Can Beginners Surf Ocean Beach In San Francisco?

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California is undoubtedly one of the top surfing destinations globally and has no shortage of epic surf spots for waves riders of all skill and experience levels to enjoy. Ocean Beach in San Francisco is undoubtedly one of the top surf spots in Northern California, made famous for its world-class waves, but is it a suitable spot for beginner surfers to put their skills to the test? 

Ocean Beach in San Francisco is not a recommended spot for beginner surfers. Although the waves here are occasionally beginner-friendly during the summer, Ocean Beach is known for its large, powerful waves and strong currents. Spots like Bolinas or Linda Mar are better suited to beginner surfers.

There is undoubtedly nothing more exciting for a surfer than finding the perfect spot with the perfect waves. For a beginner surfer in California, the temptation to visit world-famous surf spots is understandable. Discover what makes a surf spot suitable for beginner surfers and if the world-class Ocean Beach can meet those essential standards.

Can Beginners Surf At Ocean Beach?

For any aspiring surfer, from beginners to those with several years of experience, there are surf spots all around the world that have been deemed as must-visit and even bucket list-worthy. Part of what makes California such a surfing hotspot is that it is home to many of these world-class surf spots. One of these is, of course, one of Northern California’s top surf spots known as Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Surfers from all over the world have visited Ocean Beach and its world-famous waves to put their wave riding skills to the test. Part of what makes a spot like Ocean Beach so alluring is that it is known for being a challenging surf spot. Ocean Beach is rare in that it has a 180-degree window to the Pacific Ocean, meaning that it is almost always receiving powerful swells from any and every direction.

As a result, the waves produced at Ocean Beach are famous for being large and powerful. Indeed, the waves here have been known to reach heights of three-times overhead, which is enough to put fear and anxiety into the heart of even the most experienced surfers. On top of that, the current at Ocean Beach is powerful and can easily pull surfers far out and drain all their energy.

Because of this, Ocean Beach is not typically recommended as a spot for beginner surfers to try their luck at the waves. The conditions are ultimately not suitable for someone who still needs to master the fundamentals of the sport. However, Ocean Beach’s waves are often much calmer during the summer, so some days during this time could be suitable for beginner surfers to try out.

On the other hand, during fall and winter, Ocean Beach should be avoided by beginner surfers entirely. 

What Are The Optimal Conditions For Beginner Surfers?

In the early days of surfing, being told to avoid a world-famous surf spot is undoubtedly not the kind of information that you want to be told. However, it is ultimately necessary for the safety of all up-and-coming surfers. It is imperative that when you are learning to surf that you are doing so in suitable or beginner-friendly conditions.

This is because, in the beginning stages of learning to surf, calmer conditions or smaller waves enable beginners to concentrate on the fundamentals of surfing without having to worry about advanced paddling or getting pummeled by large waves. So, what are the best conditions for beginner surfers? Small waves? Well, yes. However, there is more to it than that.

Sure, the first thing a beginner surfer should look out for are smaller waves. Anything from one to a maximum of three-foot waves will be ideal. Secondly, you want to learn to surf at a beach break spot. In simple terms, this is a spot where the waves break over shallow sand rather than over rocks or coral. 

That way, if you fall off your surfboard – which you are bound to do – you’re far less likely to get hurt compared to falling against rocks or coral.

Next, you don’t want it to be too windy when surfing. However, if there is some wind, offshore wind would be the best. These winds help to push the waves towards the beach, which ultimately gives them more momentum, providing a wave that you can ride for longer. 

Choosing a relatively uncrowded spot will give you the space to make the process of learning to surf a lot more comfortable and stress-free. That way, as your wave riding skills become more refined, you will be ready to surf a world-class spot like Ocean Beach in no time! Lastly, summer is a great season for learning to surf. Not only is it much warmer, but California’s waves are typically more beginner-friendly during this time.

Beginner-Friendly Surf Spots In San Francisco

So, if Ocean Beach is out of the question – at least for now – then where should a beginner surfer have a go at a few waves instead? Thankfully, as previously mentioned, California has a seemingly endless list of epic surfing spots, not only for the pro surfers but for the beginner and intermediate surfers too. 

So, with that in mind, let’s discover a few of the best beginner-friendly surf spots in and around San Francisco:


About an hour’s drive from San Francisco City lies this epic beginner-friendly beach in Marin County known as Bolinas. This is considered to be one of the best beaches in Northern California for learning how to surf. The waves here are gentle yet surfable and are available throughout the year for beginners to improve their wave riding skills. 

Linda Mar

Roughly over 20 minutes from San Francisco is where you will find another epic beginner-friendly beach called Linda Mar in Pacifica. This spot is well-protected from a lot of wind and swell, which means that the waves here never get as wild as spots like Ocean Beach or the infamous Mavericks

The waves are ideal for beginner surfers, and on a good day, intermediate surfers will have a lot of fun too. Linda Mar is a great surf spot to spend some time at to take your wave riding skills to the next level.


All in all, although Ocean Beach is typically not a good surf spot for beginners, summer is your most likely chance of being able to surf here until you are ready to take on some pro-level waves. In the meantime, however, San Francisco has plenty of beginner-friendly surf spots to help you improve your skills until you are finally ready to pay Ocean Beach a proper visit!