Column: Santa Barbara a student utopia in many aspects

Tim Kelleher, Staff Writer, Tim Kelleher, Staff Writer, and Tim Kelleher, Staff Writer

In the spring of 1999, I attended the Frozen Four NCAA hockey national championship at The Pond in Anaheim. I was eight years old, a squirt hockey player and surfer groom from Maine.

Awestruck by California, I looked up at my Dad and said, “This is where I’m going to live.” 10 years later I registered for classes at City College.

My last summer in Maine I worked two jobs to build some bank. I worked out, and I surfed.

That August I drove across the country. After 3000 miles of farmland, desert and endless ribbons of highway, the view heading into Santa Barbara from Ventura on the 101 blew my mind.

The sun was high in the sky. The ocean was blue with fans of big white spray coming off the waves. I saw Rincon; a wave I had watched in surf movies my entire life.

I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

I remember arriving in Isla Vista like it was yesterday. I laughed as we passed the big wooden “Welcome to Isla Vista” sign. From El Colegio to Del Playa the streets were flooded with girls in bikinis, guys riding bikes with surfboards, and people rolling kegs down the streets on skateboards.

Paradise.

It’s funny to think that I had chosen City College because of its high rank among other city colleges, the beautiful campus, and the transfer program into UCSB.

High school was a rocky road filled with ups and downs, with Southern California and college a remote dream from where I was. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

With the intent of taking a year off and figuring it out, I hadn’t applied to any schools my senior year.

Things then happened quicker than expected. Come August my friends were leaving for colleges like Boulder, ASU and Plymouth University. Winter set in and life really became miserable.

I hated the community college I was taking classes at. It was tiny and it felt like high school, but without my friends.

My great job as a food runner at a busy, high-end restaurant, turned into a prep-cook and dishwashing gig as business left with the good weather.

It snowed, snowed some more, and snowed again and again.

Fighting the cold, shoveling and earning minimum wage had not been my plan. Even surfing became less enjoyable. There is nothing fun about a wetsuit getting flushed with 38-degree water and icicles in your eyebrows.

This was where I lived? This was home?

Compare that to Santa Barbara, where in the winter the water temperature only reaches down to the 50s. The cold even has its upsides, one being crowd control: a rarity in Southern California.

Santa Barbara has been a dream come true. I’ve always said: work hard, play hard. But now I actually live that dream, and it allows me to thrive. Between school, my evening job as a food server, and the Isla Vista nightlife, time has never gone by so fast.

Santa Barbara has spoiled me. I shiver and complain about the cold, I skip class when it’s raining, and I even miss the freeways when I go back east. In Maine right now, they’re shoveling and maybe surfing. Today, I am surfing, then studying.

This coast is now my home.