Deep in redwood country, at the far northern tip of California, Del Norte County is home to some of the most desolate surf spots in the state. Looking for a solo soul session, or just wanna surf an empty peak with your crew? Head north. The thing is, like most of the surfing in Nor-Cal, Del Norte has its share of fickle, hard to score breaks too. However, catch it right, and not only will you have empty waves to shred, but if you play the wind, tide, and swell right, they could be the best waves you score north of Santa Cruz.
If you’re traveling through Del Norte County you’re in for a treat. Lush forests, breathtaking rivers, old-growth redwoods, funky people, and picturesque beaches characterize what you’ll come across in the most northern tip of Nor-Cal. Random activities are strewn about the county, such as riding a gondola through the redwoods, or petting a shark at the aquarium in Crescent City, but the true beauty of Del Norte is found in the rugged coastline and ocean beaches that extend from the county’s southern boundary to the state line in the north.
Solid surf breaks are found throughout Del Norte. Crossing into the county from Humboldt you’ll pass the Klamath River Mouth, Wilson Creek, and the turnoff for Enderts Beach, before coming into the most popular spot to surf, Crescent City. South Beach is where the focal point of surfing and action goes down in Crescent City and Del Norte County. Although there are several quality breaks north of South Beach (Garth’s Reef, Pebble Beach, Pt. St. George (to name a few) most people travel to Crescent hoping to catch South Beach just right. South swell(s), medium tide (incoming), and N/NW winds are ideal here. But the thing is huge NW swells that are dominant on the Nor-Cal coast are filtered at South Beach due to its southern orientation. Ten+ feet and a strong N wind flow may be treacherous up here at some breaks, but potentially clean and firing at South Beach.
The first five shots in this article were taken at South Beach as I was suiting up to paddle out and caught a nice set rolling in. When you park, right off Highway 101, the scene looks like this.
People walking and playing with their dogs, flying kites, skim boarding, building sand castles, sunning-South Beach is for surely a spot any and every beach lover will enjoy. Even the waves, depending on where you paddle out, can be much more gentle than you think. Just paddle out closer to the jetty rather than further south down the beach. Even if the sign is a little rowdy, the waves aren’t always that way (especially in summer), and you’re bound to find something to suit your skill level.
Here’s a shot of South Beach from the south.
The city itself is a classic right-off-the-road Cali 101 coastal community. Random attractions like the shark petting tank I mentioned earlier, great seafood restaurants, a vibrant fishing community, with some surfers to balance things out make Crescent City an interesting spot to check out while cruising the 101. There’s ample supplies in town, a farmer’s market on Saturday’s,
and a decent natural foods store and surf shop.
There’s also amazing camping and other recreational opportunities layered all throughout the Crescent City area and greater Del Norte County. Redwood National and State Parks are found here, and if you add that to the easy ocean access and mellow pace of life, Del Norte is yet another worthy spot to check out when you feel like getting out of town this summer.
One of my all-time favorite spots to camp is up here. The program usually goes something like surf South Beach, grab supplies in town, drive past and gape at some of the biggest trees on earth, then set up camp in a redwood grove right on the Smith River, for 10 bucks. You can’t beat it.