I recently spent some time visiting with a good friend on the West Coast (particularly Southern California, or SoCal), and I’m still processing the variances out there from my own East Coast attitude. Having not only grown up in New Jersey, and having lived in and around New York City for years now, it has become inherently clear in my attitude. This is particularly applicable in places as contrasting as SoCal, and even in parts of Italy with their “Relax! It’ll get done when it needs to get done!” laid-back attitude. I’m sad to admit that I generally always expect new friends and acquaintances that I meet to have the same bitter and cheerless outlook on life as me, but I am fortunate to ALWAYS be proved wrong. This is precisely what happened to me with my new friends from Pacific Beach, San Diego.

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On my first night in town, amid surf boards hanging from apartment ceilings, I was clued into the veritable “posse’s” that make up the different surf breaks in town. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, for every inlet that provides a good opportunity for surfing on any given beach there is also a “gang” of enforcers that comes along with the package. I was also told that each surf group usually gets along with one another, UNLESS there’s is a disagreement between members. At which point, an escalation to a beach-set civil war can ensue. And here I thought surfing was supposed to be a relaxing activity! Silly me.

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I don’t want to generalize here, though. I am certain that there is a large population (if not majority) of Cali surfers that don’t give a you-know-what about all of these self-imposed politics, and just want to get themselves out on the water no matter the conditions. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super interested in this seemingly intricate sub-culture that I’d known nothing about several hours prior. The Sociology textbooks are right: social groups and organizations comprise a basic part of virtually every arena of modern life. Even stretching as far as the surf breaks of Southern California…

I was also greatly intrigued (but not surprised) by how much attention Californians pay to their bodies, even in unexpected ways. It’s no secret that having perfect, sunny weather year-round will lead to a hypersensitivity of one’s appearance and overall vitality than someone living in a rainy/cold climate. There are açai bowls, kale salads, green smoothies and even low-calorie cocktails available everywhere. It’s SO much easier out there to look after yourself with all of these options easily at your fingertips. Then let’s throw in the amount of time you spend outside: hiking, surfing, swimming, running, etc. It doesn’t hurt to stare at a gorgeous beach or cliffside while engaging in these activities, either. Or breathing in the sublime fresh air coming in off the tide. Ugh. Can you tell how badly I want to go back already??

One of my new California-native friends started to complain how she though she needed to get in shape (I certainly don’t have to tell you that she was already more in shape than anyone I knew back at home) because the summer was coming and she’d be partying more. I was confused as to why you’d need to be more in shape just for the sake of partying, ignorantly thinking that these are two conflicting ideas. After inquiring further, I was yet again interested to learn that according to Californians, you can have a better time partying if you’re in better shape because you feel more alive that way. What a poetic way to describe let’s say, getting drunk on the beach?

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Just a few days spent under the California sun can inspire a totally new viewpoint on one’s interconnectedness between mind, body and nature….and I like it.