The second day, we were sunburned and sore. Overusing seldom-used muscles does that to you. Still, we persisted and arrived on the beach at 9:30 a.m. We did get better; not good, but better. We took the next two days off till our third and fourth final lessons and decided to explore Carlsbad and its environs.
The city of more than 100,000 has seven miles of pristine coastline. As in much of California, the beaches are below a bluff. You have to walk down steps or a ramp to get to the sand.
Carlsbad was settled in the 19th century and is named after the Karlsbad spa in the present-day Czech Republic, because mineral water found here had the same chemical qualities as Karlsbad spa water. In fact one of the town’s founders was a German immigrant who marketed the mineral water as a cure for skin and stomach ailments.
The weather is pretty much perfect. Even in winter, the average high is in the 60s and lows are in the 40s.
The world’s first skateboard park, Carlsbad Skatepark, was built here in 1976. Olympic snowboarder, skateboarder and totally stoked dude Shaun White is from here. Legoland is on the outskirts of town.
There are many shops, restaurants galleries, etc., within walking distance of the beach. The Pizza Port Brewing Co. in the center of town is a local favorite. Lots of great homemade brews, decent pizza, crowded, loud and fun.
The Coaster, a commuter train that travels from Oceanside to San Diego, runs through the middle of town. More than 20 trains run on weekdays, and it’s a great way to experience the dramatic scenery of San Diego County. The Carlsbad Lagoon near Interstate 5 rents jet skis, kayaks, boats and paddleboards. The place is loaded with water toys. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon.
Even if you don’t like horse racing, you have to see Del Mar racetrack. Situated near the ocean in the upscale town of Del Mar, 15 miles south of Carlsbad, the track is open from mid-July until right after Labor Day. It was built in 1937 by a group that included celebrities Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante and Pat O’Brien. Seabiscuit became famous at Del Mar. It’s difficult for four people — each betting different horses in each race — not to have at least one winner in the course of a day. But we managed it. I’m a worse handicapper than surfer, and that’s scary. But this is a great place to lose money.
One tip: Del Mar can get crowded. Getting in and out of the parking lot is a pain. Instead, we drove to the neighboring town, Solana Beach, had lunch at Chief’s Burgers & Brew, parked and took a free double-decker bus to the track. It’s a five-minute drive, drops you at the entrance and makes the loop throughout race day. So there’s never a wait. FYI, Solana Beach has a commercial street called Cedros Avenue Design District. It’s a compact, pedestrian-friendly avenue with loads of funky antiques stores, designer shops and artsy enclaves. Not typical Surfer Dude fare, but a fun way to spend an hour or two.