Updated: May 17, 2021
Professional surfer Damien Hobgood was 13 when he began traveling regularly from Florida to California for industry events and contests. Hobgood was mostly staying in Newport and Costa Mesa, a hub of the state’s surf industry, but after venturing down the coast he found himself enamored with San Diego. We figured there was know better person to get some insider knowledge of surfing, fishing, traveling, and dining in San Diego than Damien.
“It’s got really good waves, good fishing, cool people, and the weather speaks for itself,” Hobgood says. “It seemed like one of the best places in the world to live.”
A few years and a few kids later, Hobgood made the city his home. Besides the obvious surfing perks, he also loves San Diego’s proximity to the mountains for snowboarding and the desert for camping trips. Not to mention, it’s just 17 miles from the Mexico border; “you can jam down to Mexico any time,” he notes. Read on for a true local’s guide to San Diego, California.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO
When friends come to town, I recommend they base themselves on the La Jolla coast, a stretch full of sandy beaches and bluffs that’s great for views and activities. There’s a trail that winds its way past La Jolla’s most popular coves and you can spot sea lions popping up and people fishing. It’s also one of my favorite places to surf, so I’m a little biased. La Jolla has it all, in my opinion.
UNMISSABLE EATS AND DRINKS
San Diego is big and there’s a ton of great restaurants, but my personal go-to is Fish 101 in North County, where I live. It offers a real mishmash of cuisines but fish and seafood are the star ingredients in every dish. The restaurant sustains a lot of the local fisherman so you know the food is caught locally. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the shrimp tacos, which come grilled or baja style.
Lately, my son and I have been jiving on a place called CHIKO, a Chinese-Korean fusion restaurant with a casual vibe and cool back patio. We order the Salmon Smash served with black bean butter, wild mushrooms, and peas.
I’m not really a big bar person but when I do go out for a drink I hit one of the city’s craft breweries. You can really take your pick – we have a ton of them.
Surf lessons, of course, are a must while you’re in town. I teach intermediate and advanced surfers and try to make it really enjoyable, weaving in life lessons the sport has taught me. I want people to take away skills they can use in everyday life, like if you’re getting held down by a wave don’t panic and don’t try to fight it. You’re going to get dragged under sometimes, just like in life, and the more you can relax and accept your situation, the better your chances of coming out unscathed.
BEST-KEPT LOCAL SECRET
San Diego has the Carlsbad campgrounds, where you can get up, grab a board and be in the ocean in minutes. In my mind it’s kind of like glamping, because you’ve got restaurants just across the street.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
There’s no need to rent a car if you’re staying in San Diego proper – the city has e-bikes everywhere and they’re perfect for exploring the cool parts of town.
Don’t forget to bring a comfy pair of sneakers. Whether you’re running along Sunset Cliffs, exploring Balboa Park or the world-famous San Diego Zoo, or hiking the Torrey Pines trails, they’ll definitely come in handy.
More AIO Adventures in San Diego: