Surfing Sea Ranch and beyond can be at best a crap-shoot for the truly die-hard surfer. While our numerous rocky coves are beautiful and incredibly scenic, most of the Sonoma Coast is inaccessible. Not only that, waves frequently fail to break due to deep water and sheer cliffs. Unlike the smooth barrel waves of the waters memorialized in songs by the Beach Boys, dudes and dudettes who catch a Mendonoma wave are a hardier breed of surfer. With our rugged coastline, lurking great white sharks, butt-cold water, and unpredictable currents only the persistent catch and ride in a wave. That is if they’re not raked over by them first.
Fall is the favored time for Sonoma Coast surfing. Seasonal winter swells, however, are relentless and lumpy, colliding violently with Sonoma’s rugged coastline. Unfortunately, winter weather makes the surfable spots few and far between. In fact, they are often small, blown out mushburgers with a side of hypothermia.
But for the surfer who longs to be the only one on that perfect wave, surfing Sea Ranch and the north coast can be the ultimate zen experience.
September 20 California Surfing Day
And now we have breaking news! Surfing Sea Ranch or any other break in California is a must-do activity on September 20!
In a recent decision by our Golden State legislature, September 20 will be a day to celebrate our iconic California surfing lifestyle and honor the history, culture, and future of the sport.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 122 (SCR 122), was proposed by California State Senator Janet Nguyen and unanimously approved by all members of the state’s upper house. The resolution says the holiday will also celebrate the sport and protecting the “beach and ocean environments.”
Surfing Sonoma in September Is Perfect!
The fall is the best season for surfing around Sonoma County. The weather stabilizes providing some of the cleanest conditions for excellent surf days.
The other three seasons are not as forgiving. Winter months produce awe-inspiring northwest swells that may top 20 feet in the winter months, rendering most spots unsurfable. Later spring is plagued by onshore winds and variable swells, while summer is relatively quiet. Summer’s only blessing is the water does warm up a little and strong south swells will filter into the area.
Sonoma County Shark Season
A word to the wise, however. Sharks are most prevalent off the Sonoma Coast in late summer and fall, said Sgt. Tim Murphy, a Sonoma Coast State Park supervising lifeguard. “That’s when a lot of sharks that have migrated come back into this area,” said Murphy, who is also a surfer. “We know they’re out there. We just coexist with them.”
This announcement was made after a surfer was severely injured on Sunday, October 3, 2021. The incident occurred while the surfer, lying on his stomach, paddled his surfboard out from the North Salmon Creek Beach. Suddenly a shark swam up from below, according to a surfer who was nearby when the attack happened. As a result, officials with the California Department of Parks and Recreation posted closure notices along the two-mile stretch of coast between Mussel Point and Marshall Gulch. Nonetheless, the most dedicated surfers undeterred returned back in the water.
While shark attacks are extremely rare in California, they almost always involve white sharks, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Sick Day, Holiday, or YOLO Day- Hit the Surf Day
Notably missing in the resolution is any mention of getting the day off, so telling your boss you skipped work to celebrate California Surfing Day might not be the wisest approach.
We recommend you first put in for a Mental Health Day or Vacation Time while there’s still time. As we noted in our blog post, Here’s to Taking a Vacation Day, 54 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation time last year. These workers left a collective 662 million vacation days on the table.
Now you have great reason to book your time off, pack your board, your wetsuit, and hit the surf.
Surfing Part of California’s Identity
Nguyen made the Surf Day announcement as pro surfers competed in the 2018 US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach Pier. She noted surfing makes up part of the community’s identity.
Since surfing was brought to California’s coast in the 19th century, the sport has transcended beyond the oceans to impact our language, music, fashion, and art. Surfing is a part of the social, economic, and cultural fabric of our State.
Surfing as California’s State Sport
Celebrating a day of surfing is one thing, but could it be the precursor to it becoming the official state sport of California?
According to Muratsuchi,
Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing — riding the waves and living in harmony with the beautiful beaches and ocean of our Golden State
The act passed the Assembly June 26, 2018. It now awaits the State Senate to take it up.
California Coast Home to World-famous surf Breaks
And why not, they propose?
Existing law establishes the state flag and the state’s emblems, including, among other things, the golden poppy as the official state flower and the California redwood as the official state tree.
