Monday, September 28, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 30

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on December 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 41

Last-Minute Gift Guide 2019

By Sun Staff


The Central Coast has no shortage of things to do. Hiking, biking, beach walking, and more are right outside your front door. And there’s also no shortage of all of those “specialty,” “artisan” tchotchkes that so often get thrown into a drawer somewhere after the gift-giving season is over. This year for the Sun’s annual Last-Minute Gift Guide, we propose something that could fit in between. An experience that’s unique to SLO and Santa Barbara counties that a friend or family member might never forget. You can send them sailing, riding, packing, or crafting. There are so many things to do, but we’ve only got a sampling for you. Just a little taste to whet your appetite for giving. 

—Camillia Lanham

Holiday climbing

To the top
Visit to learn more about classes, programs, and rates. The Pad Climbing’s Santa Maria gym is located at 2399 A St. Find hours and more on Facebook @thepadclimbingsantamaria.

The Pad Climbing comes from humble beginnings. 

In 2003, Yishai Horowitz and some fellow climbers converted a 400-square-foot self-storage unit in San Luis Obispo into a mini rock-climbing gym. Horowitz said they were simply looking for a place to climb when it was dark or raining outside. 

“It lasted for a couple of years and then the [storage facility] management changed and kicked us out,” Horowitz said. 

After a few years and various locations, Horowitz and his wife, Kristin, now run a 14,000-square-foot gym in SLO, a roughly 10,000-square-foot gym in Santa Maria, and recently purchased a facility in Las Vegas.

If you’re still scrambling for gift ideas, a trip to one of these facilities is an affordable and mildly adventurous option—although the airfare to Las Vegas might be costly. A day pass to the gym in SLO costs $20, while the gym in Santa Maria costs $15. And if you’re feeling like a really generous gift giver, both gyms offer monthly and annual memberships.

At the Santa Maria gym, there’s one type of climbing available called bouldering—when a climber scales a short distance without a rope until he or she gets to the top of the 14- to 18-foot wall. The floor below the climbing area is padded to cushion any falls. 

At The Pad Climbing in Santa Maria, climbers can scale the 14- to 18-foot walls without being attached to ropes. The padded floor below cushions falls.

At the gym in SLO, in addition to bouldering, climbers can try out top rope or lead climbing—although the latter is more advanced. While top rope climbing, a person securely fastens a rope that’s attached to an anchor at the top of the gym’s 35-foot wall to his or her harness. That person’s climbing partner then attaches the rope to his or her harness and holds the rope to ensure the climber doesn’t fall to the ground. This process is called belaying

If this also sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Horowitz said gym staff members are always available to show first-time climbers the ropes, literally and figuratively. 

People interested in bouldering can grab a pair of climbing shoes—which are free with a day pass—and get to work. But before top roping in SLO, climbers have to take a belay test to show they can safely perform the process. Or climbers can use the auto-belay, which is a machine with a rope that attaches to a climber’s harness and allows the person to safely climb without a partner.

Whether the person you’re buying a gift for has never climbed before or is a seasoned climber, there are options for everybody. Climbers can follow prescribed routes on the wall that range in varying degrees of difficulty. Or climbers can simply grab holds and start moving, Horowitz said.  

“Obviously climbing is not for everybody, but I think being able to push yourself in any sport is really a unique thing,” Horowitz said. “And with climbing in particular, if people don’t play baseball, soccer, football, or whatever team sports, [climbing’s] a different outlet.”

—Zac Ezzone


Skydive Santa Barbara is located at 1801 North H St., suite G, in Lompoc. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Call at (805) 740-9099 or email at, for more information.

If your loved one craves the gift of free fall, Skydive Santa Barbara offers one of the highest jumps around. 

Over in Lompoc, the skydiving company serves the entire region, hosting 7,000 to 8,000 divers a year. Many would-be jumpers come all the way from Los Angeles to step out the airplane door.

Dave Hughes, owner of the company, said his skydive operation is renowned, partly, because of its plane. Called a Supervan 900 Caravan, the single-engine Cessna cost Hughes $1.6 million. But it was worth it, he said, because it allows him to get divers up to an altitude of 18,000 feet—so high that they’re hooked up to oxygen. That’s his priciest jump at $269. It’s about a minute and a half of free fall with full view of the coast and the splashing waves of the Pacific. The most popular jump, he said, is the 13,000-foot option, which is one minute of free fall for $169. Eight-thousand feet will cost $139.

