A SLICE OF ORANGE

Whether your love is surf or turf, a stay in Hunt­ing­ton Beach will be fruit­ful

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION | UNITED STATES - SU­SAN BUGG

He’s all mus­cle, chest bulging as he struts along the sand and through the shal­lows, wear­ing only a con­fi­dent grin from ear to ear and a thick chain that swings around his neck.

Chunk is an Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger of the ca­nine world, draw­ing ad­mir­ers like me with ease on this sec­tion of Hunt­ing­ton Beach, the coastal Orange County, Cal­i­for­nia, en­clave so well as­so­ci­ated with surf­ing that its nick­name, Surf City USA, is now a reg­is­tered of­fi­cial ti­tle.

Even the fam­ily pets are on board, rid­ing the waves ev­ery Septem­ber in the fa­mous an­nual Surf City Surf Dog com­pe­ti­tion at Dog Beach. That’s where Chunk and the other ca­nines of the OC cool off in the surf with their own­ers year-round and roll in 2km of sand, free of leads and time re­straints.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach is ac­tu­ally five beaches, Dog Beach among them, stretch­ing 15km along Los An­ge­les’ Pa­cific Coast High­way about an hour’s drive south of LAX and not much more than half an hour on the free­way to Disneyland, which makes it an ideal base to com­bine a beach and theme park hol­i­day.

City Beach, next to Down­town, is the busiest, es­pe­cially at the end of July when thou­sands come to watch the world’s largest surf com­pe­ti­tion, the US Open of Surf­ing, off the south side of one of the long­est and most pho­tographed piers in Cal­i­for­nia.

Year-round, the city is home to brands in­clud­ing DC, Quik­sil­ver and Roxy; the In­ter­na­tional Surf­ing Mu­seum is here; and surf fore­cast web­site Sur­fline has its head­quar­ters up­stairs on Main St, just me­tres from the fa­mous pier. But if you don’t surf – or want to but find you can’t (see be­low) – there are other ways to ex­pe­ri­ence this slice of Orange County. Here’s what you can ex­pe­ri­ence in a day or two.

START EARLY

Some might ques­tion the wis­dom of wait­ing to learn to surf un­til mid­dle age. But when you’re in Surf City USA, it seems wrong not to get on board (pun in­tended). Of all the many surf schools along the coast, and there are many, the con­ve­nient choice is the in­house op­er­a­tion at my ho­tel, the Span­ish-styled Hy­att Re­gency Hunt­ing­ton Beach Re­sort & Spa.

Toes on the Nose pro­vides wet­suits, begin­ner-friendly boards and sun­screen-smeared in­struc­tors who es­cort their wannabe boardriders bare­foot through the re­sort, over the Pa­cific Coast High­way foot­bridge down to the water’s edge. That bit is easy. I hoped to dis­cover an un­known in­nate tal­ent, but the con­di­tions are chal­leng­ing, so much so that now I know how a cat caught in a front­load­ing wash­ing ma­chine might feel.

My re­cov­ery ses­sion is a visit to the Hy­att Re­gency’s Pa­cific Wa­ters spa for a 50-minute pum­melling of a restora­tive kind and a prom­ise to try surf­ing again in calmer wa­ters.

TOESONTHENOSE.COM HUNTINGTONBEACH.RE­GENCY.HY­ATT.COM Tip: Take a walk to the end of Hunt­ing­ton Beach Pier to watch lo­cal boys and girls show­ing how it’s re­ally done. The pier stretches more than half a kilo­me­tre out to sea and is a mag­nif­i­cent spot to cap­ture the clas­sic Cal­i­for­nia panorama of surfers, ocean and sand.

ALL DAY SURFERS’ BREAK­FAST

The fam­ily-run Sugar Shack opened on Hunt­ing­ton’s Main St 50 years ago and is an old-school hang­out for surfers and friends who want their bur­rito, pan­cakes or french toast and other Amer­i­can favourites for break­fast or lunch.

One lo­cal you could find your­self sit­ting next to there is the first World Surf­ing Cham­pion Peter “PT” Tow­nend. As much a Hunt­ing­ton Beach in­sti­tu­tion as the Sugar Shack, PT is ac­tu­ally a Gold Coast-born Aussie who moved to Cal­i­for­nia 40 years ago. He’s be­come a great am­bas­sador for his adopted home, which he de­scribes as “beach cul­ture HQ”. “Nowhere else in Cal­i­for­nia has 10 miles (about 16km) of pris­tine beach,” says PT, whose lat­est en­deav­our in a di­verse surf­ing ca­reer as a com­peti­tor, writer and pro­moter is coach­ing the Chi­nese team to the 2020 Olympics. “You never have to look for a spot.”

