Santa Cruz, California – Pleasure Point


We are enjoying our stay in the USA in Santa Cruz. It is very different from our life in Tamil Nadu. Santa Cruz is a California beach town, and in the summer is filled with tourists, coming for the beach and sun and weather. The local community also uses the beaches and the ocean a lot. This is a surfing center, with many locals, young boys, men, women, and older men, all donning wet suits (to stay warm in the cold California waters, coming down from Alaska) getting their boards, and getting into the surf.

Pleasure Point has a long history, starting with the Ohlone Indians before the Spanish colonization that began in 1769, and their attempts to convert the natives to Catholicism. The missionaries were given this land and held onto the land and power for twelve years after the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1821. The Mexican government then gave it to Francisco Rodriguez as a land grant. Rodriguez established a cattle grazing operation on the land, calling it “Rancho Encinalitos,” (“little live oak ranch”). The first American population in the area started in 1845, when John Daubenbiss and John Hames bought 1,100 acres (4 square km) from the Rodriguez family.

Pleasure Point got its modern name during the prohibition era, 1919 – 1933. In this period, rumrunners would drop off their cargo onto local beaches. It is said that the Pleasure Point Roadhouse was involved with this operation. It was one of the early gas (petrol) stations along the Santa Cruz coast. It was also a retreat with access to the ducks and other waterfowl that filled the lagoons and wetlands in the area.

Pleasure Point became an important location for Santa Cruz surfing about 1959, when Jack O’Neill, father of the wetsuit (without which surfing in the cold local waters would not be possible) moved into the area, and started the first Santa Cruz Surf Shop.  (He patented the name, “Surf Shop” in San Francisco in 1952).

A good wikipedia article on Pleasure Point can be found here.  Much of the material above was taken from that source.

Little of this history is visible today. Now it is an area of expensive beachfront homes, and most of the old buildings and housing have been torn down to build the new homes and beach rentals. It is still an area popular with surfers and people who want to enjoy the ocean, watching surfers, and the area.

The Google Map for Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz, CA shows Santa Cruz to the left and Pleasure Point in the center. There are a number of Google Maps flags on various local landmarks.


Below are some photos to give an idea of some of the place and the beach life. These photos were shot, first from a few hundred feet to the west of the Point, then in Capitola, a beach town visible to the west. We took them 14 July, 2010 starting about 6:30 pm.

We look west, towards Pleasure Point, visible in the right of the photo. A line of waves is visible, coming in in long breaks nicely suited for surfing.


Beyond the Point, sailboats are starting to appear, sailing east, towards  us.

The black dots, surfers in wet suits, are in the water below, maybe 15 or 20 of them, mainly sitting on their boards, waiting for the right wave to catch and ride.

To the east, a lone tree stands out on the coast. A long wave is breaking below. 

Zooming in on a long rock that can be seen in the water above we see many more black dots, surfers, maybe 50, in the water.

One sailboat is in the water, beyond the surfers.

On the road behind me there is much human (and animal) traffic. Here, two girls ride a bike along East Cliff Drive, accompanied by a dog, running free, dragging his leash. Oceanfront houses can be seen in the background.

Back towards Pleasure Point, we see more sails.

The view is beautiful. And this is Santa Cruz, so the weather is cool, maybe 60 F. After the last year in Tiruvannamalai, the blue and cool ocean environment seems so different, even more refreshing then it did before we moved to India.


Another close up of the Point.

Walking along the road are surfers carrying their surf boards. A few are starting to come out of the water now. Maybe the tide is changing. Or they have to go home for dinner. Many have gray hair, and may have surfed here for many years.

Girls run along the beach, again with a dog. The size of dog, called a ‘toy’ I think, seems common here. These are mainly city dwellers, who keep the dog in their house (or apartment), so a small dog is more convenient. This kind of exercise is common in the US, especially for woman. There is such a high beauty value for slimness in the US, and, unlike places like India, most of these women rarely do hard physical labor, so they spend part of their day exercising,

Behind us, a surfer brings his board up the hill.


then heads back to his car, carrying the board. Today they are made mainly from plastic foam, so are not very heavy. The classic boards were wooden and longer, and very heavy to carry. 


A surfer has caught a wave.


There is a long curl to ride. From our viewpoint, the waves break right to left. So that is how the surfers ride them. Many are in the water. They all need to watch out for riders on the wave. The riders get to moving pretty fast, and you do not want to get hit by a fast moving board.


A nice long ride, now alone in the water on the wave.


More sailboats are coming.


Here is a man on a board doing something that is new for me–paddling. He is standing on his board, with a paddle visible to his right. He is beyond the area where the waves break and will just paddle around from place to place.

Coming out of the water. Sometimes they ride the board in closer, so they don’t have to carry it so far. 

Surfers, with boats further out to sea. Between them you can see a brownish area. This is the top of a kelp forest. Sometimes you might see snorklers swimming around the kelp. Maybe they are hunting for abalone.

The houses atop the cliff. They have a great ocean view. There is a sculpture of jumping dolphins ahead.

These surfers are younger, teenagers probably, too young to have cars. They have bikes with special racks that can carry their boards.

More sailboats and surfers.


More walkers. Here a man is pushing a big baby carriage while Mom walks behind. One thing I notice is the heavy use of baby carriages, instead of carrying the baby, or having him walk along with the parent. I wonder if this gives the American baby some kind of disadvantage from less opportunity to interact with his mother and the environment around him. 

A boy, maybe 10 years old, carrying his board, on his way to getting in the water and surfing. 

Sailboats through the trees. 

There are palm trees in Santa Cruz too. Just for decoration though, not for coconuts. 

Below, another ocean front house. Note the deck above the ground floor. These are used as places to sit and enjoy the ocean and the sunset. These high decks are common along the ocean front in Santa Cruz. 

People standing at a good observation point, watching the surfers. 

Next we drive to “Capitola By The Sea” to look at the beach.  


Cars everywhere, and slow moving traffic. 



In India, you would see a statue of a god. Here it is a mermaid. 

Hundreds of people have gathered for a series of Wednesday evening concerts, put on by the city of Capitola. 


Further west on the beach families play in the sand. 


More of the concert crowd.

A group of girls stand and sit together, talking and watching the people go by. 

As we leave Capitola, we see a beautiful English-style house on the hill above us. 


There is such a different life in Santa Cruz from that of Tiruvannamalai!

Since we have been living abroad, some of this I think I see with new eyes (or at least eyes that have become accustomed to a different view). I like seeing some things fresh.


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3 Responses to “Santa Cruz, California – Pleasure Point”

  1. GRAFFITI – #20 – CRAVER & SURGEN & THE TRADE SHOW - The American Camera Hut Says:

    […] Santa Cruz, California – Pleasure Point « Living in the Embrace of … […]

  2. kashluck Says:

    Nice Post. Thank you.

    “It s very different from life in Tamil Nadu” – Definitely the environment will be much better than that of Tami Nadu. Indeed, it must be a challenge for you to compromise between:
    (1) The external beauty and cleanliness of Santacruz
    (2) The internal bliss and peace of Thiru

    A. Raviprakash

  3. drsundaram Says:

    thanks a lot mr richard . Not only you are taking us thro arunalchaleswara, aptly, often, but also now in America with your beautiful prsentation and photographs. To see yours was like having visited it.
    Thank you

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