Surfing California’s Lost Coast

Surfing California’s Lost Coast

June 23, 2017

Four friends reconnect for a “surfpacking” (surfing + backpacking) trip on California’s ‘Lost Coast’. With over 80 lbs. of gear on each of their backs, Cameron, Kris, Sam & Skyler embarked on a backcountry trip into one of the state’s most sought-after and remote surfing destinations. We sent them with our X2 Camera, DUB Camera, Floating Multi Grip & Surf Board Mounts to wish them a fun trip. Here’s a look into some of the favorite photos from the gang’s photographer, Cameron Karsten:

Hwy 101 To The Coast

“Four of us take our leave and head into the backcountry. Reunited along the West Coast—wallets, keys and cellphones stored—an unknown with little outside support lurks in the shadows. However, we feel invited. Sam from Ocean Beach walks past a sign that should set the tone for the week as he steps onto the black beach. Sand, pebbles, stones, and a ripping Pacific Ocean will be our constant companions for the next week. The dream of an empty Californian lineup now seems real.


California’s central and northern coastline is a site of raw beauty and power. Take the 101 north or south, and you’ll be careening around bends and bays with guzzling mobile homes and stacked minivans. Families and their cameras pull over for selfies. Overpriced motels and luxury campsites hang signs on no vacancy. Just pull off the highway and go for a walk off the grid! To move and sleep within these environments brought an awareness back to our conscience; one of gratitude, peace and joy. We were truly off the grid, on our own, traversing a terrain little disturbed for the eons. And we were having fun doing it, forgetting about our personal and business lives for at least, at least one week. This became our internal philosophy of freedom within the outdoors.


Kris, a retired school teacher and now painter and contractor, recently had heart surgery earlier this year. This wasn’t his first time back surfing. He was in the water as soon as his doctors gave him permission. Here he navigates the inter-tidal zone as we head north where the cliff’s edge meets a pumping Pacific Ocean.


Let My People Surf

Once we reached camp and set up our gear, a ritual of morning coffee and dawn patrol began. For hours we watched the surf, checking different breaks (whether it was the point or river mouth), and taking time analyzing each wave and set. We learned about the tides and when they worked best. And once we were warm and excited, one of us would start the ritual of suiting up. We would each pull on a 5/3mm wetsuit complete with hood and booties to jump into the chilly northern waters.


Watching the waves and sunset, and running along the coastline with a short board under arm, Sam was always the most thrilled; the giddiest like an overexcited child. His optimism and enthusiasm kept our hopes up even when the surf went to shit. He always saw some potential, an element of surf science that could bring in a heavier wave that was more to our liking. Here he stands looking at the point, judging which break to paddle into.

We camped near a warm pool that used to be a river mouth that dumped into the Pacific Ocean. However, it has all but dried up due to California’s drought. To us it was a welcomed post-surf spa, warming our bones after cold surf while also serving as a bath to clean the salt off our faces and wetsuits. When the waves were on, we were in the water until the skies went dark, but on a moonless night they became impossible to judge. We were forced to retreat to dry land.


Camp Life

Camp became our home base. But for two days a low hanging fog bank never wavered and started to drive us mad. The surf dropped and our nerves began to twitch. The lack of movement, the decline of adrenaline-surging waves, and a low white ceiling caused some heads to spin. But to bide the time, we read, cooked, played rock bocce, big rock little rock, and Frisbee. In a setting like this, there was nothing we could complain about.


Evenings consisted of campfires and cribbage. Once dinner was cooked and the night skies prevailed, we setup a driftwood table and broke out the mini cribbage board. The nightly games were competitive, just like catching waves. In the end we tied with games won and went to bed praying for waves.


Skyler makes a pot of coffee after restructuring our camp, creating a taller sturdier driftwood roof to help block the breeze and create a spot of shade when the sun was out. There was a lot of downtime when the surf was off, so Sky went to his projects, building our camp, bolstering our campfire pit, making a fly-rod complete with a self-tied fly (FAILED; better luck next time Sky), and brewing us all coffee.



The day arrived when we had, and I repeat HAD, to hike out. The sun was out and the surf was building, but after our morning session we had no choice but to pack up and say goodbye. As we reached the bluff, Sam (far right) couldn’t help but look northward to the peeling waves we were leaving behind. He just couldn’t take his eyes away. He couldn’t believe he was leaving them unridden. It was clear that Sam was in wave coma. Once we dropped down off the bluff and onto the beach southward, the waves disappeared from view.

The California coast is a sharky coastline. We came upon a dead whale as we neared the exit point for our trip. Huge bite marks were torn from the whale’s sides. We knew they were shark bites, and secretly we were grateful for this whale as it kept the sharks away from the lineup and glued to this floating feast rather than, well, us.”


Cameron Karsten is a Pacific Northwest-based photographer with a list of clients all the way from Amazon to Zillow.

You can find his work at or email him personally at

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