In Big Sur’s surfing culture, respect is earned by time on the water. So one hotel’s effort to attract surfing tourism has the tight-knit community snapping.
Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur has partnered with an international surfwear company to offer the Billabong Big Wave Excursion deal. For $2,010, tourists get a room for two, a four-hour surf lesson and spa perks.
Local surfer Ron Triplett says that’s a bad idea. Good waves in Big Sur are hard to find, fickle and dangerous for beginners, he says. And the isolated surf is frequented by territorial locals who don’t want it commercialized.
“When people show up who are not respectful and low-key, there can be trouble,” he says. “Whoever thought of [the offer] doesn’t know the lay of the land or the ethics involved. Ventana could end up with a situation on their hands that they just don’t understand.”
Several other local surfers who asked not to be named echoed his sentiments.
“Nobody wants a billion-dollar international company bringing rich tourists to surf and possibly exploit breaks where on most days you can surf by yourself,” one says.
Adds another: “Our feelings are zero-tolerance about any media exposure. Any experienced, hard-core surfer would never bite on this deal.”
But Ventana General Manager Steve Johnson says he hasn’t heard any complaints. “I have avid surfers on staff here,” he says. “I’m aware of secret areas on the coast, and they are going to be protected.”
San Francisco-based boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre, which owns Ventana, also offers Billabong partnerships at the Santa Cruz Dream Inn and Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach. Billabong couldn’t be reached for comment.