Going To California

North Carolina’s Brett Barley on rediscovering the West Coast

Brett Barley,testing the waters north of Orange County. PHOTO: Patrick Ruddy

BRETT BARLEY: I hadn't been on a surf trip to California in four years. When I was younger, I would go out to compete in Nationals and Pro Juniors. I would always make a trip out of it, staying for a couple of weeks or a month to hang out and surf around Orange County. Up until this trip, I had never surfed anywhere outside of that bubble. And once I was done doing those contests, I never went back.

I saw a swell lining up and I decided to try a different part of the coast. We flew into LA and just started driving north. I was almost using the trip as a tester to see if California could make me enjoy it again, and it happened. I surfed by myself 90 percent of the time. It was cool sometimes, but it was pretty big and apparently sharky, so I was kind of spooked. At one spot, I got caught inside by a set and my leash snapped. I had to swim pretty far in and it was freaky to have to do that with nobody around. I would have almost preferred a crowd.