicole, is with me and we did a tandem kayak just to see if coordinating the paddles is possible (not). This allows getting up close to see the great boats usually only viewed in Boating or other magazines. Seriously, there are some fantastic boats moored in Santa Barbara and you have to see them up close to appreciate the design and features of the sailing and power yachts kept for the Channel Island vacations.



Finally, I must mention fantastic dining in Santa Barbara. As you may imagine, I go to many places claiming to be experts at pairing wine and food. SeaGrass Restaurant in Santa Barbara really knows how to do it. They served the most wonderful and underpriced selection of local crab and halibut that I have ever enjoyed; and perfectly matched wines with each course. My main serving was halibut with a wonderful Pinot Noir (yes, red with fish). If you watched the movie Sideways, about wine tasting in Santa Barbara, the character came here for the Pinot wine. Now, I see why.



Speaking of Sideways, the next day after many stops for wine tasting, we ended at the Hitching Post in Buellton for dinner and wine tasting. Most people don’t know that originally, the Hitching Post has an associated winery going back to 1984 (before the now-famous movie restaurant). The Hitching Post label has a great ….. are you ready???? …. Merlot! The 2004 is what we had with a steak dinner but this is almost sold out. Now, the 2007 Merlot is available and equally good. This is steak wine and rib wine; made by the winemaker for table pairing with the restaurant typical fare of steak, ribs, seafood, and burgers. The owner-winemaker Frank Ostini was torn between showing us all his wines (like the Pinot Noir of the movie Sideways fame, and a very special Rose) or going home to his family for back-to-school farewell. I am pleased to report the family won out.

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