Naturally, it makes perfect sense given California is home to world-famous surf breaks, including Malibu, Trestles, Mavericks, Rincon, Steamer Lane and Huntington and has a long history of hosting major international surfing events,
Coastal Native Americans Embrace Surfing
It is important to remember that California’s coastline is not only home to these surf breaks, but is also the ancestral homeland to indigenous peoples like the Chumash in Malibu, known as “Humaliwu” in the Chumash language, and Rincon, the Acjachemen in Trestles, known as “Panhe” in the Acjachemen language, the Amah Mutsun in Steamer Lane, the Ohlone in Mavericks, and the Acjachemen and Tongva shared territory in Huntington Beach, known as “Lukupangma” in the Tongva and Acjachemen language. These indigenous people continue to live in these ancestral homelands today and have embraced the sport of surfing in these areas.
In fact, the Acjachemen were instrumental in saving Trestles from potential destruction by a proposed toll road in 2008, due to Panhe’s recognition as an ancient Acjachemen village site by the California Coastal Commission.
Surfing Sea Ranch, and Mendonoma
Yet, surfing Sea Ranch you might ask, is it really done?
As one local surfer shared,
Most places in California, you’re usually waiting for the swell to come up. Here, we’re usually waiting for the swell to die down.
However, for the patient surfer who is willing to endure the drive north, packing rain gear, squeezing into a 5-millimeter full wetsuit (with hood, booties, and gloves), big-wave boards and a low profile the ride is worth the wait.
And we’re not speaking of the winding edge-of-the-world coastal roads!
Surfing Black Point Beach
Black Point Beach, set against the backdrop of Sea Ranch’s Zenful and natural scenery is known for its wide expanse of beach. It’s the perfect location for picnics, building sandcastles, and watching the waves kiss the shore.
It is also where to go when surfing Sea Ranch!
Surfline.com describes our Black Point Beach as a fickle beach break. The beach has public access, though there is a parking fee. Then there’s the quarter-mile walk to the beach.
However, when you book a vacation at The Sea Ranch you have access to all the beaches and coves with free parking.
Surfline notes in particular that Black Point extends west making its surfable side offshore during the southeast wind. Surf often gets good with smaller swells during the winter. It can hold some size, but getting out is no small task. The place can and does get hollow, especially during the southeast wind.
Check for Swells
According to Unofficial Networks post on Black Point, Black Point Beach’s N, NW, and SW swells work best. It can be a fun break to paddle out for during a waist-high pulse, but it can also handle overhead conditions as well. E, SE, and S winds are the most favorable wind conditions for Black Point Beach, which again makes it a tough one to score with the predominant N and NW winds. Mid-tide is also favorable.
Black Point is a good place to check when the swell is too small for the other spots in the area.
Before you Go: Black Point Beach Surf Report & Forecast
How Are You at Keeping Secrets?
Not only known for its great mushrooming and hiking, Salt Point State Park also has a secret surf spot! Located at the north end of Salt Point State Park, Secrets (a.k.a. Horseshoe Cove) is the closest alternate surfspot from The Sea Ranch.
It offers a lefthand reef/point that works during South winds and winter swells. Actually the name “Secrets” is a misnomer, because everybody and their brother will be out surfing here when the South wind is howling offshore. It’s a low tide spot, achieving prime shape with a larger West swell.
Magic Seaweed warns to beware of several submerged rocks. The take-off spot is small and the currents can be bad, but Secrets will probably provide you with your best Sonoma waves north of Salmon Creek. As a state park there is camping available.
More Sonoma Surf Spots
There are plenty of other Sonoma County locations besides surfing Sea Ranch including Salmon Creek, Goat Rock, Doran Park, and Dillion Beach.
It’s important to point out before you tackle one of our Sonoma County surf spots, including surfing Sea Ranch, you have a keen understanding of what the ocean is doing.
Surfing Dillion Beach
Dillion Beach, a favorite of local surfers, typically has larger rolling onshore waves. Bodega Bay provides a natural jetty making the area is safe and relatively enclosed. With small waves and even a local surfing school, it’s the perfect place to test the waters and practice your balance.Naturally, when the tide is low and the surf is calm. But that makes for a fun time exploring tide pools.