Skydive Santa Barbara offers tandem jumps at altitudes so high that jumpers are provided oxygen for the minute-and-a-half free fall to the ground.

Hughes’ plane was even featured in the film San Andreas, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Hughes himself was in an American Express commercial, jumping out of an airplane. 

“I’m the skinny guy,” he said.

He hosts graduations, birthdays, even marriage proposals.

“The guy jumps out first and gets on his knee as the girl is coming down,” he said. “Usually the girls are crying before they ever reach the ground.”

Skydive Santa Barbara also offers training for people who want to go solo.

They require completion of two tandem jumps in a 30-day period, where divers will learn how to pass their assisted free-fall program. That comes after the initial jumps, and it includes a number of jumps—about seven—and four to six hours of ground training. The ground training and first dive run is $364.

—William D’Urso

Glassy art

Blow it
Glasshead Studio is located at 8793 Plata Lane, suite H, in Atascadero. Visit to learn more. Contact Glasshead at (408) 839-6167 or

Lisa Renée Falk loves to draw out the inner artist in us all (no matter how hidden it is), and she’s staked out a career doing it. With nearly two decades of experience as a professional glassblower and studio owner, Falk recently opened Glasshead Studio in Atascadero, a creative space giving the community a chance to make their own glass pieces, from plates and bowls, to ornaments, to colorful mosaics. Open to all skill levels, Falk’s hands-on classes take participants through the entire glassblowing process, working with a variety of concepts, techniques, and materials. The end goal is fun and simple: to spread the creative joy of glassmaking.

“Most people love glass; you use glass every day,” Falk said. “Being able to use it in a creative way, whether it’s displaying it or using it for plants … I think it’s an accessible, tactile experience.”

Give the gift of glassmaking this holiday season by signing your friends and family up for a class at Glasshead Studio.

Consider giving a gift certificate to Glasshead Studio to your friends or family this holiday season—let them unleash their inner artist! Make a 6-by-6 inch mosaic tile or seahorse; or a fused glass plate or bowl; or a stained-glass hanging terrarium; or something else. Falk offers individual, couples, and larger group classes, with discounts for groups of six or more. Groups could be a gathering of your friends, a kids birthday party, or even a company team building session. The cost per person ranges from $45 to $120, and classes run about two and a half hours.

Participants will get a chance to cut glass, mix glasses, add designs and text, and combine colors and textures, all while spending time together in a vibrant creative space. The possibilities are literally endless, even for the most novice of glassmakers, Falk said.

“You don’t necessarily have to be an artist per se to be able to make a plate in here. I feel like everybody is an artist in their own way,” Falk said. “Those are some of my favorite pieces because they’re so spontaneous, they combine lots of color and texture. The majority of people who have come into a studio walk away with something they’re really happy with.”

Peter Johnson

Gifting creativity

Joan Martin Fee has been a craft enthusiast her whole life, and she credits her passion to her upbringing.

Work with your hands
To learn more about Creative Me Time workshops, prices, and locations visit Workshop prices vary from project, but range between $35 to $75.

“I lived in the middle of absolutely nowhere; we were at least 10 miles from even a teeny town. So we were always trying to find something to do,” Fee said. “We found things around the family farm to make like floral arrangements and all kinds of stuff.”

She crafted as a hobby until 1990 when she turned on her TV and came upon a nationally televised craft show called Aleene’s Creative Living where viewers were encouraged to submit their ideas for a segment on the show. She submitted her idea—a doll crafted from shrink-plastic—and that was the start of Fee’s creative reawakening. 

Fee now owns and operates Creative Me Time, which offers workshops, kits, private parties, and women’s retreats. Attendees get expert instruction on crafting projects. 

The project and price vary with the season, but she offers workshops on making succulent wreaths, a vertical succulent garden, resin necklaces, stenciled resin wall art, mosaic wine bottles, mosaic frames, stepping stones, and trivets. 

Fee is already developing new classes for next year that incorporate metal-hammered wire wrap and polymer clay.

In the spirit of the holidays’ I was able to create a mosaic wonky Christmas tree.

The classes are perfect for individuals, friends, or family members who want to work on crafting a project together. The workshops are offered throughout the Central Coast—including through Paso Robles Recreation Services, the Morro Bay Art Center, Cuesta, and Lompoc. 

