When I first got to college on California’s Central Coast, I was surprised to see the fierce rivalry that exists between NorCal people and SoCal people. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I was initially partial to our warm, lively SoCal beaches. BeachforBaby has taken me from practically-Mexico (Imperial Beach to the chilly cliffs of Fort Bragg (and will soon take me farther north), so here’s me throwing oil on the fire of the NorCal vs. SoCal debate, beach edition.

NorCal Beaches

SoCal Beaches


Quintessential beach

Mendocino Headlands, where beach bonfires delight hippies, nature lovers and dogs (who are the only ones crazy enough to swim in the cold water).
Santa Monica, where the indiscriminate sun touches Valley Girls and Asian tourists, even warming the homeless people sprawled across the happenin’ beach boardwalk.


Typical beachgoer

Grad-school studious or just plain serious, interested in pondering the waves for their technical properties or the sand for next shell art session. Likely brunette.
Seriously studying the surf like it’s the last frontier, or sitting on dry land with a Corona and a battery-operated hair straightener. Possibly blonde, or at least trying to be.


Clothing choice

Longsleeve shirt (flannel or from an adventure outfitter) and pants rolled up to knees.
Bikini or in true California girl flaunt-it-if-you-got-it style, a modest thong and similarly pieced one-strap sandals.



I go to the beach to get away from it all while sipping on my favorite micro-brew.
I go to the beach to piss away cheap beer while baking my skin like a turkey. Or, to exercise. Sometimes all three.


Preferred activity

Basking in nature’s splendid creation, brainstorming how to save the coastal redwoods.
Keeping hair dry, eating potato chips, biking until butt is swollen.


Nature quotient

Actual native trees, jagged cliffs, and driftwood strewn across the beach.
Rows of artificially arranged palm trees and piles of trash-ridden seaweed.


Danger level

Between the falling rocks and “people have died here” signs, pretty dangerous.
May be hit by a dumba** playing horseshoes or an errant EZ-up followed by a buffet of meat salads.



Far from commercialism, your own little hideaway.
Close to the freeway, American Apparel store and a Cheesecake Factory.



So quiet you’ll be forced to check your email on your iPhone every 5 minutes. Wait, no 3G.
The all-encompassing hum of traffic, kids yelling and the Rollerblade parade.


Reading material

Bring Thoreau, Muir or Buddhist poetry.
Use tabloid as placemat for potato chips.



People who know there’s more to Cali than Hollywood. A life among nature with the benefits of clean air.
People who like to live secretly in the midst of a scene, like the Murder in the Dark game where no one knows it’s you until your house falls into the sea.

Santa Monica photo by Drongowski