The Ranch - Cojo Reef Guía

About The Ranch - Cojo Reef

Uh-oh. Here we go again -- the dreaded surf media's shameless exploitation of SoCal's secret little jewel. Well, not exactly. Due to years of saturated bickering and ballyhoo regarding the coveted Hollister and Bixby ranch reefs and points, we've decided here to simply offer an overview, touch briefly on the access clause, then leave the rest up to you.

What The Ranch surfing tug-of-war essentially boils down to is this: throughout the '60s, The Ranch was solely ruled and regulated by members of the Santa Barbara County Surfing Association. When the Hollister Ranch was subdivided in the early '70s, affluent surfers swarmed in and purchased parcels. It didn't take long for them to believe it was (and still is) their God-given, exclusive right to surf The Ranch by themselves or with some friends.

What ensued is the standard selfish surfer mind-set that runs rampant throughout the world, despite the fact that certain places like The Ranch were long ago exposed and are hardly something to pretend doesn't exist. Granted, The Ranch would be one of the most crowded spots in California if it weren't for the requisite $75,000 parking pass, unless you consider how fickle and inconsistent the reefs actually are. Because of its due-south exposure and Channel Islands partial shadow, swells usually hit smaller at The Ranch and tend to be highly tide sensitive. Yes, spots like Razorblades, Little Drakes, Rights and Lefts and Cojo offer spurts of perfection on any given day, but if you don't already known this, it's probably not worth worrying about now. Because the fact is, it ain't a whole lot of fun if you aren't one of the in-crowd.

Much to the "owners'" chagrin, they don't get to surf alone at The Ranch. The numbers of wave-hunters who boat up are seemingly infinite, launching their inflatables from the beach at Gaviota if the pier winch is broken (and it often is thanks to cooperative Ranch hounds). If you do pull up at one of the headliner breaks in an inflatable, chances are you will be either glared at or told to split. And watch out for the kamikaze Ranch local in scuba gear who specializes in pulling anchors.

Nonetheless, The Ranch remains a magical fetch of coast, perched just above the urban sprawl of Southern California, and it's little wonder why so many people are fanatic about preserving the integrity of what once embodied the greater Southern California coast before the blitz of people, bulldozers and concrete.

Source: The Ranch - Cojo Reef Surf Guide

Ability Level

Intermediate - advanced

Beg Int Adv

Intermediate to advanced

Local Vibe


Welcoming Intimidating


Crowd Factor


Mellow Heavy

Hostile at the premier spots with land access for parcel owners.

Spot Rating


Poor Perfect

Quirky perfection in old California.

Shoulder Burn


Light Exhausting

Manageable unless a local cuts your anchor line.

Water Quality


Clean Dirty

Clean as it gets in SoCal.

Additional Information


Surly locals.


Most difficult access in Southern California if you don't have land-access. Only other options if you aren't part of the in crowd require beach launching a boat/zodiac/jet ski from Gaviota or a larger boat from Santa Barbara.

Bring Your

Shortboard, fish, funboard, longboard, bodyboard


Sand and rock

Best Season

January-December, but most of the spots with their southerly view fully blocked by the Channel Islands best November-March.

Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos
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