Fee said she’s always wanted to make people feel special, and through these workshops she can do that. 

“I give them encouragement. I feel as though I’m the cheerleader coming along and saying ‘great job’ or ‘good choice of colors,’” she said.

I was invited to the Mosaics Choose Your Project Day workshop on Nov. 23 at the Morro Bay Art Center. Participants chose their project before the event—a mosaic wonky Christmas trees, mosaic wine bottles, or stepping-stones. 

White paper and supplies covered three tables in the center’s activity room.

On two separate tables, Fee had multiple bins with an array of colored tiles, china plate pieces, baubles, buttons, and beads so attendees could customize their projects. 

To get in the holiday mood, I chose to create my version of the wonky Christmas tree. My supplies included wood, paint, glue for the decoration of the tree, and grout to hold everything together.  

Fee gave instructions and then we started. She walked around the tables and gave compliments, tips, and help, and she answered questions that anyone had. The atmosphere was perfect for first-timers, as some attendees had been to several workshops because everyone was giving one another compliments on their work. 

My favorite part had to be when the room fell silent, as everyone was hard at work on their pieces with only the sound of positivity to break the stillness. 

—Karen Garcia

An indelible impression

In need of an out-of-the-box gift idea for your edgy friend or spunky aunt? Get the gift that lasts—like, forever. 

Ink the halls
To find out more about the services offered at True West Tattoo and San Luis Tattoo Company, visit and, respectively. For more information on home tattoo kits, visit

A tattoo! That’s right y’all—ink. 

From cheap stick-and-poke tattoo sets, to personal tattoo guns, to sessions with San Luis Obispo’s professional artists, tattoos of all kinds make for thrilling and customizable gifts. 

Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular across the globe, and according to a Dalia Research survey conducted in 2018, roughly 38 percent of the 9,054 individuals surveyed in 19 countries said they had at least one tattoo. And it’s not just the young ’uns, according to Eric Jones, tattoo artist and owner of True West Tattoo. 

“Everyone gets tattooed now,” Jones said. “It’s crazy.” 

He might be biased, but Jones thinks tattoos make for great gifts. 

Large tattoos can cost hundreds of dollars, but he said the price flexibility inherent to gift cards allows buyers to spend within their means. Some customers go all out and put hundreds on gift cards, he said, and others do $50 or so, money that couldn’t cover an entire tattoo but could definitely contribute to the cause. With True West’s minimum price for a single tattoo set at $80, which is enough to buy what Jones calls a “college Pinterest size” tattoo, he said most customers stay somewhere within the $100 to $150 range. 

Home stick-and-poke tattoos like this one take time and research but are fun to give and receive once you get the hang of it.

The gift of a tattoo is also a great way to incentivize those on the fence, Jones said, those wary individuals who might want a little ink but are nervous about the pain or bothered by the cost. Better yet, True West is giving out one free item of apparel—shirts, hats, patches, etc.—with every tattoo this holiday season. 

But, Jones said, this kind of present has to go to the right person. 

“I’m not buying lingerie for my grandma,” he said. 

At San Luis Tattoo Company, owner and tattoo artist Daniel Derrick offers private, one-on-one sessions at a $200 an hour minimum, and his wife and business partner offers cosmetic tattooing services at varying prices. It’s a higher than average rate, but Derrick said it’s worth it for the highly personalized experience. And, he said, gift cards are available online, so you don’t even have to leave the house to buy one. 

If you want your loved one to unwrap something a little more exciting than a gift certificate, however, maybe homemade tattoos are the present for you. 

Home tattooing kits—which typically include ink, needles, gloves, a tattoo gun, and power source—are available on Amazon for as little as $46. Home stick-and-poke kits cost even less. 

Like all things DIY, these kits require a lot of research into safety practices and tattooing techniques, but if you think your giftee has the patience and creative skill to tattoo, home tattooing can be the hobby of a lifetime. Literally. 

—Kasey Bubnash

Weekly Poll
What do you think should happen at the Oceano Dunes SVRA?

Ban vehicles for good. It's actually enjoyable without all the traffic.
Open it to off-roading now! Oceano needs the revenue now more than ever.
Open off-roading to locals only. We need to get COVID-19 under control before we let visitors in.
Keep it closed until the pandemic is over.

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