Chillin' at Dillon
The surf may not be up, but you can't complain on a day this beautiful
I know it's going to be crap out in these rather poor conditions, but I've driven almost an hour out to the ocean so I might as well give it a try. It's a pretty short session. I paddle around for an hour, but don't ride a single wave. Fighting the strong current, all I manage to accomplish is a good upper body workout. Out of the six or seven surfers out in the water that day, the only one with any success whatsoever is a standup paddle boarder. Unlike the rest of us—who lose our source of propulsion once on our boards—he's able to maintain smooth momentum through the chaotic surf.
Luckily there's much more to do at the beach than just surf, which makes the trip worth it in the end. I lie in the warm sun, sleeping and reading at intervals for a little while. Soon I decide to stroll around to see how others are spending their time during this rare warm sunshine on the Northern California coast.
People have emerged in droves to the beach, an attempt to escape the first heat wave of the summer. The parking lot overflows with cars, but there's still plenty of space out on the beach.
Relaxed leash laws makes Dillon a favorite of local dog owners, and it seems like nearly as many dogs rove the beach as humans. Crashing about in the waves after sticks and tennis balls, chasing after each other across the sand, the dogs make for an entertaining spectacle.
Dillon Beach stretches from the Pacific Ocean into Tomales Bay, creating two very different landscapes. To the north, the coastline is rugged and rocky. Walking past sandstone bluffs covered by invasive iceplants, I hear two song sparrows calling to each other over the sound of surf. A white and grey seagull stands on a dark grey rock amid white foam.
From a perch atop a large basalt boulder, three people sit and watch waves crashing into the many rocks outcroppings in the water. Into that same surf a lone fisherman casts his line and waits patiently for a fish to bite.
The beach stretches southward along Tomales Bay for a mile or two. Instead of rocky bluffs, the beach is backed by large sand dunes. Down the backside of one of these dunes, I sit and watch a couple of kids surf down the hot sand on saucers, as if it were a cold, snowy hill.
On my back to the car, watching a pair of brightly colored kites flapping in the breeze, I almost trip over the carcass of a harbor seal. Missing its head and displaying some large puncture wounds, it's probable it might have fallen prey to one of the great white sharks that frequent these waters. Besides sharks, another danger to surfers is an incredibly strong current that can pull one southward into Tomales Bay.
It may not sound like the best place to surf (and it isn't), but in the right conditions Dillon can actually be pretty fun. Just make sure you triple check the surf report before you head out. And even if the surf is abysmal, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy yourself out at Dillon.
Stephen Cosgrove is a Valley native who has a passion for enjoying the local terrain by foot, bike, tent and most recently—longboard. Join him here as he journeys forth into the Wine Country wilds and embarks on greater Bay Area excursions. You can read more at his blog