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Alana Nichols is the queen of aquatic adventures in San Diego. She's a multi-sport athlete and Gold Medalist in the Paralympic Games, training right here on the water in San Diego. When she's not training, you might find her kayaking, adaptive surfing, boating and being one of the destination's coolest beach bums. So, it's safe to say Alana knows her way around the water in San Diego. Here are her top spots.
San Diego is full of awesome surf spots, from secret beaches to iconic breaks. Alana's favorite is Cardiff Reef. "The vibe is very welcoming," Alana says. "And it's a reef break with a short beach - which makes it easy for me!"
When Alana's not surfing (or kayaking or boating or adventuring on the water in one way or another) she likes to just relax on the beach. Who doesn't? She prefers to hang out at Seaside Reef in Cardiff. It's less busy, and sometimes it feels like she has the whole beach to herself.
Windansea Beach in La Jolla is beautiful any time of day, any time of year. Head there for a sunset, though, and you'll feel like you're in a dream. This is Alana's favorite spot to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. The unique cliffs and slabbed rocks of Windansea Beach makes for a truly breathtaking scene, and the palm-covered Surf Shack adds a little extra charm.
Alana's a Paralympic sprint kayaker, but that doesn't mean she's always competing. She likes to kayak for fun, too, and there are plenty of great places to discover by paddle in San Diego. Her favorite is La Jolla Cove. "The caves are so fun to explore!" she says, referring to the seven sea caves only accessible by the water. Say hi to the sea lions that call the caves home!
"Go to Bird's Surf Shed and ask!" she says. The guys at this shop have more than just great boards and gear. They know all the surf spots around the county - they can direct you to some unexpected and unknown breaks.
"I love to surf, but when I have the opportunity to board a sailboat or yacht and explore the bay or open ocean I ALWAYS take it!" Alana says. And who can blame her? She also likes paddleboarding or kayaking in Mission Bay. "It's really mellow, and very inexpensive," she says. Plus, Mission Bay is where she trains for sprint kayaking in the Paralympic Games!
Alana is a big fan of Surf Diva and all they do to help people get out on the water. They offer all the gear rentals you need, plus awesome lessons to get you standing up in no time. You'll find them right on the beach in La Jolla Shores. She also loves Bird's Surf Shed. A surfer's mecca, Bird's is part surf gear shop and part museum. It's full of rare and collectible boards that are definitely worth admiring.
Before you hit the waves, you need to fuel up. Alana recommends Good On Ya Deli in Encinitas, a delicious oasis of local and organic scrambles, veggie bowls and breakfast burritos to get you ready to rip.
After a day of water and sunshine, you'll have definitely worked up an appetite. Luckily, there are plenty of awesome eateries in San Diego's coastal towns, from La Jolla to Mission Beach to Ocean Beach. The latter ("OB" as it's locally known) is home to Alana's favorite beachside grub spot. She loves Mike's Taco Club, located just feet from the sand and Ocean Beach Pier. "You can buy amazing fish tacos and walk straight to the beach," Alana says.
Where there are awesome beaches, there are awesome beach bars. Alana's favorite is West End in Pacific Beach. "It's divey and not well-known, but it's a ton of fun," Alana says. You'll find it just a block up from Tourmaline Beach, a popular surf spot.
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