Southern California is an internationally known surfing destination, but its cold-water sister offers epic waves for those willing to brave sharks, 50 degree water, and hostile locals. Due to a large population of seals and sea lions, sharks sightings are plentiful. Thirty foot swells can be intimidating to all but expert level surfers. As you descend from the North Pacific coast on Highway 1, the water warms up a bit and waves that appeal to all surfing levels, intermediate, advanced, and expert-level surfers will be impressed. Right in the middle of the “Red Triangle” there have been more shark than any where else in the world.
Called the “frontier of surfing,” beginning at the Marion/San Francisco county and continuing up through Sonoma, Medocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte, Northern California features some terrifying yet unforgettable surfing experiences.
Ocean Beach is an iconic part of the San Francisco coastline. Eight to fifteen foot waves are not unusual, attracting surfers who want to build their skills. With well-shaped tubes on a sandy bottom, the surf can be big trimming in toward the shore. Heading south along the coast will bring you a quieter paddle out.
Traveling to Sonoma County, the Salmon river mouth waves break over a sandbar. On good days the powerful waves can be rewarding for advanced riders. Average days yield smaller waves suitable for beginners. The sandy bottom makes it forgiving for wipe-outs.
The coastal area near Point Arena in Mendocino owes its occasional high quality wave to a rocky reef. Right breaking waves are steady and fast.
Humbolt County is knows for the North Jetty. The locals have guarded this secret and are not always welcoming to guests. But consistent breaks with clean barrels, make it worth the invading the beachhead.
Some of the most nuclear waves off Northern California shores are found in Patrick’s Point State Park home to dense forests with a dramatic tidal pools while surfing you can watch whales, sea lions and brilliant sunsets. Although there are submerged rocks, the waves can be excellent, if you are an expert surfer. The swells can be large and dangerous. Agate Beach can also produce good consistent waves.
Although you will not find monsters at Moonstone, it is a good spot for a wide range of different surfing styles and skills levels. This is a wide open beach will deliver perfect speed barrels or right and left waves depending on the wind and tidal swell.
When you reach Del Norte and the Klamath River you will have reached “The Home of Hardcore Surfing.” An advanced surfer will enjoy a right-hand barrel from the river mouth. Wetsuits are still required.
As you can see, although Southern California is the most popular destination for surfers. Northern California offers unique experiences for even the most experienced surfers.