Great Heights

Story Highlights

  • Experience walls at SLO Op Climbing
  • Get to know Cal Poly Campus’s Climbing Wall
  • Try the real thing at Bishop Peak!

San Luis Obispo’s geography is so diverse.  Oceans and lakes make the Central Coast a great place for water sports, which i’ve covered a lot in my blog.  But what about it’s rolling hills? Or its beautiful boulders?  San Luis Obispo is a great place for rock climbing, not only because of the natural access to boulders, but also because there are places like SLO Op Climbing and the climbing wall on Cal Poly campus that create safe and instructive environments for those wanting to learn this extreme sport.

SLO Op Climbing

According to Yishai Horowitz, the operations officer at SLO Op Climbing, SLO Op is the world’s first non-profit bouldering gym, that offers 24/7 access to anyone looking to climb.  A bouldering gym means there are no ropes or harnesses involved when climbing, so climbers are left with just their bodies to figure out how to preserver upwards on the wall.  Horowitz said the SLO Op offers a variety of terrains, the tallest wall being 18 feet tall.

                                                             Courtesy of Kristin Horowitz

 “It’s like a bar.  A fun place where you can go from one place to another, meeting and socializing with friends,” Horowitz said.  

Horowitz said that since it is a non-profit organization, it is more of a club gym.  Everyone is a club member, creating a fun and friendly environment.

                                            Courtesy of Kristin Horowitz

SLO Op Climbing is a great place for people of all skill level to test out their rock climbing abilities.  Since it’s open 24/7, it’s a great place to come any hour of the night to blow off some steam!

Cal Poly Climbing Wall

For those of you that are Cal Poly freshman living on campus, or students with extra time  between classes looking to try something new, Cal Poly’s climbing wall is a great place to check out.  Located directly next to the Cal Poly Recreation Center, the climbing wall offers a 13 foot tall boulder along with a four story climbing tower, making it a climbing environment for beginners and experts.

Graham Goodwin, a first year civil engineering student at Cal Poly, picked up rock climbing this year because of the wall on campus.

     “Its super convenient, and a great place to hang out after class,” Goodwin said.  “I want to see myself do something I never imagined possible, and I feel like this is the place I can do that”.   

     Another student that I met climbing the wall that day was Giana Velasquez, a second year kinesiology major at Cal Poly.  Velasquez had previous experience rock climbing, but was feeling anxious about trying her luck at the boulder, and said she highly doubted she would actually make it to the top.  “This is actually my first time out here, I just decided to try it today because it definitely beats studying,” Velasquez said.  She spent about 15 minutes climbing, falling and failing.

Finally, on what was she said would be her last attempt, she made it up the wall, and successfully to the top.

     “When I reach the top of the rock, its a cool feeling.  I accomplished something that was fun and challenging,” Velasquez said.

Want the Real Thing? Try Bishop Peak!

For those of you who love the outdoors, or prefer real rocks to simulated climbing walls, Bishop Peak is the perfect place to rock climb.  Curtis Yarra is a sixth year biomedical engineering student at Cal Poly who goes rock climbing at Bishop Peak on the daily.  He had never tried rock climbing until he came to San Luis Obispo, where he was inspired to give it a try when he saw the area.

     “I prefer climbing outside than at places like SLO Op because its free and so accessible,” Yarro said.  “its so nice to be outdoors in the fresh air and the sunlight on your back”.  

Yarro said the best thing about rocking climbing Bishop Peak versus other rocks or climbing walls, besides the fact that its free, is that it has all different style of climbing to do.  Yarro then explained to me the three main different types of rock climbing.

3 Main Types of Rock Climbing 

  • Bouldering- Climbing without a harness or any ropes
  • Sport- Using a rope to pull yourself up , with fixed anchors in the rock
  • Traditional- (most difficult)  climber  places all gear required for protection against fall and removes it when a passage is complete

Outdoor rock climbing differentiates from places like SLO Op and the Cal Poly climbing wall because climbers are in the environments natural state.

     “You’re out there trying to solve a puzzle that nature made,” Yarro said.  “It wasn’t built by a gym with the intention to be climbed”.  

Sky High…Paragliding

Story Highlights 

  • A Pilot’s Perspective
  • Voice of an Instructor/Where to Learn
  • Best Places to Paraglide on the Central Coast

This week I focused my blog on the Extreme Sport of Paragliding.  I traveled to places such as Morro Bay, the hills of Cayucos, and Santa Barbara, meeting different people who are all passionate about their sport, paragliding.  Paragliding is such an important part of their lives, that they have devoted their careers to sharing their  passion of the sport with others.

                A Pilot’s Passion 

Tim O’Neil,  a Pilot for the United Airlines,  started flying planes when he was 14 years old,and has been paragliding for the past 10 years.  O’Neil said paragliding on the Central Coast is pretty easy going, and a beautiful way to see the whole panoramic.

“You’re experiencing the world from the perspective of a bird,” O’Neil said.

“It’s the closest feeling to flying, you  feel, hear, see, and smell things from a perspective that most people don’t get to experience”.

