Are you curious about the breathtaking surf breaks that make up the coastline from Marin to Santa Cruz?
My name is Lauren Neuschel with The Krishnan Team, and I’m here with my ride or die surfer and my husband Jason Welch, who wakes up every morning checking the surf forecast here in San Francisco.
It’s safe to say I’m a bit obsessed with surfing. Lucky for you, I’m here to share some insider info on where to catch a wave. Whether you’re a beginner surfer or a lifelong surfer new to the area, there’s plenty of waves for everyone.
This is Ocean Beach. Absolutely my favorite place to surf. It’s right on my back door. Looking for the neighborhoods of the Outer Richmond and Outer Sunset. This three-mile stretch of beach break spans the city’s western edge from the Zoo, on Sloat Blvd up to Kelly’s Cove and the Cliff House on the north end.
For me, the best season for surfing at Ocean Beach is in the fall when swell starts to build and the weather is at its best.
You’ll find plenty of head high waves and fun conditions. It’s my favorite part of the year.
In the winter the waves here get pretty big, more like 15 foot waves. Advanced locals and even some pros come out here it’s pretty cool.
One thing that’s cool about Ocean Beach is that the paddle is a bit crazy sometimes you can take you know, 5 minutes sometimes it might take you a half hour to get out to the lineup where you surf and sometimes you don’t get out.
It’s a good shoulder burner. And that’s something I love about this break. You’ve got to be in great shape you’ve got to be in paddle shape and you got to be very aware of the currents and how big the waves are that day.
Another thing I love about Ocean Beach is because it is a big, big beach break. It’s very clean, right? The current comes out from the mouth of the bay and washes south and north every day. So it’s just gallons and gallons and thousands of gallons of water pushing in and out of the bay every day.
That’s another thing that’s really cool about Ocean Beach is that, it’s great for surfing but it’s also great for fishing. You see a ton of crab fishermen out during the season.
You see people for fishing for other local fish and it’s a big playground for the ocean really. Tons of wildlife, tons of people and kind of picture it like the ocean’s part really.
I started surfing a little bit in high school, but really it wasn’t until I moved back to San Francisco as an adult that I started taking it seriously – I’m fully addicted to surfing. And now I’m out there maybe three, four times a week.
It’s so fun and Ocean Beach has been really my proving grounds as a surfer and and where I surf all the time I almost don’t go anywhere else honestly. It’s perfect because I feel like even conditions aren’t great there’s still something out there and it’s never flat. You can always surf. For me the heart of surfing is Ocean Beach.
That’s another great thing I love about these neighborhoods and this what I would call our beach town is that it’s definitely a surfer community and you see a lot of the same people all the time, right? There’s a group of us who go to certain restaurants, certain coffee shops, certain beach breaks, and it tends to have I would say smaller town vibes.
That’s one reason why I love living in San Francisco is that, depending on what your fit is who you are, if you want to be in the middle of downtown that’s great but if you’re a small town person like myself there’s still so much for you here. There’s so much nature, so much ocean and I really think the Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond are the places for someone like like you or me.
Experienced surfers will also find a novelty waves at Fort Point. This wave is a SF classic and one of the most intriguing waves to see. It wraps in from the mouth of the bay and breaks directly under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Here we are at Fort Point. I mean, honestly this is probably the coolest most iconic spot to surf in California. As you can see behind me this wave is not working right now but when it does, it breaks directly under the bridge behind me.
It’s a fickle wave. It needs a certain tide. It needs a certain wind. But when it’s working, wow is it fun! It’s always a surreal experience to surf under the Golden Gate Bridge.
So why surf Fort Point other than obviously the amazing scenery? It comes down to conditions, right Some days when Ocean Beach is like 10, 15 foot, this place is perfect. It’s 4 foot, has to be the right tide. Definitely an expert spot. There are a lot of rocks here and some conditions that have to be met. Not the most beginner spot but if you’re an advanced surfer, got the chops underneath you then I definitely recommend giving it a try.
The amazing thing about San Francisco is that you can’t find a wave right in town. There are a ton of incredible spots a short drive away just south of the city in Pacifica you have Linda Mar Beach which is one of the best surf spots for beginners.
NorCal Surf Shop hosts the surf school here, as well as a wetsuit and board rental. It’s a great place to start. Linda Mar also sits in a cove protected from the wind and surrounded by cliffside houses and beautiful views from the water.
A short drive south is Half Moon Bay. a picturesque coastal town famous for its surf break Mavericks. If you’re in town for smaller waves, you can check out Princeton Jetty and catch some normal sized waves. All the while, just a few minutes away is one of the most epic big wave surf spots in the world. Documentaries and movies have been made about Mavericks. This legendary surf break is known for producing some of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world reaching up to 60 feet.
If you’re up for a long day trip Santa Cruz is a must. Another world renowned surf area. The quality of the waves here are exceptional. There’s a mix of advanced waves as well as great places for beginners to learn and take lessons. Not to mention, it’s stunning. With backdrops against rocky cliffs and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park right on the water.
Santa Cruz is the center of Northern California’s surf culture and history. It’s the birthplace of wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill and home to numerous annual surf contests.
If you’re a North Bay type, we can go on and on. Truly, the Marin Headlands are a quintessential beauty of the Bay Area. The rugged cliffs and mixed beach and forests in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are truly stunning.
Surfing wise, you might just start north of the city at Rodeo Beach. A few minutes past the Golden Gate Bridge at Rodeo Beach you’ll find lots of families just hanging out on the beach. Some people are in the water surfing, others with their dogs playing in the sand. It’s also surrounded by the Tennessee Valley trails. So you get a lot of hikers in the area too. It’s definitely a fun place to go with a group of friends or family and make a Saturday morning out of it.
Trekking just a bit further try the small coastal town of Stinson Beach. Make a day trip out of it. Bring your board, a picnic grab your hiking shoes and spend the day in Marin. You can also grab a bite at Stinson Beach at the Parkside Cafe and really just step away from the city for a day.
The same goes for Bolinas just north of Stinson which is even quieter and feels far from city life. Exploring the mountains and surf on the outskirts of the city is a great way to spend weekends and there are endless opportunities for adventure here just in your backyard.
So we’ve got the waves down. But what about gearing up to go surfing? Fear not. There are several options here.
You can find boards at Mollusk Surf Shop and Aqua Surf Shop in Outer Sunset. And even a small selection at Andy Town Coffee in the Outer Richmond. If you’re getting deeper into surfing check out The Woodshop on Noriega Street. Here you can find renowned local shaper Danny Hess. working on his wooden surfboards.
When it comes to wetsuits, it’s important to be prepared for the conditions. On a nicer day a 4/3 wetsuit will be fine. In the cold winter months though put on an 5/4 with a hood and booties to stay warm.
That’s all I’ve got. Reach out to The Krishnan Team if you want to get in touch and dive into surf culture here in S.F.