He’s a reg­u­lar at the Sugar Shack, where he loves hav­ing a chat about home with any Aussie vis­i­tors he meets. But he also rec­om­mends Dukes (named for Hawai­ian surf cham­pion Duke Ka­hanamoku who surfed at the pier in the 1920s), for a clas­sic Hunt­ing­ton beach­side ex­pe­ri­ence, 25 De­grees for a gourmet burger, and Perqs where oil work­ers used to drink.

HBSUGARSHACK.COM Tip: For break­fast or brunch with di­rect views of the sea, slip up onto the pa­tio at Tan­ners, at two-year-old ocean­side Pasea Ho­tel and Spa. It’s a sleek, morn­ing-through-to-night op­er­a­tion, and the first meals of the day are best en­joyed with a side serve of the Pa­cific. Huevos rancheros – tor­tillas lay­ered with car­ni­tas (pulled pork) topped with egg – were mam­moth. You have been warned.

TANNERSHB.COM

BIKE PATH BLISS

A surf­board isn’t the only ride in town. A 16km coastal path­way sep­a­rat­ing the beach from the Pa­cific Coast High­way is an in­vi­ta­tion to hire a bike and see the scenery from the sad­dle. Want­ing max­i­mum en­joy­ment for min­i­mum ef­fort, we head to Pedego Elec­tric Bikes in the cen­tre of Hunt­ing­ton Beach to pick up a cou­ple of their beach cruiser cy­cles, retro styled and com­fort­able enough for a 30km round trip. The path is rel­a­tively flat, but a bat­tery on the back en­sures that a power boost is avail­able at the touch of a throt­tle.

Our des­ti­na­tion is Bolsa Chica State Beach, where two years ago en­tre­pre­neur­ial Hunt­ing­ton Beach restau­ra­teur Ali­cia Whit­ney ten­dered and won a project to re­vi­talise four

IN­STRUC­TORS ES­CORT THEIR WANNABE BOARDRIDERS BARE­FOOT THROUGH THE RE­SORT

run-down con­crete con­ces­sions. We cy­cle past three of them – one a pro­vi­sions out­let for an RV park – en route to the fourth, SeaLegs at the Beach, an out­post of Whit­ney’s Hunt­ing­ton Beach SeaLegs Wine Bar. Fish and chicken tacos and a mug of SeaLegs’ sig­na­ture frozen rosé – “frose” – are fuel for the re­turn ride. SeaLegs at the Beach is a week­end play­ground with Sun­day live reg­gae.

SEALEGSATTHEBEACH.COM PEDEGOELECTRICBIKES.COM/DEAL­ERS/ HUNT­ING­TON-BEACH/

Tip: Across the high­way from the beach is Bolsa Chica Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve, 500ha of wet­lands where about 200 bird species have been iden­ti­fied.

LET’S GO SHOP­PING

You can buy any and ev­ery piece of surf and beach­wear pos­si­ble in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. Start with the big guns, Jacks Surf­boards and Hunt­ing­ton Surf and Sport, which oc­cupy prime spots on each cor­ner of Main St and the Pa­cific Coast High­way, checking out the foot­path for the Surfers’ Hall of Fame mark­ers. Nearby Pa­cific City, a two-year-old in­door/out­door mall, has la­bels such as Sephora and Free Peo­ple, Hur­ley and Ur­ban Out­fit­ters, along with its Lot 579 food hall.

GOPACIFICCITY.COM

Tip: Pa­cific City has a plethora of din­ing op­tions, in­clud­ing Blue­gold, where the menu crosses pizza, steak from the char­coal grill, seafood and vegie dishes, in­clud­ing the best brus­sels sprouts I’ve ever eaten. It could have been the ad­di­tion of wal­nuts, fontina and vin­cotto vin but most likely be­cause they were flash fried. Aus­tralians, with our preva­lence of Viet­namese restau­rants, might be in­ter­ested to see how a Viet­namese-Amer­i­can chef, Tim Vuong, does it at Blue­gold’s ad­join­ing sis­ter space, LSXO. Dishes here are served to a sound­track of old­school hip-hop.

DINEBLUEGOLD.COM

THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF VISIT HUNT­ING­TON BEACH

PIC­TURES: VISIT HUNT­ING­TON BEACH

Hunt­ing­ton Beach stretches 15km along Los An­ge­les’ Pa­cific Coast High­way and in­cludes the Pier, a long coastal path­way, prime sur­fwear shops and a much-loved dog beach.

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