As a lifelong California resident, I can honestly say that there are no bad seasons. The Winter delivers solid storms that light up the spots we wait all year for. The Spring brings combo swells and rising temperatures. And with Summer comes southern swells and small bikinis. But if I had to choose a time year that pulls at my heartstrings just little bit more than the rest, that time would be Fall.

Golden light, warm offshores, lingering south swells and precursors from the north – it all amounts to those classic California days that everyone dreams of. But a key factor in taking full advantage of these wondrous few months is having the right rubber to keep you nice and cozy on those marathon days. So here at SURFING, we’ve set out to display all your wetsuit options for this 2016 season in our latest Field Test. And what better way to do so than through the times and trials of a good ol’ fashioned California road trip? So please, take a leak before we jump on the road, maybe even grab some snacks while you’re in there, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

The plan? Well, there really isn’t one. All we know is that it’s day 1 and by nightfall we’d like to be in San Francisco.

A classic California high pressure system is in full swing. It’s about ninety degrees outside of the car, and a mildly-refreshing 80 degrees inside. Just before Point Conception, we make the wise decision to jet to the coast. It’s too hot, and we’ve got far too much road ahead of us to not jump in the water for a paddle.

After a winding, scenic drive, we arrive at the beautiful Jalama Beach County Park. The waves look fun, the wind is calm, and we’re all a bit antsy to stretch our legs. Mikey decides to go for the Buell in bright aquarium blue and I grab the Billabong Furnace. We’d come to find that both choices were more than warm enough (and Mikey’s plenty flashy).

Waves were ridden, some heat-fueled crankiness was alleviated, and back on the road we went. Next stop, San Francisco.

Okay, well, maybe we’ll stop in Lompoc. Photographer Peter Taras loves his wine and we love Peter, so off to a small (and wonderfully air-conditioned) tasting room we went for a glass and a crash course in vino.

With wine in our bellies (everyone’s besides the driver’s) and the sun at high noon, we make our way back onto the 101 North.

After a few more hours of weaving through the central coast, San Francisco welcomes us with open arms. The sun is making its final dive toward the horizon and the beach is still packed with people. A full day of weather like this is a rare occurrence in the city.

We scramble for our suits as there’s just enough time to catch a few waves. I grab the Patagonia R1 and Mikey grabs the Quiksilver Highline Performance thinking that we’d go for some lighter suits because we knew we weren’t going to be in the water for that long. With that being said, both suits were surprisingly cozy for the entirety of the hour-long session as well as very nonrestrictive.

As night fell, we could tell the waves had been good all day. Big peaks littered the beach and we found ourselves in front of a few before it became too dark to see. Should we have not surfed Jalama and driven straight here? Maybe. But there was no use in getting caught in hindsight. Tomorrow holds promise.

Long, strenuous days like these call for a good meal and a healthy slumber. After checking into our dodgy Sunset District motel, two large pies and a few pitchers of beer awaited us at the pizza joint down the street. Calories don’t count on the road.

The sun has yet to rise and there’s a knock on our hotel room. I’m a little hesitant to answer. Last night I was eyed down by an ambiguously angered Eastern European man outside our room. Thinking it might be him, I cautiously peek through the blinds. It’s Pete and Mikey – and apparently they like to get an early start.

We check the waves out front. It looks morning sick and a bit confused, so we opt to grab some coffee and head south to meet up with Nate Tyler and Noah Wegrich. SURFING editor at large Taylor Paul joins us for joe and we convince him to tag along our excursion. I jump in the car with him.

Sure, we came up here to get waves. That will always be the driving force behind most all of our coastal adventures. But the times spent in between sessions, the times spent in the car, the hotel rooms, the coffee shops, those are the times that will leave lasting memories. As the sun peaks over the small town of Pacifica, Taylor and I slide down the coast. We’re in a heated battle of who can spot the most hawks. I forgot who won, but I’ll remember that drive til’ I’m old and grey.

Our destination comes in no time. Nate and Noa greet us in the parking lot wearing two of the friendliest grins you’ll find this side of Yolo County (That’s a real place, look it up). They lead us down an enchanted little trail that spits out to a left wedge. Excited as it looks fun, we race back to the car to change.

At this point we still had plenty of flashy rubber to try out, but I was drawn to the Zion suit. The sleek design struck a chord and I was curious to see how it would hold up. Mikey grabbed the Body Glove Prime, a safe bet.

Turns out, the wedge was much more fun to watch than it was to surf. It was a little backwashy, a little too close to the sand, and quite honestly, I was a feeling a little slow from the pizza and pitchers the night before – not the most nimble of pre-surf meals. Nate and Noah suggested a beach just a few minutes up the road and off we went.

As we pulled up to spot number two, a clean, three wave set rolls through the lineup. It looks like a lowers-esque left with a dumpy little inside section – a heavenly setup for our goofyfooted chaperones. Everyone scrambles for their gear, and before Mikey and I even decide on what suits to wear, Nate’s already stomped a massive straight air.

Knowing that this session may be a long one, we decide on the Excel and Rip Curl suits – two that we presumed to be on the warmer side of the bunch. Three hours later, this presumption would be fully justified. Tired, but in no way cold, Mikey and I make it back to the car satisfied with our respective decisions.

It was no later than 2 o’clock, but it felt as though we’d covered enough coastline and fit in as much surfing as most would in a solid weekend. A proper meal and power nap were in order.

When asked, “Where should we go eat?” Nate and Noah drifted into “How good does frozen yogurt sound right now?” Sure, it sounded amazing. But it this was a telling sign that, despite their physical age, not a thing has changed since their youth – they’re still just two wirehaired groms running wild on the Central Coast.

It was this attitude that Nate and Noah possessed, this relaxed sense of confidence that things were going to work out in our favor, which made our trip the memorable time that it was. We moved on feelings, not schedules. We surfed with glowing smiles, not scowls. And our hosts showed us just how the California coast was meant to be enjoyed – with a full tank and an open mind.

The next morning, the time came when we had to start our journey back down to San Diego – this time taking the scenic, coastal route. I logged one last surf in the O’neill Psycho (in honor of our Santa Cruz drive-by) and we jumped on the road.

The car was quiet as we headed south through Big Sur – everyone’s eyes fixed to the horizon. I caught myself with a subtle smirk as a stared out the window. I felt like I had just won something. I felt like the completion of our road trip was a victory, and these cliffs we danced across served as a natural podium that looked over the entire Pacific.

This feeling, however, was squashed by the blaring noise of an open window and a foul smell. I’m pretty sure Pete farted.

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