Ocean Beach (or just “The Beach” to locals) lies along the border of the city of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean for three miles. Ocean Beach is a world-class beach break on its day that thunders over well defined but shifting sand bars. This is some of the best beach breaks in the world, but also the most powerful. The waves here are heavy from start to finish, breaking for about 100 meters providing deep, thick, and cold pits for barrel fiends. When it isn’t barreling, it walls nicely for turns and carves galore. There are plenty of sections of the beach to choose from, and locals will simply refer to a section as the street name near it or some other striking landmark.
Hazards here include heavy heavy currents (fueled by the tides that fill and empty a massive volume of water from San Francisco Bay), long hold-downs, sleeper sets,a large great white shark population, and freezing water. This is not a beach to take lightly, in 2018 an experienced surfer drowned here, and it is not front-page news when a non-surfer dies here (happens at least once a year, usually more). The wave handles any size, it just breaks further out. Be aware that the paddle out is legendary, and is often the limiting factor for crowds on bigger days.
What are the best surf conditions for Ocean Beach?
Ocean Beach handles small swells starting at around waist high up to any size. Equipment depends on the size and nature of the swell: longboards, shortboards, step-ups, and guns will each work on the right day here. Likewise, beginners can find something here on small days but should leave it to the intermediate, advanced, and pro surfers when it gets bigger. Ocean Beach is a swell magnet and is pretty consistent (7/10). The beach is so long that there will always be an uncrowded peak, even on smaller days (4/10). On bigger days crowds are never a concern. The best winds are howling offshores from the East, most common in the fall. The best swells are West and Northwest groundswells. The beach works on all tides, but a dropping tide should increase hollowness.
We recommend wearing a 4/3 wetsuit in the summer when water temperatures rise to around 14 degrees. In winter a 5/4 is best when water temperatures drop to around 11 degrees. See the temperature chart below for more data on this.