O’Neil is the member of the San Luis Obispo Soaring Association (SLOSA), which is a club that promotes paragliding and hangliding on the Central Coast.  Becoming a member of SLOSA is quite easy.  All you have to do is go the the website, email the club leader, and you will be added to the Google group where members communicate with each other about when and where they are paragliding.

Voice of an Instructor 

Hugh Murphy is an avid paraglider that teaches paragliding for people of all ages and all skill levels.  The school is located in Monterey and called Surf The Sky.  Murphy said his goal for his students is to put their fear of heights aside, and experience what it’s like to fly.   “I’ve had 11 year old girls that start off terrified, but end up flying off san dunes on their first day,” Murphy said.  When I met with Murphy,  I told him I had never been paragliding and didn’t know much about it.  He told me to immediately go to Youtube and watch a video filmed from the perspective of a paraglider.  That’s when I understood how paragliding simulates the sensation of flying.

“My greatest childhood dream was to be able to fly.  Now reality has surpassed my dream,” Murphy said. “You are able to fly with seagulls and soaring hawks, the experience is magical,”.


Want to Learn More? Check Out this Book!

Murphy also urged me to check out this book in order to fully understand the appeal of paragliding and what it brings the soul.

  • “Jonathon Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach
  • Author states that paragliding is as close as it gets to flying without an aircraft
  • Murphy said the metaphorical plot is about a seagull living a humdrum life on Earth, and meets other gulls that take him to fly in a different universe, expanding his perspective on life

Top 8 Most Popular Places to Paraglide on the Central Coast 

Willy Dydo is also a paraglider on the Central Coast who has dedicated his life to teaching others how to paraglide.  He gives lessons at a training hill in Santa Barbara, but has been paragliding all over the Central Coast.  Dydo said the top 8 popular places for paragliding are as follows…

  • Ellings Park- A training hill in Santa Barbara where Dydo teaches
  • The Cayucos Hill- Coastal type flying
  • Plow Share Peek- Located off the 166
  • Beets Beach
  • Alterator- Mountain site
  • Eliminator- Mountain site
  • Marina Beach- Popular san dunes in Santa Barbara

Wind Chasers

The past couple of weekends I have gone with local kite surfers Josh Brady and Reed Brady along the Central Coast, chasing wind, and looking for the best spots to kite surf! Before meeting these two brothers I had no idea what kite surfing was, how it started, and what it entailed.  This week’s blog is an accumulation of what I learned about the sport, and how locals of the Central Coast can get into this extreme water sport.

Post Highlights!

  • Kite Surfing Video
  • History of Kite Surfing
  • Best Beaches for Kite Surfing
  • How to Get Involved

History of Kite Surfing 

How did it all begin?

Kite surfing, also known as kiteboarding or kiting, is an extremely dynamic sport that encompasses several different sports.  Second year industrial technology major at Cal Poly, Josh Brady,  said that with kite surfing there’s

“a surfing aspect, you got the snowboarding aspect, there’s the skateboarding aspect, and then there’s paragliding, so knowing how to use a kite to land softly, jump higher, and float better,”.  

The sport started in the late 80’s, when a few guys started experimenting with using oversized kites with water skis and wake boarding off the Hawaiian Coast.  Robbie Nash, Laird Hamilton, and Corey Roesler were the three main experimenters of the sport.  By the 2000’s kite surfing had become more and more popular.   Fourth year recreation, parks, and tourism major at Cal Poly, Reed Brady, said “a lot more people are starting to learn these days, and all the gear is getting a lot more user friendly.  It’s becoming safer and safer and people on the central coast are getting interested in it,”.

Best Places to Kite Surf on the Central Coast

Location Difficulty Wave Size Wind Direction
Pismo Beginner Flat water On shore
Morro (the rock) Intermediate Large waves On shore
Cayucus Challenging Large waves Side on (wind blows to the side versus on shore)

In this picture, Josh Brady is kiteboarding on a lake, with his feet strapped into a wakeboard. This type of board allows one to do jumps, tricks, and get more air.

How to Get Involved with Kite Surfing 

Though the extreme sport may seem dangerous and intimidating to some, Cal Poly fifth year anthropology and geography major Pike Harris said there’s only between 1-2 deaths from kiting a year, and that otherwise it is pretty safe.

 “Especially now that it’s becoming more and more popular people are making safer equipment, so fewer people are getting injured,” Harris said.

 Cal Poly has a Collegiate Kiteboarding Association club, which is a great way to meet the kiting community here on the Central Coast and get started!  Also, Jason Lee teaches kite surfing lessons right at Pismo beach.

Surfing on the Sidewalk


  • Mini profiles on local skaters
  • DIY mini ramp
  • Risks of skating on campus

Skateboarding is an extremely popular activity in San Luis Obispo.  Many students utilize skateboarding not only as a sport but also as a means of transportation.  This week’s blog post features local skaters of San Luis Obispo and their experiences with the pleasures and dangers of skateboarding.

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Swenson and King also have a mini ramp in their backyard, so skating is something they live and breath.