To get there, just head west on Dillon Beach Road from the town of Tomales on Highway 1 west of Petaluma. Stay left as you head into town and the road leads right to the beach.
Surfing Doran Beach
Doran Beach is located one mile south of downtown Bodega Bay. This sheltered, shallow, and powerful beach break usually closes out.
According to Surfline: It faces south, so northwest winds howl offshore here, making it a springtime spot. Doran is popular when the surf is too big everywhere else but forget about it if the winds are from the south.
NW swell is the predominant direction, as are NW winds. Storms bring SE winds – blowing offshore at a few select spots. South and due west swells are uncommon. The reefs are very tidally sensitive and fickle. The beachbreaks are very consistent but often junky, and it’s difficult or impossible to make it out when there’s a solid swell or even windswell. Many of the beachbreaks come up from deep water to throw treacherous shorepounds and don’t break on small swells. Beware of brutal currents. Beginners will be most at home at Doran Park than anywhere else in the county thanks to its shallow, more graduated bottom and wind protection.
A Favorite Spot for Beginners
Novices and bodyboarders from the near-by inland cities of Sonoma County. Its shallow waters and shelter is a good beginners spot.
But do be warned: Doran can dish up some pounding tubes that could easily break your neck.
Surf-Forecast describes Doran Beach in Sonoma as an exposed beach break that has inconsistent surf. It works best in offshore winds from the north with some shelter here from north winds. Groundswells are more frequent than wind swells and the ideal swell direction is from the southwest.
A Good Springtime Spot
Surfline notes with its southward faces cause northwest winds to howl offshore. This makes for a great springtime spot. Doran is popular when the surf is too big everywhere else but forget about it if the winds are from the south.
Surfing Bodega Bay
Below is a drone video of Sonoma County’s most popular surfing spot, Bodega. Filmed during the winter near Salmon Creek, winter surfers enjoy the 30º weather and nice waves in Bodega Bay, CA. Unlike surfing Sea Ranch, Bodega is known for its big, burly beach breaks.
Like so many spots in the Northern California area, Sonoma County is affected by dramatic swings of the tide, swell angle, swell period, as well as wind conditions. Be prepared to have your butt kicked when surfing Salmon Creek, known for its heavy wave. Visit Surfline for more details on navigating the channels.
When all of these marine conditions come together the surf in Sonoma County can be excellent. But when they are not, they can become deadly. Strong currents and undertows are not something we take lightly here.
Surfing Point Arena in Mendocino County
A favorite spot for local surfers, the north side of Point Arena Pier dishes up a steep, hollow, ledging righthander with a thick wall roaring into the deep channel on primo day according to Stormrider Guide Just be careful of the rusted ship’s boiler on the inside during low tide.
You’ll need at least a clean, head high swell (the bigger the better) to break, with an incoming tide. When it’s smaller, the wave peels dangerously close to the inside ledge. The paddle-out is through a keyhole in the rock ledges near shore. There’s also a good left breaking to the south of the pier, best at about head high and offering some punchy sections in front of the exposed rock shelf. N wind blows side shore/offshore at both the point and the left, but forget about it on a South wind.
Know Before Surfing Sea Ranch and Beyond
Be absolutely certain you know the specific surf conditions of your intended surf spot. We recommend you first check online with any of these surfing focused websites listed below.
They are also great resources for weather and water conditions for just watch the surf from Abalone Bay’s window.
Recommended surf sites:
- Sonoma Coast – Surfrider Foundation
- Mendocino County Chapter – Surfrider Foundation
Learn more about our diving and fishing spots as well as surfing sea ranch by visiting: SeaRanchAbaloneBay.com/diving-and-fishing/.
What Surfing Tales Can You Share?
As a parent of a surfer (MVP’s in Women’s Long Board, at Redondo High-with aspirations of going pro but opted instead of going pro in Downhill Mountain Bike Racing)… I know surfers hold onto their sweet secret surf spots as tightly as they do their leash cord.
We promise to keep your insider’s secret surfing Sea Ranch tips just among friends. If you have any please post them in the comments below.
Book Abalone Bay for Your Surfing Sea Ranch Trip
Whether it’s to do some Sea Ranch surfing or just sit at the beach watching them come in, now is the time to book your vacation at Sea Ranch Abalone Bay!