Surfing in Humboldt County
By Kayla Anderson
Catch A WaveBy Kayla Anderson
Up in the far northwestern corner of California is a natural, cool environment where century-old towering redwoods meet a fiery sea all layered in morning fog. The North Coast beckons those who range from the strange to the simple, including ranchers, cannabis growers, Humboldt State University college students, Lost Coast Trail hikers or visitors looking to escape the scorching valley heat. The North Coast also attracts a small sector of resilient, thick-skinned (or is it thick-wetsuited?) surfers who are willing to brave the elements, frigid ocean waters and moderately challenging treks to access some of Northern California’s best waves.
However, hardcore longtime surfers of Humboldt are protective of their ocean and they don’t want to see their favorite spots become overcrowded like other parts of California. Therefore, finding a local willing to share where they go for the best barrels is pretty much impossible.
That’s why the best way to get introduced to the Humboldt surf scene is to get your feet wet at these North Coast beaches first. They’re easy to access, safe and put out a good vibe. With the help of born-and-raised California surfer Sean Jansen who has been riding the waves of the North Coast for 15 years, we’ve compiled our top three surf spots for intermediate surfers.
Moonstone Beach–Look up the best surf spots in Humboldt County and Moonstone Beach will likely pop up first. The long, sandy beach has plenty of room to catch waves (even on the weekends) for surfers of all abilities. The waves are long and consistent, the beach kept clean and picturesque. For those wanting to learn how to surf, the Moonstone Beach Surf Camp also hosts private and group lessons along with kids’ summer camps (www.moonstonebeachsurfcamp.com).
“It’s very perfect for beginners; it’s an expansive beach. It’s so long, all sand, you don’t have to worry about falling off your board and hitting any rocks. It’s undoubtedly the best place in Humboldt to learn,” Jansen says.
Trinidad State Beach–Also located in Trinidad off Patrick’s Point Drive, State Beach is another nice long sandy beach that’s about 19 miles north or Eureka off Highway 101. Like most beaches in the Patrick’s Point area, visitors must first meander through the forest and along the high open bluff before dropping down toward the sea. Once you’re there, State Beach offers surfers exposed yet smooth beach and reef breaks that veer both left and right. It’s best to go when there’s a low tide.
College Cove–Popular during the summer when school’s out, College Cove is a west-facing beach that’s protected from whipping winds and crazy swells. It seems a bit more isolated than other Trinidad beaches (which is maybe why some people tend to spend the day here sans clothes) and becomes a quick favorite for those who find it. After parking at Stagecoach Road, take the steep, roughly maintained staircase down to the flat sandy sea.
“This is accurately named because it’s where college students go when the weather warms up. In the afternoon, the winds pick up, but College Cove is nice and protected. It’s a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of spot,” Jansen says.
The Best Time to Surf the North Coast …Is right now in the summertime months of June through August. It depends on what level of surfer you are and what kind of risks you’re willing to take, but if you want warm(er) weather, longboard-worthy fun waves and less chance of a shark attack, going in the peak summer season is safest. While it still tends to be foggy in the mornings and the water maintains a cool 45-65 degrees, if you’re committed to surfing and have a 4-5mm-thick wetsuit (with neoprene booties and a hood), you should be okay.
“Winter is the worst,” Jansen says. “There are massive waves and it’s always pouring rain. You have to go out in a wetsuit. But even in the spring, the North Pacific can still be very angry. Fall is tricky because an early winter can come and it’s also what the locals deem ‘Sharktober’ because there are often more shark attacks in September through November, especially in October. The summer is perfect because the waves are smaller and more consistent”.
It takes a special kind of person to brave the Northern California coastal weather, waves and mystical environment, but if you catch it on the right day, you can truly have a one-of-a-kind surf experience.
For more information about Sean Jansen and his surf travels, visit jansenjournals.com. •