Part of why I love living in Tahoe so much is, in my opinion, we have everything you could ever want a few hours drive away; huge volcanoes to ski to the north, the best city in the lower 48 to the west, Yosemite rock and the Eastern Sierra to the south, and of course the majestic Nor-Cal coastline. While I do love Santa Cruz for its funky culture and epic waves, there’s just something about California north of the Bay.
Even though the Sonoma County Coast isn’t all that far from the fast-moving pace of San Francisco, time seems to move a little bit slower up there. Sort-of like Humboldt and Mendocino (Nor-Cal proper), Sonoma holds its own with gorgeous rivers, beaches, redwood groves, climbing, great food and great people-not to mention all the epic wineries and breweries found throughout the county. If you find yourself looking to get out of Tahoe for a while, or are even in Sacramento or the Bay and want to get away without taking off for too long, head north on the one (California Highway 1), take your time, and be prepared to experience a different pace of life.
Doran Beach is the southernmost surf break in Sonoma County. It’s a great spot to head when the north winds are howling, but without any south swell in the water it’s basically a lake. Still, catch it right and the sandbars can hold their own forming perfect A-frame tubes with short but quality rides all the way up and down the beach.No worries if you show up and it’s flat, just head a bit more to the north to the most used portion of the Sonoma Coast, Salmon Creek, and you’re sure to find something.
Even in July you can stroll up to head-high+ waves all closing out, rips and currents as far as the eye can see, and lost of turbulent water resembling a scene akin to conditions often found at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. With a calm wind, and a clean, peaky swell you might just score at Salmon Creek-just don’t count on it, even during the more dormant time for the Cali Coast in summer.
The Nor-Cal coast may be tranquil and set to an Irie vibration, but the ocean is usually another story. But all it takes in Sonoma is a little further exploration of the coast to stumble onto one of the prettier beaches you’ll ever come across, some quality rock to climb while you watch the waves crash,
and another perfect sunset on the great state of California.
North of Salmon Creek there are a few breaks located where the Russian River meets the ocean; the river mouth and Goat Rock State Park. The river mouth is one of those Nor-Cal breaks that reeks of intimidation. Not because it’s so gnarly to paddle out, but more so because it’s a breeding ground for seals, a river mouth, and a spot where local “big fish” are invariably drawn to based on these natural ingredients. Even so, during summer it’s about as beautiful of a place to surf as you could ask for. It almost looks tropical with deep turquoise water, vibrant wildlife, and a nice little wave to shred.
Goat Rock State Park, just south of the river mouth, is equally as beautiful. A nice little beach break to surf, several quality coastal hiking trails, a few nooks and crannies to fish, and some solid bouldering and sport routes to get your climb on make this a great detour on any trip up the one.
North of the Russian River the one winds and weaves its way along the coast giving way to countless ocean coves, breaks like Secrets, Mystos, and a host of other hard-to-reach out there waves. By the time you’ve made it up to Black Point Beach you’re almost in Mendocino. If you’re looking for a little r+r before continuing your way up the one it’s not a bad place to post up for a night, and get a little sleep before continuing up the coast the following day.