Think You Know Trestles?

Trestles is in fact a collection of waves located in California’s San Onofre State Park. It’s best wave, Lowers, is what you’ve been peering at through your screen. It is an A-Frame right and left that walls for 100 yards over a sand and rivermouth, cobblestone rock, with a mix of pace, crumbly lip, perfect wave pitch and forgivable power that make most surfers feel like they are surfing like Kelly Slater. Of course one can only imagine what Kelly Slater must feel like when he surfs the place. Probably like Kelly Slater.

The wave is prized in Cali for its quality and consistency. It sucks in any hint of south swell and holds any size and so has become one of California’s shining jewels. But what elevates it to almost mythical status in American surfing is its almost bubble location and rare atmosphere. 

It is located at the edge of Orange County's suburbia nightmare, an ugly commercialised zone of density and excess unrivaled in the modern world. And yet Trestles, lying in the protected State Park, is a very different experience free of the excess. The locals call it one-and-a-half miles of God's country, with no Maccas, no neon piers, no Baywatch lifeguards and none of the usual bullshit that surrounds the OC’s other waves. It was first surfed as far back as the 1930s and has been called Trestles since at least 1951 when it was named after the wooden trestle bridge (now a concrete viaduct) that surfers had to walk under to reach the beach. This National Park was established back in 1971 by the then Californian Governor, and later President, Ronald Reagan. You might question his trickle down economics, his redistribution of wealth to the top 1 per cent, his shit movies and for being a Trump prototype, but he did leave Trestles as a last untouched bastion in LA.   

The walk in to Trestles is one of surfing's rights of passage.

For a place addicted to cars, it is also different to most spots in that it takes a bit of effort to surf Trestles. You park at the Cristianitos exit in the State Park and then can either walk, run, crawl, roll, bike, or skate down the trail to the wave, making sure not to be run down by the Amtrak Train as you cross the tracks. All this adds to the expectation, a decreasing commodity in a surfing world of car park access and webcams. 

Surprisingly enough, the effort to get there doesn't keep people away. Trestles is always crowded during summer, particularly at Lowers. And the rest of the breaks; Uppers, Middles, Cottons, Churches and everywhere in between, which don’t pack the ego boosting quality of Lowers, still have their share of hungry groms, competent locals, greedy longboarders, increasing numbers of SUP’ers and worst of all, Gabriel Medina. Still, it's possible to get your share of quality waves; the kind where you hit the lip a half dozen times and start to think you're much better than you really are. All of the breaks at Trestles have that magic - the ability to keep you coming back, the effort of the 20-minute walks, dodging the train and the surfers, being repaid ten times over. 

No surprise then that it has become a competition favourite, and host to a CT event since 2000. Christian Fletcher also famously won a Pro Am here in 1989 with his aerial attack signaling a new era in surfing.

The wave is absolutely perfect for allocating waves of similar shape and size, left and right, time after time. It magnifies imperfection in style, but allows sections for the world’s best to try stuff they’d only imagined in their, well, imaginations. “It’s such a high performance wave and I think everyone acknowledges that,” Joel Parkinson told Tracks, “but it’s also a great ‘flow’ wave. It’s a great wave to flow your turns together and choreograph a wave and make it look great from beginning to end.” To be fair Parko said that before he was knocked out in Round Two, but hey, it still rings true. 

With flow being important it’s perhaps no surprise that Kelly Slater has done quite well, winning his first major pro trophy here (“the morning of the final," etc) and five CT events at the break. 

Kelly being moonbooted however opens the door. Only Jordy Smith and Mick Fanning have won more than one Trestles title, and at the time of writing Jordy still has the opportunity to make it a hat trick. 

Whatever happens over the course of the event, Trestles remains one of the waves that most surfers want to surf before they die. The apex of performance in surfing in a part of California that remains special for so many different reasons. You simply have to walk down the track, sign the guestbook (the quarter mile of graffiti), snaffle a wave and enjoy the ride, live the myth. Or just watch it on the webcast.