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SURFING CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

CENTRAL COAST'S BEST SURFING

Surfing Central California can be one of the greatest experiences of your life. The Central California coast line is made up of various beach, reef and point breaks offering challenges to surfers with skill levels ranging from the novice to the most experienced surfers.

Visit THE BODYBAG
Ocean Safety

The four counties to focus on are San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey. Within these four counties are many excellent surf spots. Too many to mention here. But, part of the allure of surfing is exploring those new breaks youíve never surfed before. This site will address a few of the best spots.

Level: N=Novice, I=Intermediate, A=Advanced

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY

OCEAN BEACH

Level I,A

Ocean Beach located west of the city of San Francisco stretches for several miles starting from the Cliff House south. Here the ocean churns up the sand to form outrageous sand bars allowing for perfect surf. The bars can hold up 2- 20ft waves with pristine shape. When the surf becomes larger than 8ft, paddling out through the shore break can be difficult.

Ocean Beach can have very dangerous riptides. In fact, all Central California beaches are prone to hazardous riptides. You should learn about these currents and what to do if youíre caught in them. The sand bars can form anywhere along the beach but the area most consistent is the Sloat Street area. The waves are best with offshore or glassy conditions, mostly in the morning and evening hours. Parking and beach access is easy along The Great Highway.

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SAN MATEO COUNTY

MAVERICKS

Level AAA

DON'T GO THERE! If this website is the first you've heard of Mavericks, you have no business going there. Located south of Half Moon Bay, and the site of a renegade big wave competition, Mavericks can be one of the most treacherous surf spots in California. Following a storm, 30 foot waves are not uncommon. That, coupled with reefs and a rocky shoreline can be deadly. Several well known surfers have lost their lives at Mavericks.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY

STEAMERS LANE

Level N,I,A

Steamers Lane, located at Light House Point in Santa Cruz is perhaps one of the best all around surfing spots on the central coast. It is a classic point break with powerful, juicy waves, easy entry into the water and a beautiful walking path along the point for your family and friends to watch you take the drop on a classic wave. Steamers breaks best on medium to low tides and will take all direction swells. You can find the local marine forecast and surf cams at Goingoff.com.

I have segmented the description of The Lane into its separate peaks and experience levels.

The Point

Level A,I

Steamers Lane, located along West Cliff Drive, is home of the Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse Surfing Museum. To access The Point, The Slot and Middle Peak, most surfers jump the waist high fence beyond the lighthouse and find their way into the water on the outer point. Use caution and common sense getting into the water when the waves are big. Timing is critical, so use the old sailors motto ďDonít turn your back to the ocean - ever!Ē There are also two staircases along the main point that allow for easy entry and exit.

This Steamer Lane peak forms at the end of the point along the edge of the cliff just where you jump in and can produce a powerful, hollow wave that breaks right. Best at medium to low tides and will work with a swell from any direction.

The Slot

Level A,I

The Slot is really a shift over wave from The Point but usually produces a long, powerful right setting up opportunities for tricks and maneuvers. The Slot usually has less waves moving through compared to the Point and the crowd pressure is slightly less. The waves are no less powerful.

Middle Peak

Level A,I

Middle Peak is the wave that many consider the primary practice wave for Hawaii. Middle Peak is made up of a series of table rock reefs extending to about a quarter mile out to sea. Third reef, the farthest out, will break only when the swell reaches 15+ feet and is accentuated by a low tide. The peak is usually just a big drop with big shoulders. Most surfers at this spot are very experienced Big Wave riders and will use surfboards up to 10 feet in length with a Gun shape. No long-board style here! Best at low tide.

Middle Peak (second reef) breaks when the swell reaches 10-15 feet. Not located as far off shore, second peak offers the advanced surfer a challenging wave that breaks in both directions packing a lot of juice! Best at low tide.

Middle Peak, First Reef

Level A,I

Middle peak generally breaks when the swell reaches 4-10 feet. Best on a north swell at medium to low tide. Here both short and long-board surfers mix it up for this high quality wave. The left can get very hollow when the conditions are right. The right sets up for a long ride and can connect all the way to Cowells Point.

