Local to Know

Local to KnowChris Burkard shares his advice for other photographers and filmmakers and where he loves to eat, drink, surf and hike in San Luis Obispo, California as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide for San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo, California

Chris Burkard

"I quit my job at nineteen to submit myself to a career in photography."

Surf Pismo Pier
Ruddell's Smokehouse
Big Sky Cafe
Firestone Grill
Honeymoon Cafe

Chris Burkard

"I quit my job at nineteen to submit myself to a career in photography."

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Chris Burkard

My Story

"I knew that if I was going to try and actually do surf photography as a career, I was going to have to give it everything. I was going to have to commit. So I had to quit my job and I had to submit myself to this career of doing it full time. I knew I would be missing so many opportunities if not. 

That was a scary experience at nineteen, but it was really freeing to be able to say, 'OK, I've done it.'

You have to have some skin in the game. You've got to go all in. 

With going all in, the best stories are the ones where you recall experiences - the feeling, emotion, some kind of pain that you've endured. That's what triggers memory. I'm a storyteller, and in that profession, it's important to know that fear of being in a place that's different, that's new, that's pushing you outside of what you're used to. 

So it's important to think about how you can trigger those real experiences and to go for it. 

In anything that's been worthwhile in my career, I've done that. Embrace uncertainty and pursue new opportunities. When you embrace uncertainty, there's a space created for the unknown, and it's in that space, that's where you grow."


My Advice for Others

"Don't worry about trying to do everything well. Become a specialist and focus on what you can really do that is you and that is yours. That's how you're hired, so hone your craft."


Best Advice I've Received

"Don't get good at something you don't want to do.

That's been the best piece of wisdom because the reality is you end up getting so good at that that you end up having to do it. I see a lot of people who never wanted to be wedding photographers, but it's all they know, so they feel obligated to do it. That's a really scary place to be."

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What I Love Most about SLO

"I love San Luis' proximity and access to wilderness. It's this really cool eclectic tiny little central town surrounded by farm fields and vineyards. We've got incredible hiking and access to the coast in multiple directions, and that has always been the thing that drew me back."


My SLO Musts

"Catch an early morning surf at Pismo Pier. It's a magical spot. If it's not good there, drive up the coast to Cayucos. One of my favorite places for breakfast is Honeymoon Cafe, which is a killer little farm to table spot, or if I'm feeling something a little lighter I'll go to Virtjuice.

For midday, do a hike up Bishop's Peak for killer views of the county, or go out to Morro Bay. One of my favorite places for lunch is Ruddell's Smokehouse, which is a gem of the coast and is great for fish tacos. It's by the Cayucos Pier, and if there's surf breaking there you can just jump right into the water. Or you can go up Hearst Beach and rent kayaks or go down towards Shell Beach.

In the evening, head to Big Sky Cafe, which is one of my hands down favorite spots, or go to Firestone Grill for the Santa Maria style trip-tip sandwich."


Recommended Content

"There's a really amazing book called The Emerald Mile. It's a book about the Grand Canyon and the fight to preserve it. I'm a total history buff and I love learning about the west and how it was explored. The book is really about wildness and the importance of it."

Chris Burkard


Chris Burkard
Chris Burkard
Chris Burkard
San Luis Obispo
Surf Pismo Pier
"It's one of those magic spots where there's always waves and always surf."
Ruddell's Smokehouse
"A little hole in the wall with incredible smoked fish."
Big Sky Cafe
"A killer restaurant downtown."
Firestone Grill
"If you really want the San Luis Obispo tried and true trusted meal, go to Firestone Grill and get yourself a tri-tip sandwich."
Honeymoon Cafe
"It's a killer little farm to table spot where you can get basically anything you'd want."
"If I want something a little lighter, I'll head to Virtjuice."
Chris Burkard
"I quit my job at nineteen to submit myself to a career in photography."

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