Monday's a beach
Surf's up at Bolinas—the best longboard spot north of Santa Cruz.
There aren't many places where one can surf and contemplate art at the same time, but this is the type of truly unique experience one can have at Bolinas.
A mosaic of guerilla artwork adorns a concrete sea wall constructed to keep multi-million dollar homes in place. A makeshift altar made from driftwood and shells lingers beneath the purple flowers of a coyote bush. A three-hundred pound black man in a bright red tracksuit top and black sarong walks down the beach belting Al Green. You never know exactly what you’re going to see when you surf at Bolinas.
Bolinas—probably better known for its eccentric residents than its waves (for good reason)—is the premier Northern California longboard spot north of Santa Cruz. With waves generally in the knee-to-chest-high range and a surf shop just down the street, it’s a great surf spot for all ages and experience levels.
There are three places to surf—the Channel, the Groin and the Patch. Which is best on any particular day depends on wind, swell direction and most importantly—tide. When the tide turns and starts coming in, the Patch is the best spot to be. Both the Channel and the Groin need the tide to fill them in to be surfable, and on this particular morning it was where I ended up surfing due to my lackadaisical pace leaving Sonoma. But it ended up working out just fine; those two areas (which tend to be the most crowded) were relatively desolate on a late Monday morning.
The air was clear and bright, the temperature was upwards of 70 degrees and there was no fog. It felt how summer should feel, but more often than not doesn't when you live in Northern California. Luckily, I work weekends—that means most days when I go surf and hike I don't have to deal with weekend crowds. If a Saturday were this beautiful, a hundred people would be at Bolinas, but there was a mere handful on Monday.
The surf was relatively small. It was waist-high at best, but so consistent I had no problem finding and catching waves. The only problem I experienced was tiring out too fast—as soon as I caught a wave, I’d turn right around and paddle after another. This isn’t to say the surfing was perfect. A steady side shore breeze made the water a little choppy, and as morning turned to afternoon the waves began to disappear, but these were only minor inconveniences in an otherwise spectacular day.
Some of the other great features of Bolinas Beach: it's dog friendly (some days it seems like there are more dogs than people); you can camp on the beach for free Sunday through Thursday; and it's only a 20-minute drive from some great hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Located northwest of Stinson Beach, and just south of Point Reyes National Seashore, Bolinas is an hour and fifteen minute drive from Sonoma. The trek to West Marin, though, doesnt feel quite that long. From the mustard fields between Sonoma and Petaluma, to the fog-draped Nicasio Valley and the Bolinas Lagoon, it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the Bay Area.