Indicators

Level I,A

Indicators is perhaps the best all around wave at the Lane. Just inside Middle Peak, Indicators sets up as a fast tracking right and produces juice from swells 2-10 feet. On occasion waves from the Point, Slot and Middle Peak can connect all the way through Indicators when the swell direction and conditions are right. Again, Indicators is a mix bag of long and short boarders. A tactic that I have seen used on days when the swell is big is to belly the white water from Middle Peak and stand up just as the wave starts to line up for Indicators. Itís not pretty, but surfers tend to get into some fast, awesome rides.

COWELLS POINT AND COWELLS COVE

Level N,I

Cowells cove is located at the extreme west end of the Main Beach Santa Cruz. It is a beautiful cove tucked under a high sandstone bluff that begins Light House Point. There are several surfing schools located on the beach. Two very good instructional schools are Itís a Girl Thing Surf School that caters mostly to women surfers and Richard Shmidt Surf School. Both schools strongly emphasize ocean safety. Here children and novice surfers can really enjoy learning the sport. The waves are gentle and roll into the cove from Cowells Point. Something like Waikiki, surfers on longboards can get long, easy rides. The cove is relatively shallow and at minus low tide one can walk in ankle to knee deep water for about 150 yards into the cove. Cowells Cove has Santa Cruz City Life Guards on duty during the summer months.

PLEASURE POINT

Level N,I,A

Pleasure Point is a very long stretch of land that extends from New Brighton State Beach to East Cliff Drive and 26th Ave. It is located close to the city of Capitola.

Pleasure Point is a long-boarders paradise. It is really a long-board spot with a few short-board waves. Lets begin with the outer point going east from 26th Avenue.

LITTLE WIND AND SEA

Level I,A

Little Wind and Sea is found at the extreme east end of 26th Avenue Beach. A rock reef that produces juicy, hollow lefts during summer south swells. Best at low tide and unsurfable at high tide. Can also break on North swells if the sand accumulation over the reef is well established.

SUICIDES

Level I,A

Suicides is located at the end of the point at Rock View Drive. It is a fast and short right break. Really juicy when the sand has accumulated over the reef. The inside peak section breaks in about 12 inches of water at extreme low tide. Thus the name Suicides. It can hold up to 10 feet.

SEWER PEAK

Level I,A

When we started surfing in the early 70ís every surfer knew why the name was given to this peak. The sewer outlet actually dumped in the lineup! Now days, the tubes taste much cleaner as the sewer outlet has been closed off. Sewer Peak breaks right with power. Breaks best at medium to low tide on any direction swell from 2 to 15 feet. South swells seem to produce consistent hollow tubes. North swells break with power. Sewer Peak is a short board wave. Long boarders are generally not welcome here.

FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD PEAKS

Level I,A

First Peak is located just to the east of Sewer Peak. A long soft right with fast sections that can produce a fun ride for any long boarder. If the swell is lined up right, this wave can sometimes connect through Second and Third peaks for a very long ride with fast and slow spots. Best on low to medium tides. Takes all direction swells.

38TH AVENUE

Level N,I

38th Ave is a long board wave only, unless the swell is large and short boarders can successfully mix it up. A fun spot to learn the sport and the crowds are very friendly.

As the swell increases in size, short boarders can also find good rides. Best at medium to low tides. Really cooks on large south swells producing fast tube rides.

THE HOOK

Level I,A

The Hook is a very popular surf spot on the point and when you see it youíll know why.

A powerful, fast, sometimes hollow right with long rides. Breaks on most swells but best on a strong north. This wave gets very crowded and the surfers are a mix of locals and non-locals. Parking and bathrooms are available. Located at the very end of 41st Ave.

SHARKS

Level N,I,A

Sharks is a continuation of the Hook and works similar to the Hook. Not as long of a ride but just as juicy and hollow. Itís a blast when the swell gets large. Both long and short board spot. Real sharks do not frequent this spot.

PRIVATES

Level N,I,A

Privates is located next moving down the point from Sharks towards the City of Capitola.

There is a private access way (hence the name) just down the street on East Cliff drive or you can paddle from Sharks. You can purchase a key at Freeline Design and OíNeils surf shop or just hang out near the gate until someone goes through.

Privates breaks best at medium to low tide. It will hold a swell to 8 feet. A great learning spot when the swell is small. It has a small beach in the summer months.

