Living and surfing in California / San Francisco

bevankoopman's picture
bevankoopman started the topic in Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 at 4:16pm

Hi there. I'm looking to move over to the U.S. for work, possibly around San Francisco / Silicon Valley area. Does anyone here have any experience about the surf scene in this area? Potential for swell, crowds, cold, locals, etc.? Obviously California is famous for surfing but I'm interested to hear an Aussie's perspective and also any comments specific to the San Fran. region. Thanks in advance.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 at 5:25pm

I'm jealous. Great waves around the San Fran region, cold but less crowded than further south. 

mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207 commented Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 at 10:32pm

Colder water than anywhere in Aus. San Francisco has great surf and friendly people, heaps of other stuff to do, forget Santa Cruz; bad attitudes and dickhead locals prevail, plenty surf between the two cities though and incredible surf north of there , uncrowded coastline up to border reasons both environmental and social. Americans still love Aussies.

bevankoopman's picture
bevankoopman's picture
bevankoopman commented Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 at 6:20pm

mikehunt207 wrote: Colder water than anywhere in Aus. San Francisco has great surf and friendly people, heaps of other stuff to do, forget Santa Cruz; bad attitudes and dickhead locals prevail, plenty surf between the two cities though and incredible surf north of there , uncrowded coastline up to border reasons both environmental and social. Americans still love Aussies.

Thanks for both the comments. Out of interest, how cold is cold? Is mid-winter a killer? :-)

JB's picture
JB's picture
JB commented Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 at 7:16pm

I lived in Santa Cruz the last four years, surfing up and down the coast. Plenty of waves and a great place to live and work. The popular spots aren't worth the crowds but so much to explore, some seriously incredible setups that are all about timing and patience with the locals. And then there is Ocean Beach. One of those amazing, long stretches of beachbreak that works most swells into (large) a-frames. Definitely challenging and cold like 11 C is standard for winter but weather and wind can also be ideal at certain times making for some amazing days of surfing. All in all, this is the region where you want to be for powerful, plentiful and diverse waves in California, any other questions let me know...

thelostclimber's picture
thelostclimber's picture
thelostclimber commented Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 at 7:52pm

I did a trip north of SF a few years ago. Some really good waves, in very cold water. Even in summer I needed 4;3mm, gloves and booties.
The further north you go, the more spectacular the coast line. Makes surfing that much more enjoyable.
Apparently lots of sharks too. Each time I surfed I got spooked by a seal popping up right next to me. Where there's seals - there are sharks. But I loved it and would go back. Locals are cool, so long as you are.

morris's picture
morris's picture
morris commented Friday, 26 Sep 2014 at 6:11am

bloody cold up north LC, but I do love to be beside the sesaside. If your used to the cold santacruz area is not to bad, I've only been there in January , it's on my bucket list, did it 30 years ago, may have changed a bit.

Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer commented Wednesday, 4 Sep 2019 at 9:23pm

Just wondering if anyone still active and can offer some advise.

I am planing a 5 night camper van trek down from SF to LA at the end of a work trip. November 4 - 9th. Didn't realise how cold it would be and thought I could bring my 3/2 steamer I use in Sydney, buy a cheap used board in SF and venture down, try and resell the board in LA or give to a shop etc. I was thinking of surfing Santa Cruz - Steamers etc. but above comment states locals are tough. What about mid-week early Nov at these places? And is it worth bringing my steamer? Or just rent a board and suit at a shop at every spot I go to. Want to try and get to Huntington Beach and Trestles if possible.

I would love to stay and surf spots around Big Sur but I would need my own board and suit, right? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Wednesday, 4 Sep 2019 at 9:59pm

Buy a cheap 4/3 and sell it after your trip.

the_b's picture
the_b's picture
the_b commented Thursday, 5 Sep 2019 at 6:11am

Water is 16deg in summer and down to 10deg in winter around sf

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 5 Sep 2019 at 10:49am

You'll want a minimum 4/3 and booties mate. Try Aqua surf shop in SF to buy secondhand. Boards and wetsuits are cheaper in US so probably easier to buy there and sell rather than pay excess travel fees. Plenty of waves on that drive, early season for the Arctic storms bringing N-NW swells. It's been awhile since I lived there and I hear it's more crowded now but I always found it friendly and minimal crowds outside of name spots. SF to Santa Cruz has loads of options without naming names. Same goes for the rest of the drive south of SC. Its a beautiful coastline...have a great time!

