The Best Beginner Surf Spots In & Near San Francisco, California

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Surfing might not instinctively be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of the San Francisco Bay Area, with its legendary fog, city lights, and urban adventures. However, don’t let that fool you, as San Francisco is one of the most incredible places to surf in the world. Interestingly enough, back in 2018, surfing was announced as the official state sport in California.

Whether you are a novice in surfing or have several years of experience in the waves, surfing in San Francisco will not leave you disappointed. San Francisco is home to the top surfing spots in the world as well as high-stake competitions. Popular surf spots include Mavericks and Linda Mar. 

Despite the fact that the ocean temperature in San Francisco rarely exceeds 60 degrees, The Golden City provides some excellent surfing opportunities. With waves that are suitable for both expert and novice surfers alike, discover why a surfing experience in San Francisco should be at the top of your priority list.

Surfing In San Francisco

Ideal surfing spots may be found all throughout the peninsula and beyond, catering to surfers of all abilities. The frigid seas may be a barrier, but with a wetsuit and a hot cup of coffee from one of San Fran’s best coffee shops, you’ll have everything you need to take advantage of the Bay Area’s exciting surfing opportunities.

Because of the frequent, enormous waves and, consequently, the risks involved, many of the surf spots in San Francisco are designated for advanced surfers, but there are a few hidden jewels strewn across the region that can serve as training grounds for beginners.

San Francisco is also home to a few legendary surfing competitions, making it the ideal location for passionate surfers with an edge for competition. On the other hand, for those with little to no surfing experience, there are also several surfing lessons and community initiatives available t ensure that everyone gets a shot at San Francisco’s waves.

The Best Surf Spots In San Francisco

If you haven’t already been immersed in the surf culture in San Francisco, then you might not be aware of all of the incredible surf spots that this iconic city has to offer. We will help you to plan your next surfing adventure by showing you some of the best surf spots in The Golden City:

Mavericks – Half Moon Bay

Starting off with one of the country’s most popular and well-known surf spots, Mavericks is the apex of furious surfing and is really only suitable for highly experienced surfers. 

The Titans of Mavericks, the world’s largest big surf competition, is held there. Surfers from all around the planet come here to put their talents to the test. At Mavericks Beach, the waves regularly reach an average of 16 feet but are known to reach heights of 50 feet, which ultimately means that this beach is not at all appropriate for novice surfers and should only be considered by highly experienced and professional surfers.

Underneath the stunning big swells, rocky bottoms, and coral reefs make the surf exceedingly dangerous, even for the most experienced surfers. You’ll be rewarded with wide-open waters if you’re among the small fraction of surfers who are qualified to take on these enormous, freezing waves. 

Even if you are a professional with years of surfing experience, it is never recommended to accept the challenge of waves like these on your own. For the sake of your safety, make sure to bring a friend along in case the worst should happen. 

Ocean Beach

Here is another one for the more experienced surfers out there. Ocean Beach in San Francisco is extremely popular among locals and stretches from the Cliff House restaurant in the north to Sloat Boulevard and the Great Highway in the south, making it one of San Francisco’s longest beaches. 

Because the conditions at Ocean Beach can swiftly deteriorate, and similarly to Mavericks Beach, beginners should hold off on trying these waters unless they have built up a lot more surfing experience. The waves at Ocean Beach are only suitable for experienced surfers, and swimming can also be dangerous due to high tides and strong currents. 

It will be a good idea to keep an eye out for rip currents while you are at Ocean Beach, as they are known to sweep quickly and unexpectedly just off the beach. Ocean Beach can also get very windy and full of fog, so make sure to take all the necessary safety precautions. Surfing these mammoth-sized waves is a big enough risk on its own., 

It’s also worth noting that there’s not a lot of parking available at Ocean Beach, which means that it might be difficult to reach during busy seasons.  

Linda Mar

And now, finally, something a little more suitable for the beginner and intermediate surfers out there. Pacifica State Beach, commonly known as Linda Mar, is a beautiful surf spot in San Francisco. This surfing spot, about two miles south of Rockaway Beach, is perfect for novice surfers thanks to its location in a spacious bay where most swells are under five feet tall.

Directly off of the public beach is where you will be able to find the most incredible surf spot along with a large number of other surfers. 

It is advised that you wear water shoes at Linda Mar because the rocky coasts might leave you with nasty cuts or injuries if you don’t. Jellyfish commonly migrate here during the warmer parts of the year, so it is recommended that you wear a wetsuit to protect yourself against stings regardless of the time of year.

Stinson Beach

Another San Fran surf spot suitable for beginners and professionals alike. Stinson Beach has some of the most extraordinary tides in the area, making it a perfect place for surfing. It is a crescent-shaped cove that is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and boasts a nearly 7 feet stretch of gleaming white sand that both visitors and locals flock to

Stinson Beach can be found just around the corner from the Bolinas Lagoon and is one of the most famous surf places near San Francisco. Although it is common for waves here to form and break all at once (commonly known as closeouts), there are still many sandbars that generate legendary waves in some spots. 

