Humboldt County is known for many things dank . You know about the ancient trees, you know about the funky people, and you definitely know about the world class greenery. What escapes many adventurers’ radar is the many miles of surfable beaches throughout the County.
For the Tahoe surfer a day or two on the Lake per month (if you’re lucky) is always a treat, but at some point you have to snap out of the snow and drop into some legit ocean time. Most Tahoe surfers head right to the Bay, our closest option, but the consistency isn’t always worth the drive. Humboldt is almost twice as far of a drive as the generally higher quality, far more consistent waves in Santa Cruz. However, even though it is a farther drive, and there’s a better chance for cleaner waves in Santa Cruz, score the North Coast right and you’ll never forget it.
I’ll be honest, I do favor a trip to the Cruz when I have windows to surf throughout the year (especially in the fall), but there’s definitely something raw, unique, and special about surfing north of San Francisco; especially in Humboldt County.
Humboldt County is huge. From Shelter Cove in the south, to the Lagoons in the north, Humboldt serves up plenty of waves-it’s just a matter of timing your visit right.
Like all surf locales wind, tide, and swell play the biggest part in where and when you’ll catch the best surf in Humboldt. Low tide works best for “Deadman’s” in Shelter Cove, for “Camel Rock” just north of the County’s college hub in Arcata, and for bigger breaks like “Agate Beach” in Patrick’s Point State Park. High tide isn’t necessarily bad, but middle tides tend to work best for the “North Jetty”, other Samoa Peninsula breaks, and places like “College Cove” or “Trinidad State Beach”. “Camel Rock” is more protected from north winds while some breaks like “Moonstone” and the Lagoons are wide open to influence from all winds and swells. Generally, the surf is big all across Humboldt County, and more often than not adverse conditions are present. However, spring and fall can serve up some amazingly clean days, and there’s always the chance during the calmer, smaller swells in the summer to have as good of a session as you can have anywhere in California. And if you’re adventurous and surf off the beaten path, say out at “Clam Beach” or at some peaky looking random wave off the Samoa Peninsula, you’re likely to be surfing it with just you and your crew…with perhaps a few other large fish you shouldn’t ponder the existence of too much, realizing you’re just a visitor in their home for a brief few hours and all should be good.
This past weekend the rumor of a big south swell was true, although it really only seemed to hit the southern half of the California coast. No worries, “Camel Rock” still delivered. Due to the combination of a mixed west/northwest 4-6 foot swell, moderate northwest winds, and a low tide “Camel Rock” was the most reliable spot for waves in the greater region as most of the Samoa Peninsula, including the “North Jetty”, and on up to “Moonstone” and the Lagoons was blown out.
Even with it being a weekend and Camel being the go-to spot based on conditions it still wasn’t too crowded. In Santa Cruz sessions with this few people are as rare as finding schwag is in Humboldt. Here’s a shot of the stretch of beach known as “Moonstone”, which is just south of “Camel Rock”,
“Camel Rock” itself,
and a token shot of some rugged North Coast waters more suited to gaping rather than surfing.
“Trinidad State Beach” wasn’t really firing,
but put it on the list as one of the more gorgeous places you’ll ever find yourself paddling out if you’re so lucky to catch it working. Even the quick walk to scope it and neighboring “College Cove” is a worthy adventure.
After a surf at “Moonstone” or “Camel Rock” why not take a stroll down another lush trail that will lead you to hundreds of ocean side bouldering problems?
It’s a great way to cap off a trip to the beach, and you can even set up a top-rope at “Karen Rock”. There are several boulder problems that are tide dependent and right where some surfers paddle out,
as well as long traverses that are helpful to snow-soaked Tahoe climbers who haven’t pulled down since the snow started to fly last October.
Humboldt County is a huge, funky, unique destination that has a serious connection with Tahoe. If you haven’t made the trip it’s worth tapping into. Arcata is a great college town with a fully vibrant conscious community and a sweet Redwood Forest full of hiking and mountain biking trails just a few blocks from downtown.
Great eats can be found throughout Eureka and Arcata, and once in a while a nice wave with a rippable wall will even show up too.
Hopefully we’ll get a few long-period south swells and stretches of consistent wave action this summer to occupy some of our non-snow time. Next planned stop on the project to slowly ease out of winter and beyond snow centered activities will be a surf check down to Santa Cruz in early June. If you have any thoughts, advice, or suggestions for Unofficial providing trip reports and surf checks on the site this summer let’em flow. Summer is the most dormant time for California surf, but there’s usually something worthy to slide down if you know where to look, and since riding a clean peeling wave is the only thing that feels as good as skiing powder, we figure we better get as many sessions in as we can before it starts snowing again.