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer commented Thursday, 5 Sep 2019 at 3:13pm

Cheers guys!

Amazing. Thanks Crg! That's incredibly helpful. No, I wasn't going to bring my board as I will be in Michigan and Chicago first. That shop recommendation is exactly what I'm after! Will meet a friend in LA at the end so I guess he will have to take up surfing when I leave.

Really looking forward to this now. Thanks again!

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 5 Sep 2019 at 4:48pm

Make sure you drive through Montara / Half Moon Bay...you might get to watch some early season Mavericks and also drop into the Old Princeton Landing for a beer...say hello to Brian the owner...he might just point you in the right direction for surf...

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

GODS QUAD's picture
GODS QUAD's picture
GODS QUAD commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 10:16am

Agree with crg, it's so cheap over there, just buy second hand or pick up anew wettie for peanuts. Whole of California is cold, even in the height of summer I had to wear a steamer.

Can I ask what the appeal is of Huntington? To be honest the place is a total headfuck, the surf is garbage and stupidly crowded. I would head up to Ventura area or down to San Diego instead. Heaps more waves, less crowds and really easy going vibe.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 11:26am

the stretch from SF to San Luis Obispo is so beautiful. the cinema at San Luis Obispo is also really charming if there is anything playing. but south from there -- to the border at san diego is not so nice.
so maybe try and spent most of your time in the big sur -- santa cruz stretch.

maybe skip the surfing -- we have waves in australia (and it's going to be so so cold you might want booties hood and gloves), but we don't have the redwood and sequoia forrests. kings canyon and yosemite are some of the most beautiful and sublime places on earth.

have a great trip.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 12:15pm

I surfed the Californian coast and kept going up into Oregon, Washington, then into British Columbia, Yukon and into Alaska.

I can't say I have very fond memories of the surf, mostly due to shitty old wetsuit and coming from Hawaii.
Some insane river mouth/lagoon waves north of San Fran that felt colder to me than Alaska, where the Kuroshio current flows north from Japan.

Intense ice cream headaches, numb extremities and desperately trying to force my body to work for the half hour window I had before it all got frozen and went into shut down mode.

You'll find a lot of "half" waves on that Big Sur stretch, with no one out.

second on the redwood forests, they are amazing.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 12:31pm

“Intense ice cream headaches, numb extremities and desperately trying to force my body to work for the half hour window I had before it all got frozen and went into shut down mode.”

Oooh.....sounds nice !!

Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer's picture
Luke Cromer commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 1:47pm

Crg - I will try and make the pub for sure. Cheers! And yes, a stop by Mavericks was in mind.

Gods quad - thanks! I did start to consider getting a 4/3 here and taking it. But will take the advice and come home with some new gear I think, maybe a hooded suit and booties. That will give me an excuse to use it again somewhere. Re Huntington, just thought surfing next to that pier would be cool, and somewhere to take my mate. But he tells me he is in West Hollywood so staying up north and your Ventura tip seems better. Cheers!

Chook - thanks for the cinema tip! Love old theatres. Definitely want to do some hiking in those forests. I'm a bit of a Hitchcock fan so want to see the redwood location he used in Vertigo. I could easily spend the whole time in forests and wine country but if I am near the coast I want the option. Happy to get a few and do other things with the day.

freeride76 - cheers, that's handy to know re Big Sur coast. Sounds like you had quite a time surfing up north! I also love getting a bit out of the comfort zone.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 2:08pm

if you are in San Luis Obispo, you are veery close to the states best wave.

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy commented Friday, 6 Sep 2019 at 4:40pm

Those coastal highways all the way up to the border look like an interesting drive. What time of year would one be best to venture?

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 2:55pm

Luke if you're going to get some gear over there make sure you invest your hard earned coin on a 4/3mm Hooded Isurus. Not cheap but that thing will handle any Australian extremities thrown at you when you get back - plus you'll be toasty warm for the short time you are over there.