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Wild, untamed and unashamed – and that’s just the town’s hippy population – Santa Cruz is a helluva beach town.

A fading breach front with a boardwalk defined by rollercoasters and somewhat tacky souvenir shops may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I kinda like it. Having grown up in a Scottish version – by ‘version’ I mean a vastly inferior version of a beach town (and by ‘grown up’ I mean Peter Pan syndrome) – I’m immediately fascinated by these kind of places.

What captivates me far more, however, is the ravishing scenery,so wild and untamed in places: redwoods colonise nearby hills and mountains; endless swells roll along miles of golden coastline to be share shared by surfers, swimmers and sea lions alike; thundering waves crash constantly into a rugged coastline, cutting it ever-changing shapes. Amidst all this, oceanic giants often appear.

Yesterday, as we watched the surfers, huge migrating humpbacks appeared from the deep to give us a stunning show. Thrashing their huge tails to thrust their hulking bodies out of the water, they were performing incredible mating displays – massive backflips to smash the water, creating a real splash on the dating scene. Not for them speed dating in dank cafés or nights spent uploading supposedly-seductive pics to their internet dating site. Hell no!

As we watch, minutes turn into a couple of hours. This natural wonder is the kind of thing you can never get tired watching. A typically friendly local mom says that, despite being a native, she still gets wowed by such impressive displays. Small wonder when such big beasts are routinely spelbinding. I only use my own pics on this blog, and naturally I was too spellbound by the creatures to hit my shutter. So no pics, I’m afraid! Aside, clearly word had gotten out that the whales were breaching close to the surfers – before long a hoard of snappers both underwater and land-based – appeared out of thin air.

Despite the town’s tacky tourist stuff – which, let’s face it, the child in all of us loves anyway, at least a wee bit – Santa Cruz has a real community feel. And, as I have found with everywhere in California, the average Joe and Jane seems forever relaxed, warm and friendly to us stiff Brits. As a result, I really enjoyed the time we spent here – but it was far too short.

Ok, Santa Cruz is a bit more boisterous than those places down the coast; it lacks the perfect poise of Carmel (the upscale resort town where Dirty Harry – Clint Eastwood – is mayor), or the groomed thoughtfulness of Pacific Grove. Mind you, those places somewhat lack the sheer adrenalin buzz of Santa Cruz.

Aye, it’s not for everyone with only a little – or maybe even a lot of time to spend here – but it’s a fine place for me, I like it. Give it a try.