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7 Things I Wish People Had Told Me Before I Moved to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara
by Mike Cianciulli Jul 22, 2016

1. The summertime surfing sucks.

I’d heard the murmurs but shrugged them off. A coastline littered with this many pointbreaks, beachbreaks, and reefs had to have at least one consistent summer wave. Yet after hours of research and countless tanks of gas hunting surf between Rincon and El Capitan, I finally realized my morning sessions were going to have to be bookended by at least a half-hour commute. Apparently those pesky Channel Islands due south of the SB coastline severely block all southern hemisphere swell. Meaning, I’m either driving 30-minutes south to Ventura or an hour north to Jalama just to ride a few waves. Bring on Fall.

2. The yin and yang of the Jacaranda tree.

While house-hunting in May, my girlfriend and I were blown away with the floral abundance bursting forth from Santa Barbara’s thriving Jacaranda tree population. These pronounced purple poofs lined most of the city’s streets and were a vibrant contrast amongst the green hills. And once we found a cute 1920s cottage to call our new home, the two Jacarandas out front were our final omen to go ahead and sign the one-year lease. Yet beneath all the beauty are layers of thick, crunchy leaves that the trees drop before flowering. Raking leaving in summer seems very un-California.

3. The beaches would leave black tar spots on my feet.

I’d always heard about the oil problems along Santa Barbara shorelines. And once I saw the offshore rigs dotting the horizon, assumptions were made and my angst against ocean drilling rose like the tide. But with a little research and local knowledge, I learned that the Santa Barbara Channel tar seep is said to be the second-largest tar seep in the world, gurgling up about 150 barrels of oil a day out of the ocean floor naturally. Still, that doesn’t do much for my ruined pair of sandals and those smelly smudges stomped into my surfboard wax.

4. There is minimal signage.

Driving into SB on the 101 you won’t see a single billboard or advertisement — a welcomed reminder that LA is about 80 miles behind you. The roads are lined with thriving plant life as the Santa Ynez mountains loom in the distance.
But try to find any businesses around town and you might need a little help from Google Maps. Santa Barbara has a strict sign ordinance to promote the aesthetic beauty of the city, which is great and all, but when you’re new to town it surely doesn’t help. Needless to say, I did a few extra laps around my destinations until I noticed the low-profile branding nestled among the flower beds or masked by Spanish tile.

5. The living was this good.

They don’t call it the American Riviera for nothing. So it’s no wonder the rich and famous flock here for the mild Mediterranean climate (averaging 283 days of sunshine a year), fine wines, stunning mountainous backdrops and picturesque coastline. Situated on the western-most edge of Southern California proper, Santa Barbara is only an hour or so drive from Los Angeles but feels lightyears away. After having lived in the glitz and glam of Orange County as well as the sleepy nature of San Luis Obispo, for me, SB is the perfect blend of the two while still living in SoCal.

6. To get a decent bike.

Ahh, Santa Barbara… where the bike lanes are as wide as the car lanes. SB is definitely a bike-friendly city but unless you’re zipping around the Downtown/State Street area, the town is flanked by large hills. And, in turn, my three-speed beach cruiser was quickly contained to a limited radius. But the more I explore the region, the more I realize how ideal a decent hybrid bike would be. Plus, there are plenty of epic DIY rides around the entire Santa Barbara County.

7. I’d get so many visitors.

It’s the common crux of making your hometown in a place where people like to take vacations. It’d happened to me plenty during my winter-long stints in Hawaii. And while we’re very sure that all our family and friends truly miss us, there’s a long line of people close to us itching to plan a long weekend in Santa Barbara for a “visit”. And since we’re still new to the area and haven’t met a ton of local friends yet, we welcome our loving house guests with open arms and go play tourist right alongside them. After all, there’s plenty we’ve yet to discover in our wonderful new hometown.

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