Part of what makes Stinson Beach so popular is how ideal it is for surfers of all skill levels. The giant waves can be found near Stinson Beach’s lifeguard stand, offering more experienced surfers something to work with. Less skilled surfers, on the other hand, can stick to the smaller waves found in the surrounding locations.

Bolinas Beach

Bolinas, located in Bolinas Bay, between the Bolinas Lagoon and the Gulf of the Farallones, just over an hour to the north of San Francisco, is known for its mild surf, making it an excellent place for novices.

There is a section of Bolinas Beach commonly known as “The Patch,” which is famed for its slow, low, yet exciting tides, which are great for novice surfers. Another portion where the lagoon meets the ocean is known as “The Channel.” This stretch offers somewhat higher waves and is recommended for intermediate to experienced surfers.

Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point National Historic Site is certainly one of San Francisco’s most unique, unusual, and scenic surfing spots. It’s very next to the stunning, world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. On waves ranging from 6 to 8 feet in height, one can surf directly beneath this world-renowned monument.

In the winter, however, the waves can be extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible, to surf since the current can reach speeds of up to seven knots, which ultimately makes it more challenging to maneuver the projecting rocks around the break. 

However, if you have built up a lot of surfing experience over the years, you should definitely consider Fort Point National Historic Site for its epic waves. Where else would you be able to brag about surfing beneath such a famous landmark?

Princeton Jetty

As a final but by no means lesser entry to our “best in San Fran” surf spots, we have the beautiful Princeton Jetty. Despite its proximity to Mavericks Beach, the waves at Princeton Jetty are suitable for both beginners and expert surfers. 

Surfers won’t have to worry about being crammed together like they are at many other surf spots across the city, thanks to a side strip of perfectly rideable waves.

At the southern end of the beach, shallow waters allow most surfers to touch the sand up to 15 or 20 feet from the shore, which ultimately makes getting used to the motions of surfing as simple as possible – which is excellent news if you are a beginner. 

Of course, once the waves start to pour in, it’s a different story, so be sure that you’ll be ready to put your talents to the test. More experienced surfers will enjoy the thrills of the beach’s northern end, where the waves are significantly bigger and provide more of a rush. 

Surfing Competitions In San Francisco

Now that you are more familiar with some of the best surf spots in The Golden City let’s suppose you are a passionate surfer with a few years of experience ready to put your skills to the test.

San Francisco is home to some unique and legendary surfing competitions that attract skilled surfers from all over the world. We will highlight a few of the best ones for your consideration:

Titans Of Mavericks

As we mentioned before, Mavericks is a world-renowned surf spot, which is why it makes complete sense for one of the biggest surf competitions in the world to be hosted here. 

Titans of Mavericks is an invitation-only competition, meaning that only the best of the best surfers will be competing here. Limited to only 24 surfers, the competition is a one-day-only high-stakes event. 

To have the exclusive chance of winning tens of thousands of dollars worth of prize money, along with your name being mentioned among the other surfing legends, is all part of what makes Titans of Mavericks such a prestigious competition. 

Even if you do not win the overall competition, there still remains the chance of winning smaller prizes for the best individual tricks. As an example, Ford has often awarded $5,000 to the surfer who performed the best barrel on the day. Other prizes include $5,000 for the heaviest drop. At the end of the day, though, there can be only one winner!

The World Dog Surfing Championships

Remember when we mentioned that San Francisco is home to some unique surfing competitions? Well, The World Dog Surfing Championships is precisely that! For all you dog-loving surfers and dog-surfing lovers out there, why not sign up your furry friend to compete in The Golden City’s most heart-warming competition there is?

The competition offers both in-person dog surfing (however, this is by invitation only) as well as a virtual competition, where people can enter videos of their surfer dogs from all over the world.

Since the event is mainly aimed and raising funds for various charities, there is a competition entry fee of $25 and a further $10 if you want to enter them into the “Ball-and-fetch” water competition. 

The World Dog Surfing Championships might not send you home with thousands of dollars of prize money, but you will have earned arguably some of the most outstanding bragging rights on the planet.

Surfing Lessons In San Francisco

It is possible that the list of options for surf lessons in San Francisco is greater than the number of actual surf spots available. One of them worth mentioning, however, will not only benefit you but also give you the opportunity to contribute to a more significant cause. 

City Surf Project

Located in San Francisco, the City Surf Project offers programs that specifically support the youth in the city who might not have access to surfing and swimming lessons, as well as environmental education. 

The City Surf Project offers one-day programs for school and community groups that will introduce them to the exciting world of surfing. There are even various schools in the city that City Surf Project has partnered with to provide after-school surfing programs that count towards extra credit for the students.

Anyone in the city is able to donate their time or finances to assist with the surf lessons that are offered. What a great way to contribute to the incredible surf culture that exists in San Francisco!


Whether you are brand new to the wild world of surfing or ready to take your skills to the prestigious competitions on offer, San Francisco undoubtedly has it all. Grab your surfboard and your wetsuit, and get prepared for a world-renowned surfing experience in one of the most incredible cities!