Having lived in California for most of my life, I've had quite a bit of experience visiting the ocean. It's usually warm enough to go, especially if you're further south in the state. But it's not all Hollywood says it is.
When you arrive at any given California beach, it probably seems like a pretty normal day. The sun is shining, the palm trees are waving hello, and you and your friends are ready to relax. You'll continue to be ready as you spend half an hour trying to find a free parking space. As you slowly circle the same blocks over and over again, feeling cramped and annoyed in your hot car, you seriously consider just paying the overpriced parking meter so you can get on with your day. Just as you're about to give up, you find an open spot. Ha! Take that, capitalism!
The sea breeze ruffles your hair as you pass by the cute little shops surrounding the beach. They catch your eye, but the debate between good-looking food and a wallet with money in it stop you from buying every seafood entree and açai bowl you see. As you leave the concrete street towards the beach itself, you decide to take off your shoes to feel the warm sand between your toes. After about six or seven steps, that warmth feels like walking on the coals of Hell itself. Not to mention, there are rocks and shells and shards of who-knows-what littered everywhere. Ow ow ow, okay, putting my shoes back on right now, you think in defeat. You're going to have sand in your shoes for several days. Accept your fate. Blisters on your soles are worse.
You and your friends walk for several minutes, past hordes of sunbathers and sandcastle builders, before finding an open spot. You quickly set up your towels and begin slathering on the sunscreen. Taking in your surroundings, you notice there's some gross-looking seaweed near the shore. In fact, it's everywhere. A seagull (AKA the most obnoxious birds) lands five feet away from your friend's towel, daring to waddle closer and closer until one of you scares it off. Repeat ad infinitum. The day is so warm that a pleasant drowsiness quickly distracts you.
The ocean, glittering blue, is calling your name. You and whichever friends actually go in the water quickly skip over to the cool damp sand that doesn't burn your skin. A wave ripples through the water and finds its way to your feet.
No matter where you are in California, the water is always FREEZING.
You and your friends spend the next ten minutes yelling about how cold it is and slowly inching your way into the water. One of your buddies dived right in and has spent that time swimming and warming up to the ice-cold ocean. That's probably a smart idea. You can't bring yourself to do it, and settle for letting your feet go numb as you stand knee-high in the water, letting seaweed brush your toes. It's not so bad, you start to think, but then a giant wave crashes through and splashes water up to your chest. Nope nope nope, goodbye water. You haul ass out of there.
The burning coals of sand are now a pleasant temperature to your numb feet. However, if you thought you were sandy before, you underestimated how annoying sand can be. It sticks everywhere, especially to your wet legs. As you sit and sunbathe, trying to regain some body heat, a random gust of wind every now and then will keep you from getting too relaxed. You're basically coated in sand and you begin to seriously wonder why you like going to the beach in the first place.
As the afternoon turns into evening, the sun begins its descent West. The once-blue sky glows red, orange, gold, pink, even a little purple. Ocean waves crash a little harder as the shore rises higher. You take a moment to appreciate the incredible view in front of you. California's one of the lucky ones. The vivid sunset you just witnessed stays in your mind as you drive back home. That is until you look in the mirror and realized you missed a spot with the sunscreen. A raging red sunburn reminds you of the glowing red evening sky. You're going to have a weird tan. Looks like a good excuse to go back to the beach.