“I was living here over summer with nothing to do, so I was like I gotta build a mini ramp,” King said.  “It took the help of some of my friends and neighbors, but it’s pretty nice having a mini ramp 5 feet from your bed”.

John King Drops In 


King not only uses his skateboard to practice tricks on mini ramps and half pipes, but he also uses it for transportation.  King said, that since he doesn’t have a bike or a car, he’s always just skated to get around.

Build Your Own Mini Ramp


Necessary Equipment 

♠   53 – 2×4’s, 8′ long
♠   4 – 4×8, 3/4″ plywood
♠   10 – 4×8, 3/8″ plywood
♠   5 – 4×8, 1/4″ masonite
♠   1 – 2 3/8″ x 16′ steel pipe
♠   1 – 25lb Box, 1 5/8″ screws
♠   1 – 25lb Box, 2 1/2″ screws
♠   8 – clothesline bolts

Tools Needed

♠   Tape Measure & Pencil
♠   Hammer and clamps
♠   Combination square
♠   Drill w/ Drill Bits
♠   Circular & jig saw
♠   Chalk Line
♠   Friend

Don’t Get Caught! 

Johnny Hoadley, a fourth year Materials Engineer at Cal Poly, said he only uses his skateboard as a means of  transportation from home to class, but Cal Poly Police have been cracking down on students that skate on campus.  

“Apparently you’re not allowed to skateboard on campus, I guess its because you can’t break on them, even though you can stop the board with your foot.  They think you’re going to run into walking students,” Hoadley said.

Skateboarders caught skating on campus in restricted areas get a warning their first offense, but the second offense results in a fine.  “I got one ticket about two years ago.  It was like $300,” Hoadley said.Hoadley said he took a class his sophomore year at Cal Poly, where he built the deck of his skateboard in six weeks.  He said he’s disappointed he doesn’t get to use it freely on campus.  Hoadley said using his skateboard to get around is his main source of transportation even on campus, because it is so much faster.  Is a $300 fine really worth being early to class? Hoadley said even though Cal Poly campus has banned skateboarders from using their boards on campus, he does it anyways when he thinks that cops are not looking.  Hopefully Hoadley won’t get a third violation for skateboarding on campus! 

Surfers of the Soul

Story Highlights

  • Get to know local surfers
  • Their experiences surfing on the Central Coast
  • My experience in Morro Bay
  • Best Beaches to Surf on the Central Coast

Scotty Swenson, a second year Environmental Studies major at Cal Poly, and David Moore, a third year Business Marketing major at Cuesta, share their experiences with surfing on the Central Coast, and why it’s such an important part of their lives.

Surfing on the Central Coast is also very popular amongst females.  Kendall Smith, a third year biology major at Cal Poly said she enjoys surfing because it helps her remember what’s important in life.

“I can’t stop now, it’s addicting.  I love the way I feel afterwards.  I feel happier, like i have a new perspective on life, Smith said.

Smith introduced me to her boyfriend Adrian Broz, who is a fourth year soil science major at Cal Poly.  Smith said Adrian is the one who got her into surfing originally, his passion for the sport made her want to try it out.

“Surfing is such a beautiful thing. It’s ever shifting, ever-changing, and ever satisfying. Surfing is everything to me. It’s my life. Surfing is my life,” Broz said.

When I went surfing with Scotty and David Moore (Cmoore) in Morro Bay, I was initially nervous because of the major difference in skill level, and also because there was a pretty large swell this weekend. But as it turned out, the waves were fairly manageable, and the whole experience was extremely relaxing and rejuvenating. After an hour and a half out in the water, I came in feeling like i refreshed both my mind and body. After this experience I definitely plan on continuing to surf on the Central Coast.

Surfing is an intense sport that allows you to feel one with the nature, while exercising your body at the same time. It is a fairly dangerous sport, but it leaves one with a better understanding and appreciation for the ocean. Unlike most other popular sports in San Luis Obispo such as soccer, football, and basketball, surfing requires just you, a board, and the waves. It’s not about the competition, or winning a trophy, but rather the peace of mind that is brought to you by utilizing the natural beauty of the ocean.  San Luis Obispo has many different organizations that give surfing lessons to people of all ages and skill level!  The students of San Luis Obispo that I interviewed for this blog all consider surfing as a huge part of their lives, not just as a fun sport but as a way of thinking. Surfing inspires them to see the positive in everything.  Sterling Weatherley, a fourth year at Cuesta College, said he initially started out surfing in contests, but now just enjoys surfing  on his own for the fun of the sport.

“No wave is alike, so tomorrow’s just another day, something to look forward to.  You never know what’s gonna happen but it’s always going to be fun,” Weatherley said.

Best Beaches to Surf on the Central Coast 

Thanks to Scotty Swenson

  • Pismo Beach– a social beach, fun downtown.  Filled with surfers catching waves.  
  • Morro Rock– Great for all levels.  Generic beach break.
  • Shell Beach– Great place for beginner level surfers.  Waves tend to be smaller, and more mellow.
  • Willow Creek– Surf for experts.  Located North of Cayucos.  This beach is a low key spot, not known by many surfers, a great place to catch waves without the presence of many other surfers.