Marin County’s coast is a picture-perfect combination of steep cliffs, windswept beaches, and forested headlands. It’s famed for its rocky scenery, coastal hiking routes, and sailing, but what about surfing? In Marin County, top-level surf spots abound, including point breaks and beach breaks that rival any other beach in California, if not the world.
While not widely known as a top-rated surf spot, Marin County in Northern California undoubtedly has some high-quality waves suited to those with years of surfing experience as well as beginners. Some popular surf spots in the area include Bolinas Jetty and Cronkite/Rodeo Beach, to name a few.
Perhaps you have not considered it before, but Marin County is undoubtedly worth the time to check it out on your next wave riding adventure. Whether you are in the mood for some easy waves to learn how to surf, or you are ready to take your surfing skills to a competition, find out why Marin County should be your next surfing destination.
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Surfing In Marin County
Other than the famous Mavericks Beach, Northern California generally doesn’t have the most fantastic surfing reputation compared to its southern counterpart. Marin County, in particular, is the smallest of all of the Northern Californian counties. Although it might not be known for being a top surfing destination, it certainly has its fair share of exciting surf opportunities to offer.
One of the best parts about the surf scene in Northern California is its seemingly endless miles of coastline. Marin County, of course, benefits from this, and one of the advantages of the long coast is that overcrowding is not as big of an issue here compared to other surf spots in California.
Sure, surfers will gather by the many on a pristine surf day, but you will not need to fight for a chance to catch a wave like you would at more popular surf spots. Just be friendly to other surfers, wait your turn, and you will undoubtedly be enjoying the waves in no time.
One thing to note is that Marin County lies within the infamous Red Triangle. Due to the large amount animals like sea lions and seals, sharks are often spotted circling these waters, so make sure to remain vigilant and never go surfing alone.
Thanks to the great waves on offer, surf lessons, events, and contests abound in Marin County. All in all, a surfing experience here is definitely worth it!
The Best Time To Surf In Marin County
In general, when surfing anywhere in Northern California, the ideal times to enjoy the waves are in the Fall and Winter months. During these seasons, surfers will be able to experience the best waves that Marin County has to offer, including waves reaching heights of 20 – 25 feet and bigger.
The Summer and spring months are when the beaches are likely to be most crowded, and the waves on offer during this time are quite simply less than satisfactory. Sure, the weather might be a little nicer, but every experienced surfer out there knows that good weather doesn’t always translate to great waves.
The Best Surf Spots In Marin County
Now that you are up to scratch regarding the surf experience in Marin County, we will show you some of the most excellent surf spots that the area has to offer:
Bolinas Jetty might not be a particularly exciting surf spot for the professionals out there. Still, it will suffice if the winds are coming in strongly from the northwest and you are not yet feeling up to trying out the more giant waves further north. However, a few times a year, the waves here are up to a higher standard.
Bolinas Jetty is a good, safe bay to practice in for beginners. The nearby Duxbury Reef blocks the majority of west and northwest swells, which causes the surf here to be much smaller than other spots around the Northern Californian coast.
When the bars are correctly formed, the mouth of the east side of the lagoon near Sea Drift Road delivers fun rights, while the west side of the lagoon mouth generates surfable lefts. To experience the best surfing conditions at Bolinas Jetty, the waves need to be relatively small, making the optimum time to surf here during the mid-high tide.
Cronkite/Rodeo Beach is undoubtedly one of the most popular surf spots in Marin county. The waves here can be excellent to surf with many challenging barrels on a good day. The northern part of the beach is where you will find all of the local surfers. This is certainly not a spot to be missed if you are in Marin County.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many surf spots, the perfect conditions are not consistent at Cronkite. The surf here fluctuates from day to day due to the many variables like the tide, wind, and bottom contour. In fact, even the most seasoned locals struggle to predict what the surf will be like until they arrive at the beach.
Cronkite’s appearance changes most drastically and often day to day in the fall and winter months, which is, of course, prime surf season in Northern California. A small northern or western swell up to around head-high and possibly a little beyond is most common at this beach. If the waves happen to get much bigger than that, Cronkite becomes overcrowded and can, unfortunately, be a little unpleasant to surf.
At the major point of access to the south shore of Point Reyes, you will find the beautiful Drakes Beach. This beach typically provides shallow, hard-breaking closeout waves. Because it faces south, the northwest winds blow strongly offshore. Although the waves are suitable for a decent surf, some might enjoy bodysurfing into the open tubes a little more.
During high wind swells is the optimal time to surf here; however, a better option might be to either hike south to the Drakes Estero or check the north side of the peninsula. The view at Drakes Beach, on the other hand, is breathtaking, so even if the surf is not as great as you would have hoped, you’ll at least have some incredible scenery to enjoy.
All in all, though it may not be a top-rated surfing destination, the waves at Marin County are by no means un-surfable. If anything, Marin County deserves much more recognition for the quality of its waves. Those who are a little new to surfing, as well as those with years of experience riding waves, will have plenty of opportunities for enjoyment in Marin County.