Moving to California

Hello all-

I looked through the archives and found a couple similar situations around swaylocks here, so I was just wondering if there’s any advice to be given before moving out to California. 

I am in South Carolina, and quit my job a few months back to go do some volunteer work in Nicaragua with the girlfriend. I just returned from Nicaragua with the plan to head out to California within the next week. I had planned on moving after Nica, and that tripped solidified my need to be surfing more often. It is just far too inconsistant of surf here in South Carolina, and my girlfriend will be going back to Canada to study for a year so I have nothing to lose right now. I have a couple thousand dollars saved up, and am pretty set on heading to California.

I am 24, and have plenty of job experiance in recreation, activities, and hospitality (which are my desired fields), but I would work a random job if needed to get by at the begining. I have been looking around San Diego and Orange County for jobs mostly using Craigslist.


Does anyone have any experiances similar to this? Any tips on where to try to move in California, I’m not sure I could handle the cold up around San Fransisco so I’ve been loooking south from there. Which general reigons are most consistant/have the best breaks? My dream is just to be surfing everyday before work somewhere, I know I will have to make sacrifices, and it won’t all be 4 ft. glassy peaks on my own, but I am just too passionate about it to be surfing as little as I do here.


I know a lot of you all on the forum here have followed your passions all throughout your life and I am trying to do the same. Thanks for any help with this, any info about the reigon or a similar move would be greatly appreciated!

good advice bigkahuna…I was just camping in big sur and saw a posting for a camp overseer needed. Pay probably sucks, and the job probably does too, but I think you could live for free, (out of a tent) and surf everyday. Los Padres national forest, Kirk Creek campground. A year without your lady, might as well save that money and rough it! Good Luck. 

P.S. I moved to California with a couple grand, had a job lined up and a housing sitch. That money was gone after a month, and I would have been too without the job lined up.

McDonalds is hiring.


We make surfboards here.

At this point you'd probably be happier in Nicaragua.

 The job market is in the crapper, the water's cold and the surf generally sucks. 

I just moved to San Diego last fall from the San Francisco Bay Area last fall and unclegrumpy is right, the job market is crap.  I have the same work background as you (been a lifeguard/swim instructor for 7 years and had management experience).  Home Depot didn’t even call me back.  It’s doable though. I ended up getting a random job through a buddy, but it took me about 8 months of being unemployed.  The bay area has lots more jobs, but cost of living is a little higher, surf is farthur and colder.  Good luck!

Does this look fun ?

Jobs are tough everywhere here.  It’s expensive.  Are you willing to get behind a shovel?  Clear brush?  Park cars?  Mow lawns? Do whatever it takes to get started?  It’s tough getting a job at McDonalds.  McDonalds used to be an entry into the job market.  Now it’s a career. My advice is to have your resume in order, make friends and contacts, work hard, be reliable, keep your promises, etc. Keep yourself neat and cleaned up. Not all pierced and tatted up.  Eventually, something will open up.  It might not be where you want to live, but that’s the way it works out sometimes.  It can be a tough place to ‘make it.’  There’s a lot of competition.  But, it’s a beautiful, diverse state.  Good luck.  Mike

ps   There are no jobs or surf where I live…

Have you thought about Hawaii?


The irony of this thread is that you started it just as the first hurricane of the season is about to work its way up the coast.  SC and NC are forecast to get head high surf this weekend.  Old surfer’s rule:  “Don’t leave good surf to find better surf.”  Maybe wait until after hurricane season to leave SC.  ;)

Thanks for the advice and the photos guys. I knew I could count on some swaylockers for some help. Although it doesn’t seem too positive jobwise thus far, I plan on leaving in a weeks time, and have enough money to hopefully last about a month or so. If it doesnt work it, it doesnt work out, and I got to go check out California on a vacation!


Proneman- I had actually put a bit of thought into Hawaii, and my old boss at the Marriott here had tons of friends at the Marriott’s down there, but I think that being that far away would put even more of a strain on my girlfriend and my relationship (timezone, and way more expensive flights from Toronto). Beautiful picture though.


/you alll have definitly got me thinking very realistically about my chances about “making it” out there, but as I said I’ll still give it a go. Thanks for the positive note Rooster, and I’ve done my time digging ditches before, I wouldn’t mind doing it for a little (while looking for something more my speed) if I get to surf more often.


Thanks so far and keep the words coming. Anything is helpful at this point

“I have a couple thousand dollars saved up…”


Reality check, you are considering moving to state where cost of living is I don’t know how many hundreds of percentage points higher than SC.  Take your time, save some money, do you know anybody in CA already living there?  old friends maybe?  have a friend of a friend you can call on?  You will burn thru a couple thousand dollars very quickly and it will be nothing more than a vacation…vs the life move you are entertaining and wanting it to be…and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t act like a couple grand in CA is going to last, its not enough…you need to work it, have some connection out there however weak it might be, or you will be back in Mom’s basement quicker than you know or living in Toronto w said girlfriend until she boots your ass and your relationship crumbles to the ground because you are trying to “find yourself”


I commend you on the size of your nuts, they are huge.  But lets call this what it is so far, a way to see CA for a short time and then back to reality unless you plan it out a whole lot better, can crash on a buddy’s couch in CA, while attempting to find work.  I want you to pull it off, and you just might, you are 24, not married, no kids I presume.  Ok, at least you got that going for you.  


but if you want it to be more than a pipe dream, the desire alone and a few grand will not be enough.

Sorry… and I am sincere in wanting it to work for you, its just a little too straight from the hip at the present moment to be what you want it to be.


Flop hotels are at least $20-28 a day minimum, and you will  be living amongst the nearly homeless and will be lucky to not have everything you bring with you stolen out of your room. 

