Pacifica State Beach, located at the mouth of San Pedro Valley right off of Highway 1, is a long white crescent-shaped beach with a gentle reputation for beginning surfers. Right on the beach is NorCal Surf Shop, where rental foamboards and other boards abound. Surfers here rent boards and wetsuits, and then take a short walk straight to the smallest break on the leftmost end of the beach. Lessons are also available from NorCal Surf Shop or other companies like University of Surfing or Sonlight Surf Shop.
Before anyone drives out west to the beach, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, surfers almost always educate themselves about the weather and waves first, perhaps using surfline.com. If the waves measure anywhere around 2-4 feet, then a beginner should feel prepared to take on the ocean. If measurement buoys sense swells any taller, then beginners should wait for another day. Second, a beginner’s board should most definitely include a leash with an ankle strap to prevent the board from flying into another swimmer or surfer. Third, an ocean partner is recommended for safety. Some surfers also tell a friend when they’re about to dive into the water, and tell the same friend when to expect them back.
Rockaway Beach, located just north over a hill from Pacifica State Beach, provides bigger waves and a more advanced ride for experienced surfers. There’s something for everyone in this town.
Surfers that have already enjoyed the ocean for a while can be spotted at one of the many local vendors where they can refuel with coffee or a meal. Taco Bell, located right on the beach, seems to be an obvious stop, but a short drive could yield more unique options. Some local favorites for coffee include Fog City Java or P-Town Café, a café close to the beach shaped like a red trolley. Nick’s Seashore Restaurant, right along Highway 1, offers classic diner-style meals, including breakfast. The ribs and pulled pork at Gorilla Barbeque also exceed expectations, but customers should be prepared for a long line and should plan to stop there for an early lunch before they run out of their favorite dishes. A visitor to Pacifica looking to spend an entire day in town could check out Sea Bowl, a quirky bowling alley located on Highway 1.
The hot days of summer’s end in San Francisco seem to tempt locals into the ocean, and October just might be the best time. Weekdays in Pacifica can feel almost empty by now, compared with the crowds of summertime. Of course, the crowds at this popular spot will never be completely gone, as illustrated by this article’s photographs taken on a Sunday morning in late September. On weekends, visitors to the beach often see such spectacles as four surfers sharing the same wave or a surfing dog attempting to stay upright on a longboard.
For an emptier wave, surfers might try an after-work excursion on a weekday, where those who stay out long enough can catch the beauty of a setting sun on a sunny or partly cloudy day. Either way, San Francisco residents might find themselves lacking an excuse to stay indoors on these (perhaps) sunny upcoming October days.
Enjoy your next surfing sesh.