For father and husband Clint Unander, salt is for surf, and freshwater is for fly fishing. It’s been that way for a long time; the Santa Barbara native has been riding waves and casting fly rods since he was a kid. But now, at 40 years old with a busy family and work life, getting outside is no longer about wave counts or prize catches. 

Read on for our chat about family, “perfect” sessions, top spots, gear picks, and more with Clint Unander. 

Where It All Started

After some experience with boogie boarding, Clint started surfing with his father just as he hit middle school. While he was never allowed to ditch school for waves, he still got plenty of time in the water and was supported in his progression. These days, you’ll catch him riding a wide-ranging quiver, from logs to twin fins to standard shortboards. That penchant for variety? It’s all thanks to his father.


“My dad kind of forced me to ride other equipment, older equipment, single fins, and things of that sort. So, I just kind of grew up thinking that it was good to do that—like there's something to be proud of for being able to surf different types of boards and jump on anything and have fun,” he reflects. 


He started fly fishing fairly young, too. Right as he was entering ninth grade, Clint tried a fly rod for the first time on a family trip to Whistler. It was love at first sight. “I just got so into it to where at one point, I thought I was going to have to leave Santa Barbara and live somewhere on a river,” he says. 

(Spoiler alert: he never did leave; he just got really good with making long drives to freshwater spots.)

Family and Osmosis

Now with a wife and three young kids, surfing and fly fishing have become a family affair. As for how Clint got his kids on board with those activities, there’s some osmosis magic at play.

“When they were really little, they were always with us at the beach,” he explains. But not just any beach—beaches with surf, of course. “We would just go to the beaches that have waves because then you can be with your family and hop in the water as well. The kids kind of took to that and just had an interest immediately, jumping in the water, splashing around, and then eventually wanting to paddle out with me. It’s been really sweet.”

The same bring-them-along strategy also got them interested in fly fishing. 

A (Good Kind of) Disconnect 

As much as he enjoys family waves and fishing trips, Clint still makes time for solo sessions when he can (though don’t tell that to his 8-year-old, who wants to surf with his dad all the time!). After all, these activities serve as an escape from the stressors of daily life—a necessary sort of therapy. 

“Surfing and fly fishing are the two things that really can extract me from whatever issues I'm dealing with,” he says, adding that it’s always been that way. Maybe that’s why his ideal surf session or fly-fishing trip isn’t what you’d expect.

Wave counts mattered when he was younger, but now, it doesn’t take a whole lot to make him happy. “Honestly, there are days where I get out of the water after logging knee-high waves, and there are days where I get out of the water and it's a bigger, kind of flawless Rincon. I’ll have the same smile,” he says. 

And as much as he loves winning a steelhead on a fly, his most memorable trip involved a pretty poor fishing yield in Southern France’s Pyrenees. “Two days before we showed up, they had a significant rain event, and it basically blew out all the rivers. Essentially, it was non-fishable.” He and his wife went for it anyway, and even though they maybe caught only two fish per day, it’s the trip he thinks about most. 

Top Spots

Clint surfs different breaks, but the spot he grew up in, Rincon, is still a top choice. While the lineup’s notoriously crowded, he shares some good news: “If anything, the crowd’s more forgiving now than it used to be growing up.”

For fly fishing, his preference for freshwater means a few hours’ drive, at least. He’ll occasionally head to the Kern near Bakersfield, though that spot’s more for views than catching. When he’s game for a longer car ride, he really loves fishing in the Sierras. “It’s great fishing out there—a lot of really, really fun spots.”

People Keep Stealing the Mariner Mat

Between surfing, fishing, and camping with the family, Clint’s tried his fair share of gear. The Mariner Mat is a standing favorite, especially for wetsuit changes and outdoor showers. “I love it, and I’m not just saying that,” he reassures. 

He used to use grass mats, but those always held water and inevitably smelled—not exactly something he enjoyed putting in his van. But with the Mariner Mat? “There’s literally no smell whatsoever. I can wash it, throw it in the back, and then it’s dry within seconds,” he says, adding that it also feels nice underfoot. When his kids struggle into their wetsuits, it’s especially helpful for protecting those suits from the asphalt. 

Clint’s not the only Mariner Mat fan, either. Thieves clearly love them. “I had a couple stolen. Apparently, they’re that desirable,” he muses. 

All we’re saying is…those grass mats were never taken!


We hope you enjoyed this feature. If you’re looking to upgrade your wetsuit changes or outdoor showers, check out our bestselling Mariner Mat.

Wishing you a great time outdoors, with whatever it is that you love to do. -COD

Written by Megan Monte

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