We ended up here in NC after leaving Hawaii 5 years ago.  Enroute, we stopped in San Jose and San Diego to check out real estate, jobs, cost of living, etc.  We found California to be even more expensive than Hawaii, and that was before the economy started to bottom out.  Right now, unemployment in Hawaii is amongst the lowest in the country while California is amongst the highest.  If I could afford it, I’d be living in North County San Diego right now, but with today’s economy what little money I have will go a lot further here than it will there.  If I were in the hospitality biz Hawaii would be where I’d look.  They’ve got tons of hotels and tourism related businesses there.  It’s still going to be hard to find a job and to find reasonably priced housing, but I think it will be easier in Hawaii than it would be in California right now.  Even so, everyone I know in Hawaii that isn’t rich is struggling financially.  But I think the chances are tipped a bit more in your favor there.  The up side to California is that if you do get lucky and land a good job, the pay will likely be much higher than in Hawaii.  Salaries in Hawaii are notorious for being low, not as low as NC or SC, but a lot lower than California.  Best of luck.

Can’t speak for Socal, lived for decades at the beach in the Sf bay area.  Job market there is stronger then in SoCal.  Housing is more expensive.  Wages are higher.  The 65 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz is one of the richest wave areas anywhere, and Fall surf at Ocean Beach can be so damn good.  You can live in the outer avenues  near the beach and take a bus anywhere into the city for work, lot of hotel jobs, walk from your lodging to surf until you can afford a car.   With today’s wetsuits, the cold isn’t much of an issue once you’re used to it.  Overall, best surf/work/live big city on the planet…

Hi is awfully nice as well…made fair amount of trips there over the years, was  on Oahu for 4 months a couple of years ago working some health care facility projects…show some respect, surf hard, get plenty of waves, enjoy the aloha, weather and surf  the best…cost of living expensive, hard to to get away from the crowds on the land and the beach,  and when the VOG coming from the big island settles in, like being in downtown LA…

Couple thousand $$ isn’t much of a relocation fund… however, you can’t get tubed unless you take off behind the peak, so why not go for it regardless of destination…



@pico - That reminds me that there are a number of places where you can live for free, some with pay but most without.  I was talking to an older couple who are “volunteer park attendants” for the National Park service.  They’ve been traveling the US for a couple years, living rent free.  They also told me about similar situations at mobile parks.  Seems I remember at least one or two mobile parks in Carlsbad, CA.  Wonder if anything there was available.  I loved living in Carlsbad, great town with a bunch of great surf spots.

Not to mention the competition for the job market flooded with immigrants, be they legal or illegal.


ps. Undocumented=Illegal.

Maybe lay in some more groundwork at easier living home as you develop the plan and more resources. The advice here on sways is good and from folks of similar mindset and past experience, like having a pal who's tried this before, great resource, and it will keep coming for the asking. I'm thinking go big to try Hawaii.  Calif. becomes ordinary pretty fast and if you make it into Ca. you'll still need to try Hawaii sooner or later, this is a lot about surfing, right? I say do some more hard prep, lay in a landing zone and method for the destnation, go big into Hawaii. Your gal will be thrilled to have you set up a camp in a really great place. Whatever you do, trying to relocate is a monster project. If you go prepped for the magnitude of the operation you'll have a better go of it, go unprepped this is a quick vacation.

You could always try to get to Hawaii (or California for that matter) the same way I did, by joining the Navy.  A least you’d be sure to have a place to sleep, food and a paycheck.  Of course your chances of getting to Hawaii are about one in a thousand, it’s many times more than likely you’ll end up in the Persian Gulf.  I was lucky (we weren’t involved in 3 wars at the time), all I had was a 6’4" thruster and a couple pairs of baggies to my name.  I lashed my board above my bunk and surfed every port we stopped at.  Thanks to the Navy I was able to surf S. California, N. California, Hawaii, Guam, the Philipines and Japan.  Took 4 years to amass a couple weeks of surfing, but it helped me decide exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to live.

I just graduated college, and was lucky enough to get a job…BUUUTT i lived in a house with 9 people (all graduated, good students) and including me 2/9 now have jobs…good luck… but if you do make it to california, I am in San Clemente so I can give you all kinds of information about our secret spots like, t-street and the pier (SSHHHH dont tell anyone!) 

Thanks so much for all the info again guys, you all have a way better grasp on this than I do. I’ve just been looking on craigslist and government jobs and saw lots of parks and recreation jobs, so figured there would be tons of jobs there but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve applied for about 15 jobs I’m definitly qualified for and only one response so far. The more I’m reading these post the more I am thinking that maybe Hawaii is beckoning. I’ve just applied for basically the same job I had at a Marriott resort here, over in Honolulu. I talked to the girlfriend and she doesn’t think it’s too much of a difference if I’m in Hawaii or California while we’re apart, so I’m going to do more looking around Hawaii I think. Right now I’ll hold off on buying the ticket to California, and do some more searching in Hawaii. 


Wherever I end up going you won’t have to worry about a lousy attitude in the water. I’m very respectful in the water and usually keep my distance from the main spots and search for peaks down the beach with less or no crowd.

Thanks again and keep it coming. The forum (and the fact that there is some waves coming this way) is really helping to break up my days of looking for jobs!

Good luck.  You won’t be the first (nor the last) transplant to migrate to Hawaii.  It won’t be easy during this recession, but anything is do-able with the right effort, attitude and a bit of luck.  Forget about finding an empty break down the road, all the secret spots are well known now.  Just be super polite, super friendly and don’t drop in on anyone and you’ll be OK.  Doesn’t hurt to learn some pidgeon too, just to mingle with the regulars.  I found the most agressive surfers back home were all haole’s (and I’m a haole), rarely if ever had any problems with the locals.  If you give aloha, you will get aloha.  :)