MONTEREY COUNTY

MOSS LANDING BEACH

Level I,A

JETTY ROAD

Located along Jetty Road just off Highway 1 north of the Moss Landing Harbor on the Monterey Bay. This stretch of beach offers high quality beach break waves with steep take-offs and grinding tubes. Pumps on a north or west swell from 2ft-10ft. Although there can be many peaks along the beach the most consistent peaks are just north of the harbor jetty where the waves tend to be slightly smaller. Paddling out along the jetty will get you to the peaks, even when its big.

Freight Trains

The next most consistent area is a few hundred yards north. The waves here are generally a foot or two larger than the jetty. Both spots offer high quality waves. The waves at Moss Landing tend to break with power as they roll in unrestricted out of deep water. A mere 100 yards off the harbor entrance the bottom drops from 3 fathoms to 75 fathoms as a finger of the much deeper Monterey Canyon stretches in. You really have to pay attention at this spot as set waves seemingly pop-up as they approach the shore.

Moss Landing beach used to be a heavily defended local spot back in the 1970ís and 80ís. Vibes were not positive. Today, the beach is more well known, and the area is patrolled by State Park Rangers who carry guns and will happily arrest you if you get into a fight. There is a State Park fee to park along Jetty Road but the rangers will give you ten minutes to run a surf check.

A WORD OF CAUTION...

Some of the heaviest vibes come from the ocean locals not the land locals! And these locals usually win the fights. The three corners of the feared RED TRIANGLE are Bodega Bay, The Farralon Islands, and Monterey Bay. This is Great White territory and many of the beaches are exposed to the open ocean. Although Great White Shark attacks are rare and more people die from lightning strikes each year, lightning has a much larger pool of potential victims. Play it smart. Play it smart. Play it smart. You can call a near-by State Park Ranger office and ask about shark sightings in the area you wish to surf.

BIG SUR

FULLERS

Level: A

Fullers is located about 3 miles south of the Big Sur State Park Ranger Station. Hard to find because highway 1 runs high above the shoreline. Look for a large pullout on the ocean side of the highway with large boulders used as a guardrail. From this pullout you can look straight down at the peak. Parking is located 100 yards south on the mountain side of the highway. Directly across the parking pullout, next to a telephone pole, is the trail head. The trail is a long switch back all the way to the beach. Bring water and some food for the hike - youíll want it for the return trip back to your car.

Fullers is an extremely powerful wave and can hold south swells from 4-20+ feet. Breaking on a submerged point/reef, the peak offers rights and lefts but the lefts are longer and stronger, and can be very hollow! Entry into the water is not always easy when the swell is big. Rocks dominate the shoreline directly in front of the peak, but the current pushes west along the beach to a safer exit/entry point.

Fullers beach is as beautiful as they come in Big Sur. As you reach the bottom of the trail turn right along the shoreline and you will shortly come to a cobblestone/sandy beach with a high waterfall cascading down from the Big Sur mountains. Turning left at the foot of the trail takes you to Cheerios, a short stretch of rocky beach accented by crescent pockets of sand. When the waves are big, Cheerios is the place to paddle out from. Once through the shore break youíre in the deep water. Beware, the current pushes you towards the peak, do not to get inside of the peak when paddling out from Cheerios as it will put you right on top of the rocks on the inside.

Even though Fullers is no longer a central coast secret spot, the local vibes have always been heavy. Fullers gets crowded because most surfers do not want to make the hike back up the mountain after a two hour surf session. Most prefer to hang out on the beach and rest up for two or three more sessions. Besides, the area is so beautiful itís hard to pick up and leave.

Camping is not allowed on the beach and it is not recommended to leave your car overnight in the pullout area. Do not attempt to access the beach from the driveway at the pullout. This is a private driveway clearly marked No Trespassing and offers no beach access. Surfers are not welcome! The campgrounds in Big Sur are only minutes away.

SAFETY TIPS FOR FULLERS

Take plenty of food and water.

Use the buddy system. Itís a long way to any help.

Take added time to study the conditions before paddling out.

If the vibes are heavy, play it cool. Remember, punching someone is felony assault and the courts in Monterey do not care who took off on who. If you throw the first punch-youíre going to jail. Period!!

 



CALIFORNIA SPORTS PARADISE
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CALIFORNIA'S ON-LINE MAGAZINE FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS


 
 
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